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Making and breaking power laws in evolutionary algorithm population dynamics

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Document pages: 22 pages

Abstract: Deepening our understanding of the characteristics and behaviors of population-based search algorithms remains an important ongoing challenge in Evolutionary Computation. To date however, most studies of Evolutionary Algorithms have only been able to take place within tightly restricted experimental conditions. For instance, many analytical methods can only be applied to canonical algorithmic forms or can only evaluate evolution over simple test functions. Analysis of EA behavior under more complex conditions is needed to broaden our understanding of this population-based search process. This paper presents an approach to analyzing EA behavior that can be applied to a diverse range of algorithm designs and environmental conditions. The approach is based on evaluating an individual’s impact on population dynamics using metrics derived from genealogical graphs.From experiments conducted over a broad range of conditions, some important conclusions are drawn in this study. First, it is determined that very few individuals in an EA population have a significant influence on future population dynamics with the impact size fitting a power law distribution. The power law distribution indicates there is a non-negligible probability that single individuals will dominate the entire population, irrespective of population size. Two EA design features are however found to cause strong changes to this aspect of EA behavior: i) the population topology and ii) the introduction of completely new individuals. If the EA population topology has a long path length or if new (i.e. historically uncoupled) individuals are continually inserted into the population, then power law deviations are observed for large impact sizes. It is concluded that such EA designs can not be dominated by a small number of individuals and hence should theoretically be capable of exhibiting higher degrees of parallel search behavior.

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