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FAQ: part 2/6 (A Guide to Frequently Asked Questions)
Section - Q1.2: What's Evolutionary Programming (EP)?

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Top Document: FAQ: part 2/6 (A Guide to Frequently Asked Questions)
Previous Document: Q1.1: What's a Genetic Algorithm (GA)?
Next Document: Q1.3: What's an Evolution Strategy (ES)?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
     EVOLUTIONARY  PROGRAMMING, originally conceived by Lawrence J.  Fogel
     in 1960, is a stochastic OPTIMIZATION  strategy  similar  to  GENETIC
     ALGORITHMs,  but  instead  places  emphasis on the behavioral linkage
     between PARENTs and their OFFSPRING, rather than seeking  to  emulate
     specific  GENETIC  OPERATORs  as  observed  in  nature.  Evolutionary
     programming is similar to  EVOLUTION  STRATEGIEs,  although  the  two
     approaches developed independently (see below).

     Like  both  ES  and  GAs,  EP is a useful method of optimization when
     other techniques such  as  gradient  descent  or  direct,  analytical
     discovery  are  not  possible.  Combinatoric and real-valued FUNCTION
     OPTIMIZATION in which the optimization surface or  FITNESS  landscape
     is  "rugged",  possessing  many  locally  optimal solutions, are well
     suited for evolutionary programming.

     The 1966 book, "Artificial Intelligence Through Simulated  Evolution"
     by  Fogel,  Owens  and  Walsh  is  the  landmark  publication  for EP
     applications, although  many  other  papers  appear  earlier  in  the
     literature.   In  the  book,  finite  state  automata were evolved to
     predict symbol strings  generated  from  Markov  processes  and  non-
     stationary  time  series.  Such evolutionary prediction was motivated
     by a  recognition  that  prediction  is  a  keystone  to  intelligent
     behavior  (defined  in  terms  of  adaptive  behavior,  in  that  the
     intelligent  organism  must  anticipate  events  in  order  to  adapt
     behavior in light of a goal).

     In  1992, the First Annual Conference on evolutionary programming was
     held in La Jolla, CA.  Further conferences have  been  held  annually
     (See  Q12).   The  conferences  attract  a diverse group of academic,
     commercial and military researchers engaged in  both  developing  the
     theory  of  the  EP  technique  and in applying EP to a wide range of
     optimization problems, both in engineering and biology.

     Rather  than  list  and  analyze  the  sources  in  detail,   several
     fundamental  sources  are  listed  below  which  should serve as good
     pointers to the entire body of work in the field.

  The Process
     For EP, like GAs, there is an underlying assumption  that  a  fitness
     landscape  can be characterized in terms of variables, and that there
     is an optimum solution (or multiple such optima) in  terms  of  those
     variables.  For example, if one were trying to find the shortest path
     in a Traveling Salesman Problem, each solution would be a path.   The
     length  of the path could be expressed as a number, which would serve
     as the solution's fitness.  The fitness landscape  for  this  problem
     could  be  characterized  as  a hypersurface proportional to the path
     lengths in a space of possible paths.  The goal would be to find  the
     globally  shortest  path  in that space, or more practically, to find
     very short tours very quickly.

     The basic EP method involves 3 steps (Repeat until  a  threshold  for
     iteration is exceeded or an adequate solution is obtained):

     (1)  Choose  an  initial POPULATION of trial solutions at random. The
	  number of solutions in a population is highly  relevant  to  the
	  speed  of optimization, but no definite answers are available as
	  to how many solutions are appropriate (other than  >1)  and  how
	  many solutions are just wasteful.

     (2)  Each  solution  is  replicated  into  a new population.  Each of
	  these  offspring  solutions   are   mutated   according   to   a
	  distribution  of  MUTATION  types, ranging from minor to extreme
	  with a continuum of mutation types  between.   The  severity  of
	  mutation is judged on the basis of the functional change imposed
	  on the parents.

     (3)  Each offspring solution is assessed by  computing  its  fitness.
	  Typically,  a  stochastic  tournament  is  held  to  determine N
	  solutions to  be  retained  for  the  population  of  solutions,
	  although   this  is  occasionally  performed  deterministically.
	  There is  no  requirement  that  the  population  size  be  held
	  constant, however, nor that only a single offspring be generated
	  from each parent.

     It should be pointed out that EP typically does not use any CROSSOVER
     as a genetic operator.

  EP and GAs
     There are two important ways in which EP differs from GAs.

     First,  there is no constraint on the representation.  The typical GA
     approach involves encoding the  problem  solutions  as  a  string  of
     representative tokens, the GENOME.  In EP, the representation follows
     from the problem.  A neural network can be represented  in  the  same
     manner  as  it  is  implemented,  for  example,  because the mutation
     operation does not demand a linear encoding.  (In this  case,  for  a
     fixed topology, real- valued weights could be coded directly as their
     real values and mutation operates by perturbing a weight vector  with
     a   zero  mean  multivariate  Gaussian  perturbation.   For  variable
     topologies, the architecture is also perturbed, often  using  Poisson
     distributed additions and deletions.)

     Second, the mutation operation simply changes aspects of the solution
     according  to  a  statistical  distribution   which   weights   minor
     variations  in  the  behavior of the offspring as highly probable and
     substantial  variations  as  increasingly  unlikely.   Further,   the
     severity  of  mutations  is  often  reduced  as the global optimum is
     approached.  There is a certain tautology here: if the global optimum
     is not already known, how can the spread of the mutation operation be
     damped as the solutions approach it?  Several  techniques  have  been
     proposed  and  implemented  which  address  this difficulty, the most
     widely studied being the "Meta-Evolutionary" technique in  which  the
     variance  of  the  mutation  distribution is subject to mutation by a
     fixed variance mutation operator and evolves along with the solution.

  EP and ES
     The  first  communication  between  the  evolutionary programming and
     EVOLUTION STRATEGY groups occurred in early 1992, just prior  to  the
     first  annual  EP  conference.  Despite their independent development
     over 30 years, they share many  similarities.   When  implemented  to
     solve  real-valued  function  optimization  problems,  both typically
     operate on the real values themselves (rather than any coding of  the
     real values as is often done in GAs). Multivariate zero mean Gaussian
     mutations are applied to each parent in a population and a  SELECTION
     mechanism  is  applied  to determine which solutions to remove (i.e.,
     "cull") from the population.  The similarities extend to the  use  of
     self-adaptive  methods  for  determining the appropriate mutations to
     use -- methods in which each parent  carries  not  only  a  potential
     solution  to the problem at hand, but also information on how it will
     distribute new trials (offspring). Most of the theoretical results on
     convergence  (both  asymptotic  and  velocity) developed for ES or EP
     also apply directly to the other.

     The main differences between ES and EP are:

     1.   Selection:  EP  typically  uses  stochastic  selection   via   a
	  tournament.    Each  trial  solution  in  the  population  faces
	  competition  against  a  preselected  number  of  opponents  and
	  receives  a  "win"  if it is at least as good as its opponent in
	  each encounter.  Selection then eliminates those solutions  with
	  the  least  wins.   In contrast, ES typically uses deterministic
	  selection in which the  worst  solutions  are  purged  from  the
	  population based directly on their function evaluation.

     2.   RECOMBINATION: EP is an abstraction of EVOLUTION at the level of
	  reproductive   populations   (i.e.,   SPECIES)   and   thus   no
	  recombination    mechanisms    are    typically   used   because
	  recombination does not occur between species (by definition: see
	  Mayr's  biological  species  concept).   In  contrast,  ES is an
	  abstraction of evolution at the level  of  INDIVIDUAL  behavior.
	  When  self-adaptive  information  is incorporated this is purely
	  genetic information (as opposed to  phenotypic)  and  thus  some
	  forms   of  recombination  are  reasonable  and  many  forms  of
	  recombination have  been  implemented  within  ES.   Again,  the
	  effectiveness  of such operators depends on the problem at hand.

     Some references which provide an excellent introduction (by no  means
     extensive) to the field, include:

     Artificial   Intelligence   Through   Simulated  Evolution  [Fogel66]

     Fogel DB (1995) "Evolutionary Computation: Toward a New Philosophy of
     Machine Intelligence," IEEE Press, Piscataway, NJ.

     Proceeding of the first [EP92], second [EP93] and third [EP94] Annual
     Conference on Evolutionary Programming (primary) (See Q12).

     Algorithm EP is

	  // start with an initial time
	  t := 0;

	  // initialize a usually random population of individuals
	  initpopulation P (t);

	  // evaluate fitness of all initial individuals of population
	  evaluate P (t);

	  // test for termination criterion (time, fitness, etc.)
	  while not done do

	       // perturb the whole population stochastically
	       P'(t) := mutate P (t);

	       // evaluate its new fitness
	       evaluate P' (t);

	       // stochastically select the survivors from actual fitness
	       P(t+1) := survive P(t),P'(t);

	       // increase the time counter
	       t := t + 1;

     end EP.

     [Eds note: An extended version of this introduction is available from
     ENCORE (see Q15.3) in /FAQ/supplements/what-is-ep ]

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Top Document: FAQ: part 2/6 (A Guide to Frequently Asked Questions)
Previous Document: Q1.1: What's a Genetic Algorithm (GA)?
Next Document: Q1.3: What's an Evolution Strategy (ES)?

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