A trilemma is a difficult choice between three options, where it is impossible to pick all three options.

If you've taken macroeconomics, you're familiar with the trilemma between free capital flows, fixed exchange rates, and sovereign monetary policy, where central banks can only control two.

Here are some trilemmas that have come up recently:

  • Students: social life, good grades, and enough sleep
  • Food: cheap, healthy, and tasty
  • Stories: short, memorable, and unique
  • Answers to questions: simple, accurate, and complete
  • Management: quick, cheap, and good
  • Healthcare: low cost, universal coverage, and access to the full range of medical services and technologies
  • Design: scope (features, functionality), schedule (time), and resources (cost, budget)

More controversially:

  • Dates in San Francisco: smart, attractive, and available
  • Discourse: diversity of opinion, free speech, and equal air time
  • Society: fair, free, and equal
  • Employees: young, educated, and experienced