Friday, May 22, 2009

I have a "two body problem" but I don't know what I'm supposed to solve for

Let's say TE and I each get jobs at each of the 3 places we are looking now (I know, it was 2 a week ago--another one just popped up . . .). Say each job can be assigned a number value corresponding to how good it is. Where would we go?
True, I can't really assign a coherent single number value to each job offer, but my main concern is that I don't even know what I should be trying to optimize.
I could:
a) Maximize the sum of both jobs (this sounds obvious, but maybe too simplistic)
b) Minimize the difference between the jobs (probably not, but at least one person wouldn't feel as much like they're trailing the other)
c) Maximize the geometric mean, or some other combination of the numbers, since presumably having a bad job is worse than having a less than ideal job
d) Maximize the highest offer (at least one person would be happy)
e) Maximize the lowest offer (at least niether of us would be too pissed off)
f) Weight the offers somehow by person, then maximize the sum, geometric mean, or other combination (perhaps me getting a better offer is more important than it is for TE, as he seems to think because my career goals are more specific, or perhaps TE getting a better offer is more important because I am a more optimistic person generally and will be happy with anything)

This is why the real world annoys me. It's hard just to clearly define the problem. How are you supposed to solve anything if you don't know what the goal is? In this case, I wonder if knowing the goal may actually be worse, because instead of just thinking "we made the best choice by randomly guessing what was best", if we had a rationale such as f) it might continue to weigh on us in future planning . . .

1 comment:

capella said...

I think the best thing to do is to maximize your "mutual happiness". Unfortunately, what constitutes mutual happiness is going to be different for every couple. For some couples, the man's career satisfaction is very important to their mutual happiness and the woman's is very unimportant; you guys are not this couple. The question is what kind of couple you *are*, so I guess I haven't really helped.

Suddenly dying alone and childless doesn't look so bad... :)