do not optimize

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Senior Member
Hello everyone,

From the book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman.

Military strategists will tell you that the network is the most empowered organizational form in this period of technological change; classical hierarchies do not optimize in the flat world, but the network does. Networks undermine command-and-control systems—no matter who is on top—while strengthening the voices of whoever is on the bottom to talk back.

Does "classical hierarchies do not optimize" mean classical hierarchies do not optimize themselves?

Thank you.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s an unusual usage, since optimize is normally transitive. But the meaning seems to be that traditional hierarchies are unable to function to their best ability in “the flat world” (in which, presumably, there are no top-to-bottom hierarchies).


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    There might be a couple of different related meanings. Yes, it could be read as a reflexive usage in the way you suggest.

    (Alternatively but perhaps less likely, the writer is suggesting that these hierarchies are not amenable to optimization, at least compared to the counterexample of networks. I say it is less likely from the perspective of the reader; grammatically, this marginally different interpretation would work.)
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