Xref: info.physics.utoronto.ca comp.ai.genetic:3888 comp.answers:7395 news.answers:29521
From: David.Beasley@cm.cf.ac.uk (David Beasley)
Subject: FAQ: comp.ai.genetic part 1/6 (A Guide to Frequently Asked Questions)
Summary: This is part 1 of a entitled "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to
Evolutionary Computation". A periodically published list of
Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) about Evolutionary
Algorithms, Life and Everything. It should be read by anyone who
whishes to post to the comp.ai.genetic newsgroup, preferably *before*
Originator: David.Beasley@cm.cf.ac.uk (David Beasley)
Sender: David.Beasley@cm.cf.ac.uk (David Beasley)
Organization: University of Wales College of Cardiff, Cardiff, WALES, UK.
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 94 09:05:12 GMT
Expires: 23 Dec 1994 09:04:52 GMT
(FAQ in comp.ai.genetic)
c/o EUnet Deutschland GmbH,
Techo-Park, Emil-Figge-Str. 80,
D-44227 Dortmund, Germany
c/o Department of Computing Mathematics
University of Wales, College of Cardiff
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Search this posting first if you have a question
If someone else asks a question which is answered in here
DON'T POST THE ANSWER TO THE NEWSGROUP:
POINT THE ASKER TO THE FAQ
FAQ /F-A-Q/ or /fak/ [USENET] n. 1. A Frequently Asked Question.
2. A compendium of accumulated lore, posted periodically to
high-volume newsgroups in an attempt to forestall such
questions. Some people prefer the term `FAQ list' or `FAQL'
/fa'kl/, reserving `FAQ' for sense 1.
/R-T-F-A-Q/ [USENET: primarily written, by analogy with RTFM]
imp. Abbrev. for `Read the FAQ!', an exhortation that the person
addressed ought to read the newsgroup's FAQ list before posting
RTFM /R-T-F-M/ [UNIX] imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking Manual'. 1.
Used by gurus to brush off questions they consider trivial or
annoying. Compare Don't do that, then! 2. Used when reporting
a problem to indicate that you aren't just asking out of
randomness. "No, I can't figure out how to interface UNIX to my
toaster, and yes, I have RTFM." Unlike sense 1, this use is
considered polite. ...
--- "The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 3.0, 29 July
1993", available via anon. ftp to ftp.gnu.ai.mit.edu as
This posting is intended to help, provide basic information, and
serve as a first straw for individuals, i.e. uninitiated hitch-
hikers, who are stranded in the mindboggling universe of Evolutionary
Computation (EC); that in turn is only a small footpath to an even
more mindboggling scientific universe, that, incorporating Fuzzy
Systems, and Artificial Neural Networks, is sometimes referred to as
Computational Intelligence (CI); that in turn is only part of an even
more advanced scientific universe of mindparalysing complexity, that
incorporating Artificial Life, Fractal Geometry, and other Complex
Systems Sciences might someday be referred to as Natural Computation
Over the course of the past years, GLOBAL OPTIMIZATION algorithms
imitating certain principles of nature have proved their usefulness
in various domains of applications. Especially worth copying are
those principles where nature has found "stable islands" in a
"turbulent ocean" of solution possibilities. Such phenomena can be
found in annealing processes, central nervous systems and biological
EVOLUTION, which in turn have lead to the following OPTIMIZATION
methods: Simulated Annealing (SA), Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs)
and the field of Evolutionary Computation (EC).
EC may currently be characterized by the following pathways: Genetic
Algorithms (GA), Evolutionary Programming (EP), Evolution Strategies
(ES), Classifier Systems (CFS), Genetic Programming (GP), and several
other problem solving strategies, that are based upon biological
observations, that date back to Charles Darwin's discoveries in the
19th century: the means of natural selection and the survival of the
fittest, i.e. the "theory of evolution." The inspired algorithms are
thus termed Evolutionary Algorithms (EA).
Moreover, this posting is intended to help those who are just
beginning to read this newsgroup, and those who are new "on" USENET.
It shall help to avoid lengthy discussions of questions that usually
arise for beginners of one or the other kind, and which are boring to
read again and again by comp.ai.genetic "old-timers."
You will see this posting popping up periodically in the USENET
newsgroup comp.ai.genetic (and also comp.answers, and news.answers,
where it should be locatable at any time).
Contributions, additions, corrections, cash, etc. are always welcome.
Send e-mail to the address above.
This periodic posting is not meant to discuss any topic exhaustively,
but should be thought of as a list of reference pointers, instead.
This posting is provided on an "as is" basis, NO WARRANTY whatsoever
is expressed or implied, especially, NO WARRANTY that the information
contained herein is up-to-date, correct or useful in any way,
although all this is intended.
Moreover, please note that the opinions expressed herein do not
necessarily reflect those of the editors' institutions or employers,
neither as a whole, nor in part. They are just the amalgamation of
the editors' collections of ideas, and contributions gleaned from
NOTE: some portions of this otherwise rather dry guide are intended
to be satirical. If you do not recognize it as such, consult your
local doctor or a professional comedian.
HITCH-HIKING THE FAQNIVERSE
This guide is big. Really big. You just won't believe how hugely,
vastly, mindbogglingly big it is. That's why it has been split into a
"trilogy" -- which, like all successful trilogies, eventually ends up
consisting of more than three parts.
Searching for answers
To find the answer of question number x, just search for the string
"Qx:". (So the answer to question 42 is at "Q42:"!)
What does, e.g. [ICGA85] mean?
Some books are referenced again and again, that's why they have this
kind of "tag", that an experienced hitch-hiker will search for in the
list of books (see Q10: and Q12: and other places) to dissolve the
riddle. Here, they have a ":" appended, thus you can search for the
string "[ICGA85]:" for example.
Why all this UPPERCASING in running text?
Words written in all uppercase letters are cross-references to
entries in the Glossary (see Q99). Again, they have a ":" appended,
thus if you find, say EVOLUTION, you can search for the string
"EVOLUTION:" in the Glossary.
FTP and HTTP naming conventions
A file available on an FTP server will be specified as: : So for example, the file bar.tar.gz in
the directory /pub/foo on the ftp server ftp.certain.site would be
specified as: ftp.certain.site:/pub/foo/bar.tar.gz
A specification ending with a "/" is a reference to a whole
directory, e.g. ftp.certain.site:/pub/foo/
HTTP files are specified in a similar way, but with the prefix:
Referencing this Guide
If you want to reference this guide it should look like:
Heitkoetter, Joerg and Beasley, David, eds. (1994) "The Hitch-
Hiker's Guide to Evolutionary Computation: A list of Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ)", USENET : comp.ai.genetic. Available via anonymous
FTP from rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.answers/ai-faq/genetic/ About
Or simply call it "the Guide", or "HHGTEC" for acronymaniacs.
Obtaining copies of this guide
This FAQ is available between postings on
rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.answers/ai-faq/genetic/ as the files:
part1 to part6. The FAQ may also be retrieved by e-mail from . Send a message to the mail-server with "help"
and "index" in the body on separate lines for more information.
A PostScript version is also available. This looks really crisp
(using boldface, italics, etc.), and is available for those who
prefer offline reading. Get it from ENCORE (See Q15.3) in file
FAQ/hhgtec-2.3.ps.gz (the ASCII text versions are in the same
directory too). In Germany, its also available from the SyS ftp-
"As a net is made up of a series of ties, so everything in
this world is connected by a series of ties. If anyone thinks
that the mesh of a net is an independent, isolated thing, he is
mistaken. It is called a net because it is made up of a series
of interconnected meshes, and each mesh has its place and
responsibility in relation to other meshes."
The ZEN Puzzle
For some weird reason this guide contains some puzzles which can only
be solved by cautious readers who have (1) a certain amount of a
certain kind of humor, (2) a certain amount of patience and time, (3)
a certain amount of experience in ZEN NAVIGATION, and (4) a certain
amount of books of a certain author.
Usually, puzzles search either for certain answers (more often, ONE
answer) to a question; or, for the real smartasses, sometimes an
answer is presented, and a certain question is searched for. ZEN
puzzles are even more challenging: you have to come up with an answer
to a question, both of which are not explicitly, rather implicitly
stated somewhere in this FAQ. Thus, you are expected to give an
answer AND a question!
To give an impression what this is all about, consider the following,
submitted by Craig W. Reynolds. The correct question is: "Why is
Fisher's `improbability quote' (cf EPILOGUE) included in this FAQ?",
Craig's correct answer is: `This is a GREAT quotation, it sounds like
something directly out of a turn of the century Douglas Adams:
Natural SELECTION: the original "Infinite Improbability Drive"' Got
the message? Well, this was easy and very obvious. The other puzzles
are more challenging...
However, all this is just for fun (mine and hopefully yours), there
is nothing like the $100 price, some big shots in computer science,
e.g. Don Knuth usually offer; all there is but a honorable
mentioning of the ZEN navigator, including the puzzle s/he solved.
It's thus like in real life: don't expect to make money from your
time being a scientist, it's all just for the fun of it...
Enjoy the trip!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Q0: How about an introduction to all this?
Q0.1: What is comp.ai.genetic all about?
Q0.2: How do I get started? What about USENET documentation?
Q1: What are Evolutionary Algorithms (EAs)?
Q1.1: What's a Genetic Algorithm (GA)?
Q1.2: What's Evolutionary Programming (EP)?
Q1.3: What's an Evolution Strategy (ES)?
Q1.4: What's a Classifier System (CFS)?
Q1.5: What's Genetic Programming (GP)?
Q2: What applications of EAs are there?
Q3: Who is concerned with EAs?
Q4: How many EAs exist? Which?
Q4.1: What about Alife systems, like Tierra and VENUS?
Q5: What about all this Optimization stuff?
Q10: What introductory material on EAs is there?
Q10.1: Suitable background reading for beginners?
Q10.2: Textbooks on EC?
Q10.3: The Classics?
Q10.4: Introductory Journal Articles?
Q10.5: Introductory Technical Reports?
Q10.6: Not-quite-so-introductory Literature?
Q10.7: Biological Background Readings?
Q10.8: On-line bibliography collections?
Q10.11: How do I get a copy of a dissertation?
Q11: What EC related journals and magazines are there?
Q12: What are the important conferences/proceedings on EC?
Q13: What Evolutionary Computation Associations exist?
Q14: What Technical Reports are available?
Q15: What information is available over the net?
Q15.1: What digests are there?
Q15.2: What mailing lists are there?
Q15.3: What online information repositories are there?
Q15.4: What relevant newsgroups and FAQs are there?
Q15.5: What about all these Internet Services?
Q20: What EA software packages are available?
Q20.1: Free software packages?
Q20.2: Commercial software packages?
Q20.3: Current research projects?
Q21: What are Gray codes, and why are they used?
Q22: What test data is available?
Q42: What is Life all about?
Q42b: Is there a FAQ to this group?
Q98: Are there any patents on EAs?
Q99: A Glossary on EAs?
Subject: Q0: How about an introduction to all this?
Certainly. See Q0.1 and Q0.2 below.
Subject: Q0.1: What is comp.ai.genetic all about?
The newsgroup comp.ai.genetic is intended as a forum for people who
want to use or explore the capabilities of Genetic Algorithms (GA),
Evolutionary Programming (EP), Evolution Strategies (ES), Classifier
Systems (CFS), Genetic Programming (GP), and some other, less well-
known problem solving algorithms that are more or less loosely
coupled to the field of Evolutionary Computation (EC).
Subject: Q0.2: How do I get started? What about USENET documentation?
The following guidelines present the essentials of the USENET online
documentation, that is posted each month to news.announce.newusers.
If you are already familiar with "netiquette" you can skip to the end
of this answer; if you don't know what the hell this is all about,
proceed as follows: (1) carefully read the following paragraphs, (2)
read all the documents in news.announce.newusers before posting any
article to USENET. At least you should give the introductory stuff a
try, i.e. files "news-answers/introduction" and "news-answers/news-
newusers-intro". Both are survey articles, that provide a short and
easy way to get an overview of the interesting parts of the online
docs, and thus can help to prevent you from drowning in the megabytes
to read. Both can be received either by subscribing to news.answers,
or sending the following message to :
"Usenet is a convention, in every sense of the word."
Although USENET is usually characterized as "an anarchy, with no laws
and no one in charge" there have "emerged" several rules over the
past years that shall facilitate life within newsgroups. Thus, you
will probably find the following types of articles:
Requests are articles of the form "I am looking for X" where X is
something public like a book, an article, a piece of software.
If multiple different answers can be expected, the person making the
request should prepare to make a summary of the answers he/she got
and announce to do so with a phrase like "Please e-mail, I'll
summarize" at the end of the posting.
The Subject line of the posting should then be something like
As opposed to requests, questions are concerned with something so
specific that general interest cannot readily be assumed. If the
poster thinks that the topic is of some general interest, he/she
should announce a summary (see above).
The Subject line of the posting should be something like "Question:
this-and-that" (Q: this-and-that) or have the form of a question
(i.e., end with a question mark)
These are reactions to questions or requests. As a rule of thumb
articles of type "answer" should be rare. Ideally, in most cases
either the answer is too specific to be of general interest (and
should thus be e-mailed to the poster) or a summary was announced
with the question or request (and answers should thus be e-mailed to
The subject lines of answers are automatically adjusted by the news
In all cases of requests or questions the answers for which can be
assumed to be of some general interest, the poster of the request or
question shall summarize the answers he/she received. Such a summary
should be announced in the original posting of the question or
request with a phrase like "Please answer by e-mail, I'll summarize"
In such a case answers should NOT be posted to the newsgroup but
instead be mailed to the poster who collects and reviews them. After
about 10 to 20 days from the original posting, its poster should make
the summary of answers and post it to the net.
Some care should be invested into a summary:
a) simple concatenation of all the answers might not be enough;
instead redundancies, irrelevances, verbosities and errors should
be filtered out (as good as possible),
b) the answers shall be separated clearly
c) the contributors of the individual answers shall be identifiable
unless they requested to remain anonymous [eds note: yes, that
d) the summary shall start with the "quintessence" of the answers, as
seen by the original poster
e) A summary should, when posted, clearly be indicated to be one by
giving it a Subject line starting with "Summary:"
Note that a good summary is pure gold for the rest of the newsgroup
community, so summary work will be most appreciated by all of us.
(Good summaries are more valuable than
Some articles never need any public reaction. These are called
announcements (for instance for a workshop, conference or the
availability of some technical report or software system).
Announcements should be clearly indicated to be such by giving them a
subject line of the form "Announcement: this-and-that", or "ust "A:
Due to common practice, conference announcements usually carry a
"CFP:" in their subject line, i.e. "call for papers" (or: "call for
Sometimes people spontaneously want to report something to the
newsgroup. This might be special experiences with some software,
results of own experiments or conceptual work, or especially
interesting information from somewhere else.
Reports should be clearly indicated to be such by giving them a
subject line of the form "Report: this-and-that"
An especially valuable possibility of USENET is of course that of
discussing a certain topic with hundreds of potential participants.
All traffic in the newsgroup that can not be subsumed under one of
the above categories should belong to a discussion.
If somebody explicitly wants to start a discussion, he/she can do so
by giving the posting a subject line of the form "Start discussion:
this-and-that" (People who react on this, please remove the "Start
discussion: " label from the subject line of your replies)
It is quite difficult to keep a discussion from drifting into chaos,
but, unfortunately, as many other newsgroups show there seems to be
no secure way to avoid this. On the other hand, comp.ai.genetic has
not had many problems with this effect, yet, so let's just go and
Thanks in advance for your patience!
For information on internet services, see Q15.5.
End of ai-faq/genetic/part1