This book sets out to explain what genetic algorithms are and how they can be used to solve real-world problems. The first objective is tackled by the editor, Lawrence Davis. The remainder of the book is turned over to a series of short review articles by a collection of authors, each explaining how genetic algorithms have been applied to problems in their own specific area of interest. The first part of the book introduces the fundamental genetic algorithm (GA), explains how it has traditionally been designed and implemented and shows how the basic technique may be applied to a very simple numerical optimisation problem. The basic technique is then altered and refined in a number of ways, with the effects of each change being measured by comparison against the performance of the original. In this way, the reader is provided with an uncluttered introduction to the technique and learns to appreciate why certain variants of GA have become more popular than others in the scientific community. Davis stresses that the choice of a suitable representation for the problem in hand is a key step in applying the GA, as is the selection of suitable techniques for generating new solutions from old. He is refreshingly open in admitting that much of the business of adapting the GA to specific problems owes more to art than to science. It is nice to see the terminology associated with this subject explained, with the author stressing that much of the field is still an active area of research. Few assumptions are made about the reader's mathematical background. The second part of the book contains thirteen cameo descriptions of how genetic algorithmic techniques have been, or are being, applied to a diverse range of problems. Thus, one group of authors explains how the technique has been used for modelling arms races between neighbouring countries (a non- linear, dynamical system), while another group describes its use in deciding design trade-offs for military aircraft. My own favourite is a rather charming account of how the GA was applied to a series of scheduling problems. Having attempted something of this sort with Simulated Annealing, I found it refreshing to see the authors highlighting some of the problems that they had encountered, rather than sweeping them under the carpet as is so often done in the scientific literature. The editor points out that there are standard GA tools available for either play or serious development work. Two of these (GENESIS and OOGA) are described in a short, third part of the book. As is so often the case nowadays, it is possible to obtain a diskette containing both systems by sending your Visa card details (or $60) to an address in the USA.
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Genetic Algorithms + Data Structures = Evolution Programs