Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hunting for Optimality

OK. Sometimes, we really do need to find 'the' answer. Recall the scene from Jaws: "It's a shark, not the shark". But in general, seeking 'the' one and only, true, unique, prophetic optimal solution to real-life decision problems is an exercise in futility. It makes sense to talk about the best practically achievable solutions given resource constraints, costs, and priorities, which can then be iteratively refined over time. While filling out a healthcare quiz about better nutrition and weight management, I was delighted to see this question.


The health-care researcher who designed this quiz deserves a round of applause.

But how do Operations Researchers find such solutions? Sometimes, the problems are provably cute (journals love to publish these).

But very often in practice, you end up dealing with this:


No fear. Well-designed practical algorithmic approaches employing robust, industrial-strength optimization tools like CPLEX can help OR'ers recover high quality solutions to challenging, seemingly intractable, messy-data riddled, real-world decision problems.

Losing out on the perfectly good in a quest for the perfect seems pretty silly.

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