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A genetic algorithm is a heuristic search method used in artificial intelligence and computing. It is used for finding optimized solutions to search problems based on the theory of natural selection and evolutionary biology. Genetic algorithms are excellent for searching through large and complex data sets. They are considered capable of finding reasonable solutions to complex issues as they are highly capable of solving unconstrained and constrained optimization issues.
A genetic algorithm makes uses of techniques inspired from evolutionary biology such as selection, mutation, inheritance and recombination to solve a problem. The most commonly employed method in genetic algorithms is to create a group of individuals randomly from a given population. The individuals thus formed are evaluated with the help of the evaluation function provided by the programmer. Individuals are then provided with a score which indirectly highlights the fitness to the given situation. The best two individuals are then used to create one or more offspring, after which random mutations are done on the offspring. Depending on the needs of the application, the procedure continues until an acceptable solution is derived or until a certain number of generations have passed.
A genetic algorithm differs from a classical, derivative-based, optimization algorithm in two ways:
Compared to traditional artificial intelligence, a genetic algorithm provides many advantages. It is more robust and is susceptible to breakdowns due to slight changes in inputs or due to the presence of noise. With respect to other optimization methods like praxis, linear programming, heuristic, first or breadth-first, a genetic algorithm can provide better and more significant results while searching large multi-modal state spaces, large state spaces or n-dimensional surfaces.
Genetic algorithms are widely used in many fields such as robotics, automotive design, optimized telecommunications routing, engineering design and computer-aided molecular design.