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Seth Godin on optimisation vs maximisation

Here’s very-nearly the whole post:

Engineers can optimize a bridge. There are some bridge designs that satisfy aesthetic, financial, durability, safety and efficiency needs better than others. The work of optimization is finding the best set of tradeoffs.

Maximization, on the other hand, seeks the solution that ranks the highest for just one goal.

After it peaked, Yahoo sought to maximize short-term stock price (and the needs of its top executives) instead of optimizing for customer experience, innovation, resilience and utility.

Maximizing something is simple and may be satisfying. It doesn’t involve difficult tradeoffs and it’s easy to measure.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Seth Godin – Optimized or maximized?

When we seek to maximise something it’s easy to neglect the system as a whole – like the story of the well-meaning AI that was tasked with maximising production of paperclips and ended up destroying the world.

The things we pay attention to are parts of a system, and even the systems we notice are part of something bigger. It’s turtles all the way down, and onions or wrappers all the way out.

The tradeoffs aren’t always obvious.

See also:

The Onion (2): a model for solving interesting problems
The Onion (3): exemplar interesting problem – learning to read
Bill Gates’ onion
The onion strikes back: Maggie Koerth on the nested problems of Covid-19 testing
Nested problems, nested solutions (1): what’s your problem? (8 posts in this series)
The machine that makes the machine; or, matryoshkas of change
Donella Meadows on systems thinking: elements, interconnections, purposes
The Wizards (2): Harold Abelson on controlling complexity and real vs idealised systems
Rob Ricigliano on the murky unpredictability of complex systems
Systems thinking: Peter Senge on the limits of learning from experience
Maximising components vs maximising systems
Systems thinking: Gall’s Law
Resource: Seth Godin on Systems Thinking
Machine. Ecosystem. (Series)

and quite a few more.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...