trilemma


a three-part dilemma

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

“Australia’s TRILEMMA of providing good, fast and cheap energy finally has a clear solution.”

Simon Holmes à Court - The Guardian

Did you
know?

trilemma
noun

- a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between three different things that you could do, or in which there are three difficult things that must be done

- a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between three alternatives, especially when these are equally undesirable

- an argument analogous to a dilemma but presenting three instead of two alternatives in the premises

Cambridge Dictionary / Lexico / Merriam-Webster


ORIGIN

15th century, “dilemma”, from the Greek dilemmaton.

This did not immediately take hold, preference being given to the established Latin term complexio, used by Cicero. It was not until the end of the 16th century that dilemma had become firmly established in the lexicon.

“Trilemma” first appeared in 1650, but only began to gain real attention 400 years later during the 1950s. Since the year 2000 its incidence has increased tenfold.


THREE TRILEMMAS

The Trilemma of the Earth

The Trilemma of the Earth (or 3E Trilemma) is a term used by scientists working on energy and environmental protection. It stands for Economy-Energy-Environment interaction. For the activation of economic development (E: Economy) to occur, we need to increase the energy expenditure (E: Energy) however this raises the environmental issue (E: Environment) of more emissions of pollutant gases.

The Social Trilemma

Steven Pinker proposed a social trilemma in his books How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate: that a society cannot be simultaneously “fair”, “free”, and “equal”. If it is “fair”, individuals who work harder will accumulate more wealth; if it is “free”, parents will leave the bulk of their inheritance to their children; but then it will not be “equal”, as people will begin life with different fortunes.

The Project-Management Trilemma

Arthur C. Clarke cited a management trilemma encountered when trying to achieve production quickly and cheaply while maintaining high quality. In the software industry, this means that one can pick any two of: fastest time to market, highest software quality (fewest defects), and lowest cost (headcount). This is the basis of the popular project management aphorism “Quick, Cheap, Good: Pick two”, conceptualized as the project management triangle or “quality, cost, delivery”.


SYNONYMS

between a rock and hard place, between the devil and the deep blue sea, catch-22, TRILEMMA, a fine kettle of fish, dire straits, no-win situation, damned if you do - damned if you don’t,… a source of annoyance, a spot of bother, a ticklish situation, a how-do-you-do,


SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“It’s a classic TRILEMMA, there’s fast and good and cheap, but you can only choose two!”


HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

https://donorbox.org/please-become-a-friend-of-owad-3

Paul Smith

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