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Evolutionary computation

Evolutionary computation

(also genetic algorithms, genetic programming)

Evolutionary computation definition

Evolutionary computation is a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI) that adopts principles from natural evolution to identify optimal solutions for complex problems. In this approach, algorithms iteratively apply concepts such as selection, mutation, recombination, and inheritance to generate and refine potential solutions. Notable methods in evolutionary computation include genetic algorithms, genetic programming, and evolutionary strategies.

See also: artificial intelligence, machine learning

The key concepts in evolutionary computation are:

  1. Selection: The process of choosing candidate solutions based on their performance in solving the problem at hand. Solutions with higher performance (fitness) have a greater chance of being chosen for reproduction.
  2. Mutation: A random modification of a candidate solution’s characteristics, introducing diversity into the population and helping explore the solution space.
  3. Recombination (crossover): The process of combining the characteristics of two parent solutions to create one or more offspring. This promotes the exchange of successful traits between solutions and helps create new, potentially better solutions.
  4. Inheritance: The transmission of characteristics from parent solutions to their offspring, allowing successful traits to be passed down and increasing the chances of finding better solutions.

Evolutionary computation examples

  • Genetic algorithms: A search heuristic that mimics the process of natural selection to find optimal solutions to optimization and search problems. Genetic algorithms use techniques such as crossover, mutation, and selection to evolve a population of solutions.
  • Genetic programming: A type of evolutionary computation that evolves computer programs to solve specific tasks, typically represented as trees. Genetic programming uses similar operators as genetic algorithms, such as crossover, mutation, and selection, to evolve the structure and behavior of the programs.
  • Evolutionary strategies: An optimization technique that uses self-adaptive mutation rates to explore the solution space. Evolutionary strategies typically involve a population of candidate solutions and a selection mechanism based on fitness.

Pros and cons of evolutionary computation


  • Applicable to a wide range of problems, including optimization, machine learning, and problem-solving tasks.
  • Does not require problem-specific knowledge, making it a flexible and versatile approach.
  • Has the potential to discover novel and innovative solutions.


  • Computationally expensive because it requires many iterations and evaluations.
  • No guarantee of finding the best overall solution, because the algorithms may converge to suboptimal solutions: Evolutionary algorithms can sometimes become trapped in areas of the solution space that have a relatively high fitness compared to their surroundings but are not the best possible solutions. These areas are called local optima, and getting stuck in them can prevent the algorithm from discovering the global optimum, which represents the true best solution for the problem.
  • Requires careful parameter tuning for optimal performance.

Tips for using evolutionary computation

  • Choose appropriate representations and operators for the problem at hand.
  • Use hybrid approaches that combine evolutionary computation with other optimization techniques for improved performance.
  • Consider parallel and distributed implementations to speed up the computation process.

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