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[Hankyung Essay] Why should we live in pursuit of overall optimality?

Young Bum Kwon, CEO & Founder of YoungLimWon Soft-Lab

[Hankyung Essay] Why should we live in pursuit of overall optimality?

10. January 2024

The first keyword for the characteristics of Generation MZ (Millennials + Generation Z) is ‘individual’. This means that there is an individual called ‘I’ at the center of all values and judgments. Although it is positive in the sense of valuing individual dignity and pursuing individual happiness, there are aspects that need further consideration in terms of the ‘social life’ we share.

What would happen to the roads if all drivers ignored traffic signals? This might seem like an extreme question, but it serves as an apt example to illustrate ‘the meaning of partial and overall optimality’. It is best for an individual to continue non-stop without waiting for a signal (partial optimality), but in a scenario with many drivers, it is essential to introduce a traffic signal system to maintain everyone’s safety (overall optimality). In this case, each person (partial) must accept a minor sacrifice of time to achieve the best outcome for all (overall optimality).

I often see cars tailgating even after the light has changed. Those waiting for the signal become frustrated, and there is also a risk of major accidents. If a significant accident occurs due to running a red light, insurance will not cover it as it is entirely your fault. It’s a foolish decision that could ruin your life just to save a minute.

Similarly, people who slyly seek to be ‘more than others’ and ‘ahead of others’ often have a very narrow and shortsighted view of the world. It’s astonishing that humans can perform various activities because all the cells in our bodies silently and faithfully assist in our actions, just as we are connected both directly and indirectly to countless other beings. From waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night, we enjoy the benefits of all that we eat, wear, see, and enjoy, thanks to the efforts of others.

Therefore, the correct direction in life is to choose a path of overall optimality that allows us to coexist with all beings connected to us in this world. The path of overall optimality involves maintaining a balance among various possible choices without leaning excessively to any side. It also means finding solutions that benefit both ourselves and those around us and minimizing conflict through compromise.

To live a life pursuing overall optimality, one must possess the following three qualities: the ability to see beyond the present and into the continuous future (foresight), the capacity to empathize with others’ needs and situations and make concessions, and the willpower to maintain and act on this balance throughout a long life.

With these attributes, living an optimal life will not only enhance personal and family happiness but will also foster the growth of workplaces and contribute to building a society that is harmonious and sustainable.

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