# Local optima networks of hard combinatorial landscapes

### Details

Serval ID

serval:BIB_F18B9EEF7C67

Type

**Article**: a PhD thesis.

Collection

Publications

Fund

Title

Local optima networks of hard combinatorial landscapes

Director(s)

Tomassini M.

Institution

Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales

Address

Faculté des hautes études commerciales (HEC)Université de LausanneInternef - bureau 317CH-1015 LausanneSUISSE

Publication state

Accepted

Issued date

2014

Language

english

Number of pages

171

Abstract

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.

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.

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Create date

21/08/2014 12:01

Last modification date

18/11/2016 16:33