The Dating Problem and Optimal Ordering of Sequential Opportunities

Giuseppe C. Calafiore

In this paper, we discuss a stochastic decision problem of optimally selecting the order in which to try $n$ opportunities that may yield an uncertain reward in the future. The motivation came out from pure curiosity, after an informal conversation about what could be the best way to date friends. The problem structure turned out to be suitable also for other situations, such as the problem of optimally selecting the order of submission of a paper to journals. Despite the seemingly combinatorial nature of the problem, we show that optimal-tradeoff solutions can be found by simply ordering a sequence of $n$ real numbers.

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