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Next: 8 Conclusion Up: Competitive Coevolution through Evolutionary Previous: 6 Results

7 Discussion and Future Work

What makes complexification such a powerful search method? Whereas in fixed-topology coevolution, as well as in simplifying coevolution, the good structures must be optimized in the high-dimensional space of the solutions themselves, complexifying coevolution only searches high-dimensional structures that are elaborations of known good lower-dimensional structures. Before adding a new dimension, the values of the existing genes have already been optimized over preceding generations. Thus, after a new gene is added, the genome is already in a promising part of the new, higher-dimensional space. Thus, the search in the higher-dimensional space is not starting blindly as it would if evolution began searching in that space. It is for this reason that complexification can find high-dimensional solutions that fixed-topology coevolution and simplifying coevolution cannot.

Complexification is particularly well suited for coevolution problems. When a fixed genome is used to represent a strategy, that strategy can be optimized, but it is not possible to add functionality without sacrificing some of the knowledge that is already present. In contrast, if new genetic material can be added, sophisticated elaborations can be layered above existing structure, establishing an evolutionary arms race. This process was evident in the robot duel domain, where successive dominant strategies often built new functionality on top of existing behavior by adding new nodes and connections.

The advantages of complexification do not imply that fixed-sized genomes cannot sometimes evolve increasingly complex phenotypic behavior. Depending on the mapping between the genotype and the phenotype, it may be possible for a fixed, finite set of genes to represent solutions (phenotypes) with varying behavioral complexity. For example, such behaviors have been observed in Cellular Automata (CA), a computational structure consisting of a lattice of cells that change their state as a function of their own current state and the state of other cells in their neighborhood. This neighborhood function can be represented in a genome of size $2^{n+1}$ (assuming $n$ neighboring cells with binary state) and evolved to obtain desired target behavior. For example, were able to evolve neighborhood functions to determine whether black or white cells were in the majority in the CA lattice. The evolved CAs displayed complex global behavior patterns that converged on a single classification, depending on which cell type was in the majority. Over the course of evolution, the behavioral complexity of the CA rose even as the genome remained the same size.

In the CA example, the correct neighborhood size was chosen a priori. This choice is difficult to make, and crucial for success. If the desired behavior had not existed within the chosen size, even if the behavior would become gradually more complex, the system would never solve the task. Interestingly, such a dead-end could be avoided if the neighborhood (i.e. the genome) could be expanded during evolution. It is possible that CAs could be more effectively evolved by complexifying (i.e. expanding) the genomes, and speciating to protect innovation, as in NEAT.

Moreover, not only can the chosen neighborhood be too small to represent the solution, but it can also be unnecessarily large. Searching in a space of more dimensions than necessary can impede progress, as discussed above. If the desired function existed in a smaller neighborhood it could have been found with significantly fewer evaluations. Indeed, it is even possible that the most efficient neighborhood is not symmetric, or contains cells that are not directly adjacent to the cell being processed. Moreover, even the most efficient neighborhood may be too large a space in which to begin searching. Starting search in a small space and incrementing into a promising part of higher-dimensional space is more likely to find a solution. For these reasons, complexification can be an advantage, even if behavioral complexity can increase to some extent within a fixed space.

The CA example raises the intriguing possibility that any structured phenotype can be evolved through complexification from a minimal starting point, historical markings, and the protection of innovation through speciation. In addition to neural networks and CA, electrical circuits , genetic programs , robot body morphologies , Bayesian networks , finite automata , and building and vehicle architectures are all structures of varying complexity that can benefit from complexification. By starting search in a minimal space and adding new dimensions incrementally, highly complex phenotypes can be discovered that would be difficult to find if search began in the intractable space of the final solution, or if it was prematurely restricted to too small a space.

The search for optimal structures is a common problem in Artificial Intelligence (AI). For example, Bayesian methods have been applied to learning model structure . In these approaches, the posterior probabilities of different structures are computed, allowing overly complex or simplistic models to be eliminated. Note that these approaches are not aimed at generating increasingly complex functional structures, but rather at providing a model that explains existing data. In other cases, solutions involve growing gradually larger structures, but the goal of the growth is to form gradually better approximations. For example, methods like Incremental Grid Growing , and Growing Neural Gas add neurons to a network until it approximates the topology of the input space reasonably well. On the other hand, complexifying systems do not have to be non-deterministic (like NEAT), nor do they need to be based on evolutionary algorithms. For example, introduced a deterministic algorithm where the chromosome lengths of the entire population increase all at the same time in order to expand the search space; developed a supervised (non-evolutionary) neural network training method called cascade correlation, where new hidden neurons are added to the network in a predetermined manner in order to complexify the function it computes. The conclusion is that complexification is an important general principle in AI.

In the future, complexification may help with the general problem of finding the appropriate level of abstraction for difficult problems. Complexification can start out with a simple, high-level description of the solution, composed of general-purpose elements. If such an abstraction is insufficient, it can be elaborated by breaking down each high-level element into lower level and more specific components. Such a process can continue indefinitely, leading to increasingly complex substructures, and increasingly low-level solutions to subproblems. Although in NEAT the solutions are composed of only connections and nodes, it does provide an early example of how such a process could be implemented.

One of the primary and most elusive goals of AI is to create systems that scale up. In a sense, complexification is the process of scaling up. It is the general principle of taking a simple idea and elaborating it for broader application. Much of AI is concerned with search, whether over complex multi-dimensional landscapes, or through highly-branching trees of possibilities. However, intelligence is as much about deciding what space to search as it is about searching once the proper space has already been identified. Currently, only humans are able to decide the proper level of abstraction for solving many problems, whether it be a simple high-level combination of general-purpose parts, or an extremely complex assembly of low-level components. A program that can decide what level of abstraction is most appropriate for a given domain would be a highly compelling demonstration of Artificial Intelligence. This is, we believe, where complexification methods can have their largest impact in the future.

next up previous
Next: 8 Conclusion Up: Competitive Coevolution through Evolutionary Previous: 6 Results
Kenneth O. Stanley 2004-02-08