Meta #2: A Global Optimum is Better than a Local Optimum

Looking at the content side, I decided to write “X is Better than Y” value choice statements as blog posts, because I hope that I can show you better options than what you might consider as your optimum. (I wrote “global” optimum in the title only to catch your attention, I cannot claim that my proposal, namely “Y” is really global, I just advertise it as better than “X”.)

Consider the following metaphor:

  • Imagine a tourist walking in the mountains without a map, in foggy weather, wen her visual range is confined to 20 meters, trying to reach the highest peak in the area (this is not happening often, but please imagine it).
  • What can she do? Nothing better than any time she has a choice between 2 or more directions, she chooses the one which — within her 20 meters visual range — promises the steepest slope upwards.
  • Now what happens? Se might get trapped in a circular path, which at the intersections always shows a way upward (which requires of course that it declines in the stretches between 2 intersections): not good.
  • Or, in a seemingly better case, eventually she’ll end up at a point, where she hasn’t got any way leading upwards.
  • Now where is she? By chance, this point might be the highest peak she’s looking for, but it’s more likely that she has found a local peak, from which she only can go downwards. And she might be tempted to convince herself that this *must* be the optimum she was looking for and stay there. Or declare the peak she found just high enough to stay there, estimating the effort and risk of trying to find another one not worth investing.

This metaphor is intended to illustrate that

  • staying at a local optimum always is (not just seems to be) more comfortable than setting off to try and find an even higher peak.
  • you cannot even be sure that a highest peak really exists within your walking distance (though usually it’s very likely)
  • without a map, the sun driving away the fog, or an experienced other tourist showing up, it really doesn’t make any sense to leave the peak you have found.

So what I claim to be is the other tourist, who has a few ideas to offer to you about higher peaks than what some people consider as the highest within their reach, or high enough to stay there calculated the costs of trying to find a higher one.

Admittedly, bold statement, and risky decision to follow. But I hope you have a net positive balance (as I have) with following self-proclaimed tour guides with bold statements. If not, this blog might not be for you.

And a disclaimer about blog post titles:

  • I sometimes use the “X is Better than Y” title format in a playful way. I do not promise that the title of these posts will always reveal the local and the “more global” optimum I compare.
  • My purpose with the titles is to catch your attention, to get you started to follow me, leaving detailed explanations for the body of the post.
  • One of my proposed value choice statements is: A Memorable Title is Better than a Precise One.
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