Pool-based evolutionary algorithms at GECCO 2016

As we usually do, we attended GECCO 2016 this year, a genetic and evolutionary algorithm confernce which took place in Denver, in America.

The paper accepted in the Parallel Evolutionary Systems session and two papers presented in workshops dealt with pool-based evolutionary algorithms and their implementation in volunteer computer systems in browsers. Unlike mainstream evolutionary algorithms, which put the algorithm and the population in the same process or thread, pool based evolutionary algorithms decouple population from algorithms, allowing these to work ephemerally, spontaneously and in a completely asynchronous way.

In these presentations, we focused on browser-based implementations evolutionary algorithms, where by the simple act of visiting a web page, you could help an experiment by running an evolutionary algorithm in your browser. In the first paper, presented in the EvoSoft workshop and dealing with the basic framework, which we call NodIO and entitled NodIO: a framework and architecture for pool-based evolutionary computation, we explained the working principles of this pool-based evolutionary algorithm and made comparisons with other languages and platforms, mainly to prove that, even if there is a difference in performance between the JavaScript used here, it can be more than outset by the fact that spontaneous collaboration can make potentially thousands of users participate in an experiment. This paper was presented by Mario García Valdez, because almost at the same time, I was presenting Visualizing for Success
How Can we Make the User more Efficient in Interactive Evolutionary Algorithms?
, which was an exposition of how what the web page shows has a clear influence on the time the user spends in it and thus on the performance of the system, and also a call for help from this visualization workshop on how to make this time as long as possible. We received many helpful comments, including using badges for users (how this could be done without authentication, which would be a barrier, is not so easy to work out) or creating leaderboards so users can compete with each other.
The paper presented in GECCO proper entitled Performance for the masses
Experiments with A Web Based Architecture to Harness Volunteer Resources for Low Cost Distributed Evolutionary Computation
, dealt with a series of experiments using the platform NodIO published in OpenShift. It has actually been running continuously for a year, although the number of volunteers is close to 0. I will have to check it out, anyway, this long term behavior would be interesting. The paper presented how the behavior of the user presents some patterns, including the fact that their contributions follow a Weibull distribution, very close to what happens in games. Which, in fact is what lead us to submit the first paper to the visualization workshop.
As usual, all our papers are open source and reside in GitHub. If you want copies, just leave a comment and we’ll email them to you.

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