Multi-objective optimization (also known as multi-objective programming, vector optimization, multicriteria optimization, multiattribute optimization or Pareto optimization) is an area of multiple criteria decision making that is concerned with mathematical optimization problems involving more than one objective function to be optimized simultaneously. Multi-objective optimization has been applied in many fields of science, including engineering, economics and logistics where optimal decisions need to be taken in the presence of trade-offs between two or more conflicting objectives. Minimizing cost while maximizing comfort while buying a car, and maximizing performance whilst minimizing fuel consumption and emission of pollutants of a vehicle are examples of multi-objective optimization problems involving two and three objectives, respectively. In practical problems, there can be more than three objectives.
For a nontrivial multi-objective optimization problem, no single solution exists that simultaneously optimizes each objective. In that case, the objective functions are said to be conflicting, and there exists a (possibly infinite) number of Pareto optimal solutions. A solution is called nondominated, Pareto optimal, Pareto efficient or noninferior, if none of the objective functions can be improved in value without degrading some of the other objective values. Without additional subjective preference information, all Pareto optimal solutions are considered equally good. Researchers study multi-objective optimization problems from different viewpoints and, thus, there exist different solution philosophies and goals when setting and solving them. The goal may be to find a representative set of Pareto optimal solutions, and/or quantify the trade-offs in satisfying the different objectives, and/or finding a single solution that satisfies the subjective preferences of a human decision maker (DM).