Thursday, July 28, 2005


A bit of vacation

Its that sleepy time of summer, and I've not been a good blogging boy over the last week or so. To make matters worse, I'll be going on vacation on the West Coast (of Michigan) for the next two weeks and won't blog one bit.

My IB comrades (hint, hint) will fill in keeping you informed on the latest in the world of genetic algorithms and evolutionary computation. See you after 15 August.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Learning Classifier Systems Session at CEC2005

The preliminary program for CEC is available. Interestingly, at least for an LCS guy like me, there is a session on Learning Classifier Systems.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


MWH Soft extends GA-based scheduler in H20MAP

Directions Magazine reports that MWH Soft, a software firm specializing in hydraulic engineering software, has expanded its H20MAP package with significant upgrades to its GA-based Scheduler energy management package.
The new H2OMAP Scheduler extension employs the latest advances in Genetic Algorithm optimization technology with sophisticated Elitist and Global Search Control strategies to automatically determine the optimal pump operation policy for each pump station in the system. By quickly pinpointing the scheduling that best meets target hydraulic and water quality performance requirements, the program facilitates greater productivity with fewer errors, reducing operational costs and maximizing energy savings.
A number of years ago, I consulted with MWH Soft, helping them get up to speed on the latest in genetic algorithms by giving a short course for CEO Paul Boulos and a number of MWH Soft engineers.

Monday, July 18, 2005


One little model

Previous posts (here and here) have explained the utility and cost effectiveness of so called "little models." These are models that are less complex then something like the Navier-Stokes equations of motions but are more complex then mere intuition. These are the models that can be understood and provide meaningful insights into the dynamics of a problem and can simultaneously be sufficently accurate. With a little more effort, precise coefficients and functions of variables can be expanded to make the approximated model more accurate. My point is not to rehash what has already been said on the matter but to provide one example (of many existing little models!) that has proven very useful - the gambler's ruin (GR) model.

Population sizing estimates for GAs based on GR were first provided by Harik, Cantu-Paz, Golberg, and Miller in 1997 and later extended in 1999. The GR problem is simple: start with some initial amount of money, make a series of wagers, and predict how long it will take before you are completely broke or have won $n. There are fixed probabilities for winning or losing each wager.

This can be carried over quite nicely to GAs by considering the pairwise BB-decision making problem - where we are wondering which of two BBs provides the higher fitness. In this case, we consider that the best and second best are battling it out, and that the observed better of the two BBs corresponds to the outcome of the wager. Now in reality, other BBs are also concurrently competing and the probabilities are not fixed, but with some algebraic substitutions and minor approximations, a nice model is derived that is both intuitive and accurate for many problems. See the papers or David Goldberg's book for more information. This has been extended to account for exogenous noise and other tournament sizes. In the original analysis, these factors were not explicitly modeled because the goal was to understand how solution quality and population sizes are related, assuming that the other factors were favorably constant. With a proper population sizing bound, other pertinent relationships can be better understood and modified.

There are a myriad of techniques to derive such little models. These models can explain critical bounds or key trends and behaviors. More complex and accurate models may be needed at times, but little models are often extensible because they capture the underlying concepts of the problem. Anyway, just some musings on an important subject after rereading the GR problem.

Friday, July 15, 2005


IlliGAL Sailing Convention and Seminar a success

With winds gusting between 15 and 20 knots out of the northeast and waves rolling between 2 and 4 feet, IlliGAL's genetic algorithm landlubbers became sailors on the 10-meter sailing vessel Urdragon yesterday, sailing out of Burnham Harbor in Chicago. All hands returned safely, no winch handles were lost, and the boat was returned as good as new. All crew members took turns at the helm in two shifts. The morning shift included Xavier Llora, Kumara Sastry, and Tian-Li Yu, and the afternoon shift included Kazuhisa Inaba, Paul Winward, and Li Minqiang. Other activities included visits to Shedd Aquarium, the Miracle Mile, and the Second City.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Multimedia art show invokes GAs

Nonstarving Artists reports (here) on the opening of an exhibition by artists Hyunjoo Oh and Noah Shibley entitled "Contagious Brain Blurbs" on July 15, 2005, hosted by dottedquad in Chicago:
'Contagious Brain Blurbs' is a multi-media show about the trajectory of the meme lifecycle: 'encoding and dispersal', 'decoding', 'storage' and 'reinfection.' The works are a series of models illustrating the evolution of memes that are employing genetic algorithms and virtual ecosystems as well as highlighting their mutational process through their change in media or concept from an original form to a possibly evolved or degraded new form.

More information is available at Polvo site.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


First Annual IlliGAL Sailing Convention & Seminar

Tomorrow, six brave stalwarts of the good lab IlliGAL will travel up I-57 to Burnham Harbor in Chicago to crew the 10-meter sloop Urdragon. Landlubbing IlliGALers have been boning up on their points of sail here. They've also been studying their nautical terms (click here), but this requires translation into a number of languages including Catalan, Mandarin, Japanese, and Hindi among others. One difficulty is the preponderance software engineers and computer scientists in the group. Sailing a boat is largely a hardware problem.


Transaction costs and Coases's penguin

IFTF's Future Now has a link to Yochai Benkler's Yale Law School article, Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm. Since reading a little Coase in the early 90s, I've been a transaction cost economics fan. The full article is pretty hefty, but it is worth a scan or more leisurely read.

An easy way to motivate thinking about transaction costs institutions is the following. If free markets are so great, why don't we wake up every morning and sell our services to the highest bidder? Most of us don't do this. We work for some organization, a company, a university, a government agency, and we agree to work for that same organization, day in and day out, until we change jobs. The answer to the question from transaction cost economics is that there exist costs of using the market (using free markets is not free), transaction costs, that are related to arranging, vetting, and contracting for exchange. These costs are not insubstantial and their existence encourages the formation of the quasi-permanent arrangements (institutions) that we work im.

Coase's Penguin takes transaction cost thinking and applies it to open-source software. Specifically, the article gives a detailed transaction-cost argument for the motivation and emergence of open-source arrangements of creating software. It is well argued, beautifully researched, and nicely written. Give the full article a scan or a read here.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Reading Freakonomics

I started reading the hideously named Freakonomics over coffee this morning and am having fun with it. Ever since reading Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson over two decades ago, I've enjoyed good economics writing for its concise ability to use the obvious to overturn the conventional. Levitt's analysis of incentives and supporting statistics to clearly demonstrate widespread corruption in sumo wrestling was wonderful.


March of the penguins

On Sunday, I went to see March of the Penguins with all the Goldberg penguins up in Evanston, IL (the older penguin is attending journalism summer camp at Northwestern University). It was visually stunning and moving to all of us penguin lovers, but even those less attached to Aptenodytes forsteri should enjoy this flick. The movie chronicles the amazing and iterated 70-mile march of emperor penguins to mate, give birth, and feed their young in the harshest environment on the planet. Normally a natural documentary such as this would not be shown in mainstream movie theatres, but penguins are currently hot in Hollywood (e.g. Madagascar).

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Robots are getting personalities.

At the beginning of this year, a korean scientist laid the foundation of human-like robots. He has developed a series of artificial chromosomes that will allow robots to feel emotion such as happiness, sadness, anger, sleepiness, hunger or fear. Please see the article, entitled Sex and the single robot, released on Feb. 2 (2005). The artificial creature called "RIT" can be seen here.

Friday, July 08, 2005


GECCO-2006 one year away

Although the dust is still settling from a terrific GECCO-2005, note that GECCO-2006 is just one year away (here). July 8-12, 2006 are the dates, Seattle is the place, and now is the time to mark your calendar and plan to attend the largest, most diverse, high quality conference on genetic algorithms, genetic programming, evolutionary computation, and related subjects. See you in Seattle one year from today.


Strandbeest roams the earth has a post about Peter Jensen's strandbeest or beach animal. With roots in early computer experiments in genetic algorithms and a-life Jensen is now evolving successive generations of wind-powered robots. See the movie here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Special edition on GAs: Materials & Manufacturing Processes

N. Chakraborti at IIT Kharagpur sent me a copy of this special edition devoted to genetic algorithms of the journal Materials & Manufacturing Processes. His editorial, "The Genetic Secrets of Making, Shaping, and Treating of Steel," says it well:
This collection of 15 papers by eminent academic and industrial researchers from 11 different countries--Australia, Brazil, Finland, India, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, United Kingdom and United States--would simply establish that the application of Genetic Algorithms in this area needs to be taken far more seriously than a cult movement destined to appeal only to a select few.
Indeed, and besides there is no need to drink cyanide-laced kool-aid to be a part of our uncult. The special edition is a sweet collection for two audiences: material scientists looking for cool GA applications or GA practitioners looking for exemplary applications of GA art to an important field.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Southampton researcher receives chair

The University of Southampton announced that adaptive systems researcher, Sheng Chen, received a personal chair along with three of his colleagues:

It was announced last week that four members of the School had been awarded Personal Chairs. In addition to the four new appointments: Professor Sheng Chen, Professor Paul Lewis, Professor Manfred Oper, and Professor Mark Zwolinski, Dr Hugh Davis, Head of the Learning Technologies Group in the School, has been appointed as University Director of Education.

Professor Sheng Chen is a member of the Communications Group. His research interests include adaptive signal processing for communications, modelling and identification of nonlinear systems, learning theory and neural networks, finite-precision digital controller design, evolutionary computation methods and optimization.

Dr. Chen's personal page can be examined here.


Doonesbury v. bloggers

Gary Trudeau has published a Doonesbury cartoon in which one of its characters interviewers a blogger on a radio program. Powerline has a post that includes the cartoon, some commentary, and a cartoonic response.

Monday, July 04, 2005


GECCO-2005 proceedings worth a look

TKinJapan thinks that the GECCO proceedings is worth acquiring (full post here):

The folks over at IlliGAL have just gotten back from GECCO. Looking through the TOC from the proceedings is making me add another book to the wish list, as well as causing me to bemoan, at least to a small extent, how busy I am. I've had a project on the back burner for some time: A genetic algorithm for fast point-based character generation for the Shadowrun RPG. I know, I know, it is really nerdy, but still, it sounds interesting to me. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time for side projects recently.

The conference and the proceedings are as diverse and interesting as any in recent memory. In talking to Darrell Whitley about the conference, he commented on how it is difficult to get your arms around all the interesting work going on in the field. Ten years ago, people wondered if the field had much steam left in it. The answer is in, and it is a resounding, "yes."

I attribute some of this vibrancy to the demewise structure of GECCO. Initiated six years ago at the first GECCO in 1999, we created a structure of separate reviewing for separate areas of the field, and have taken pains to create new demes as new areas or interests arose. GECCO's structure expanded upon a less formal, yet demewise reviewing process initiated in the old GP conference (starting in 1996). This kind of review structure, I believe, encourages differences of opinion that result in exploration of new areas. Of course, doing so merely puts genetic algorithm principles into an organizational context, but earlier GA conferences had a tendency to filter out the unorthodox or unaccepted quite strenuously, even when a vocal minority had embraced and pursued a set of ideas with some vigor.


GA-based fiction

WorldChanging blogs a short review of Accelerando by Charles Stross, a novel with a genetic algorithmist as its protagonist. Here is a short quote from the book:
In IP geek circles, Manfred is legendary; he's the guy who patented the business practice of moving your e-business somewhere with a slack intellectual property regime in order to evade licensing encumbrances. He's the guy who patented using genetic algorithms to patent everything they can permutate from an initial description of a problem domain – not just a better mousetrap, but the set of all possible better mousetraps. Roughly a third of his inventions are legal, a third are illegal, and the remainder are legal but will become illegal as soon as the legislatosaurus wakes up, smells the coffee, and panics.

Does Manfred wear striped shirts, too?

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Definition of an advanced civilization?

Mother penguin, lil penguin, and I went to see Speilberg's War of the Worlds and we enjoyed it, but I have one techie question for the director: What self-respecting advanced technological society would be satisfied driving a pre-positioned million-year-old tripod in place of the latest vehicle?

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