I started with the idea of playing around with Genetic Algorithms (GAs) in Haskell.The links I found were to two research papers, not two implementations. Each research paper takes a different approach to developing a GA library, and includes some code as an example.
The two approaches differ mainly in the representation of the genome for the GA. The trade-offs are outlined below.
An Array of Bits
The genome is represented by a bit array
:: (Fitness, [Bool]). This is
the approach taken by the authors of “A Genetic Algorithm Framework
- easy expression of GA algorithms
- challenging to encode/decode problem space to a bit array :: [Bool]
My memory of this from Uni is that we spent lots of time simply constructing an appropriate representation in a bit array (in C++), and then building useful fitness functions. The GA framework then did all the heavy lifting as a black box.
I’d really hope there was a more elegant way of representing the Genome using general types. In nature, the genome is essentially a giant array of 2 bit values. GATTACA. However, it takes the entire planet to calculate the fitness function.
The genome is represented by a generic type. The basic operators are then expressed using Haskell type classes. This is the approach taken by the authors of “Genetic algorithms in Haskell with polytypic programming”
- logical mapping of problem to genome
- requires polytypic language extensions to generalise algorithms
- polytypic extension requires additional compilation step
- current polytypic extension limits haskell features used
The polytypic solution is quite elegant in allowing functions such as mutate to be written once and apply to many types. That said, it does introduce some restrictions.
The challenge is to abstract the combinators of Genomes without requiring polytypic extensions. Otherwise, consumers of the library will need to write appropriate library functions specific to their types. This may be more time consuming than mapping the problem space to an array of bits.
My theory is that a well written GA library should be possible that caters to the majority cases for data structures without needing to resort to polytypic extensions. This should allow the consumer of the library to utilize the full power of Haskell without spending time writing too much GA specific code.