Saturday, August 12, 2017


I was in the car with my family and we were debating the subject of the fastest way to the train station, based on the green light duration of en-route traffic lights. And then it hit me. We are optimizers, obsessive optimizers. We want to know the best or most cost effective approach for everything, no matter how big or small. We want to know which appartment is the best for our needs (one's biggest expense in life) and what is the fastest route for a 5-minute drive.

It makes us happy to know that with a modest input (time, money, effort), we achieved the best possible output. We got a lifetime of career based on X academic years, a great trip for a reasonable price, floorplan modification ideas that gave us the most living space, you name it.

Although in retrospective the results look rewarding, the process is quite tirsome. Optimizers dilligently gather and [over-]analyze data, and try to understand the big picture (processes), as well as the details. This task is run continuously by our minds, we rarely turn it off. Even concious decisions to let petty things go unoptimized are based on yet another optimization algorithm that wheighs the enjoyement of letting go against the perceived loss. We even optimize the size of built-in loopholes (made possible by increased personal means) in the optimization process.

But where does this all come from? A long-stretch explanation could originate in Tikkun Olam (perfecting the world), a known concept in Judaism, or the resourcefulness needed to survive and better ones's situation in adverse conditions during 2000 years of diaspora, or the competitive nature of Israelis who are always improving positions (the Hebrew source לשפר עמדות is a known phrase), or even our own struggles related to returning to our ancient homeland.

I agree, these are generalizations. You are welcome to offer additional explanations.

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