Representations for evolutionary algorithms

  • Rothlauf F
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Abstract

Successful and efficient use of evolutionary algorithms (EAs) depends on the choice of the genotype, the problem representation (mapping from genotype to phenotype) and on the choice of search operators that are applied to the genotypes. These choices cannot be made independently of each other. The question whether a certain representation leads to better performing EAs than an alternative representation can only be answered when the operators applied are taken into consideration. The reverse is also true: deciding between alternative operators is only meaningful for a given representation. In EA practice one can distinguish two complementary approaches. The first approach uses indirect representations where a solution is encoded in a standard data structure, such as strings, vectors, or discrete permutations, and standard off-the-shelf search operators are applied to these genotypes. To evaluate the solution, the genotype needs to be mapped to the phenotype space. The proper choice of this genotype-phenotype mapping is important for the performance of the EA search process. The second approach, the direct representation, encodes solutions to the problem in its most 'natural' space and designs search operators to operate on this representation. Research in the last few years has identified a number of key concepts to analyse the influence of representation-operator combinations on EA performance. These concepts are *locality and *redundancy. Locality is a result of the interplay between the search operator and the genotype-phenotype mapping. Representations are redundant if the number of phenotypes exceeds the number of possible genotypes. Furthermore, redundant representations can lead to biased encodings if some phenotypes are on average represented by a larger number of genotypes. Finally, a bias need not be the result of the representation but can also be caused by the search operator. The tutorial gives a brief overview about existing guidelines for representation design, illustrates the different aspects of representations, gives a brief overview of theoretical models describing the different aspects, and illustrates the relevance of the aspects with practical examples. It is expected that the participants have a basic understanding of EA principles.

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  • representations

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Authors

  • Franz Rothlauf

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