An experimental comparison of biased and unbiased random-key genetic algorithms

J.F. Gonçalves, M.G.C. Resende, and R.F. Toso

AT&T Labs Technical Report, 2013


Random key genetic algorithms are heuristic methods for solving combinatorial optimization problems. They represent solutions as vectors of randomly generated real numbers, the so-called random keys. A deterministic algorithm, called a decoder, takes as input a vector of random keys and associates with it a feasible solution of the combinatorial optimization problem for which an objective value or fitness can be computed. We compare three types of random-key genetic algorithms: the unbiased algorithm of Bean (1994); the biased algorithm of Gon¸calves and Resende (2010); and a greedy version of Bean’s algorithm on 12 instances from four types of covering problems: general-cost set covering, Steiner triple covering, general-cost set k-covering, and unit-cost covering by pairs. Experiments are run to construct runtime distributions for 36 heuristic/instance pairs. For all pairs of heuristics, we compute probabilities that one heuristic is faster than the other on all 12 instances. The experiments show that, in 11 of the 12 instances, the greedy version of Bean’s algorithm is faster than Bean’s original method and that the biased variant is faster than both variants of Bean’s algorithm.

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Last modified: 11 October 2013

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