Local optima networks of hard combinatorial landscapes


Request a copy
Serval ID
PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Local optima networks of hard combinatorial landscapes
Daolio F.
Tomassini M.
Institution details
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Faculté des hautes études commerciales (HEC)Université de LausanneInternef - bureau 317CH-1015 LausanneSUISSE
Publication state
Issued date
Number of pages
Combinatorial optimization involves finding an optimal solution in a finite set of options; many everyday life problems are of this kind. However, the number of options grows exponentially with the size of the problem, such that an exhaustive search for the best solution is practically infeasible beyond a certain problem size. When efficient algorithms are not available, a practical approach to obtain an approximate solution to the problem at hand, is to start with an educated guess and gradually refine it until we have a good-enough solution. Roughly speaking, this is how local search heuristics work. These stochastic algorithms navigate the problem search space by iteratively turning the current solution into new candidate solutions, guiding the search towards better solutions. The search performance, therefore, depends on structural aspects of the search space, which in turn depend on the move operator being used to modify solutions.
A common way to characterize the search space of a problem is through the study of its fitness landscape, a mathematical object comprising the space of all possible solutions, their value with respect to the optimization objective, and a relationship of neighborhood defined by the move operator. The landscape metaphor is used to explain the search dynamics as a sort of potential function. The concept is indeed similar to that of potential energy surfaces in physical chemistry. Borrowing ideas from that field, we propose to extend to combinatorial landscapes the notion of the inherent network formed by energy minima in energy landscapes. In our case, energy minima are the local optima of the combinatorial problem, and we explore several definitions for the network edges. At first, we perform an exhaustive sampling of local optima basins of attraction, and define weighted transitions between basins by accounting for all the possible ways of crossing the basins frontier via one random move. Then, we reduce the computational burden by only counting the chances of escaping a given basin via random kick moves that start at the local optimum. Finally, we approximate network edges from the search trajectory of simple search heuristics, mining the frequency and inter-arrival time with which the heuristic visits local optima. Through these methodologies, we build a weighted directed graph that provides a synthetic view of the whole landscape, and that we can characterize using the tools of complex networks science.
We argue that the network characterization can advance our understanding of the structural and dynamical properties of hard combinatorial landscapes. We apply our approach to prototypical problems such as the Quadratic Assignment Problem, the NK model of rugged landscapes, and the Permutation Flow-shop Scheduling Problem. We show that some network metrics can differentiate problem classes, correlate with problem non-linearity, and predict problem hardness as measured from the performances of trajectory-based local search heuristics.
Create date
21/08/2014 13:01
Last modification date
20/08/2019 17:19
Usage data