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Evolutionary Computation

Fall 2017, Vol. 25, No. 3, Pages 407-437
(doi: 10.1162/evco_a_00177)
Identifying Features of Fitness Landscapes and Relating Them to Problem Difficulty
Article PDF (226.85 KB)
Abstract
Complex combinatorial problems are most often optimised with heuristic solvers, which usually deliver acceptable results without any indication of the quality obtained. Recently, predictive diagnostic optimisation was proposed as a means of characterising the fitness landscape while optimising a combinatorial problem. The scalars produced by predictive diagnostic optimisation appear to describe the difficulty of the problem with relative reliability. In this study, we record more scalars that may be helpful in determining problem difficulty during the optimisation process and analyse these in combination with other well-known landscape descriptors by using exploratory factor analysis on four landscapes that arise from different search operators, applied to a varied set of quadratic assignment problem instances. Factors are designed to capture properties by combining the collinear variances of several variables. The extracted factors can be interpreted as the features of landscapes detected by the variables, but disappoint in their weak correlations with the result quality achieved by the optimiser, which we regard as the most reliable indicator of difficulty available. It appears that only the prediction error of predictive diagnostic optimisation has a strong correlation with the quality of the results produced, followed by a medium correlation of the fitness distance correlation of the local optima.