Artificial evolution with Binary Decision Diagrams: a study in evolvability in neutral spaces

Downing, Richard Mark (2008). Artificial evolution with Binary Decision Diagrams: a study in evolvability in neutral spaces. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis develops a new approach to evolving Binary Decision Diagrams, and uses it to study evolvability issues. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, current approaches to artificial evolution fail to exhibit the evolvability so readily exhibited in nature. To be able to apply evolvability to artificial evolution the field must first understand and characterise it; this will then lead to systems which are much more capable than they are currently. An experimental approach is taken. Carefully crafted, controlled experiments elucidate the mechanisms and properties that facilitate evolvability, focusing on the roles and interplay between neutrality, modularity, gradualism, robustness and diversity. Evolvability is found to emerge under gradual evolution as a biased distribution of functionality within the genotype-phenotype map, which serves to direct phenotypic variation. Neutrality facilitates fitness-conserving exploration, completely alleviating local optima. Population diversity, in conjunction with neutrality, is shown to facilitate the evolution of evolvability. The search is robust, scalable, and insensitive to the absence of initial diversity. The thesis concludes that gradual evolution in a search space that is free of local optima by way of neutrality can be a viable alternative to problematic evolution on multi-modal landscapes.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Computer Science
School or Department: School of Computer Science
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science


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