Genetic Algorithms

Problem Statement

Given an overfit vector a dataset, use genetic algorithms to reduce the overfitting by eliminating the noise and getting a lower error.

The function is a linear function on 11 dimensions with mean squared error as the error function.


The solution is a 11 dimensional vector of the form:

$$\mathbf{w} = \begin{bmatrix} w_0, w_2 \cdots w_{10}\end{bmatrix}-10 \leq w_i \leq 10 \, \,\forall i \in [0, 10] $$

About Genetic Algorithms

Genetic Algorithms takes the approach similar to the natural evolution. It takes "Survival of the fittest" as an approach to find a solution according to our requirements.

The algorithm takes the same approach as natural selections, but in a very simple manner.

Population Description

A pool of vectors which satisfy the constraints described by the problem.

Individual Description

Each individual is a ordered list of values which is called a gene.

The Algorithm


In a broad sense, the algorithm is a loop with 3 abstract steps with a termination condition.


The algorithm can be stopped after a generation if it satisfies the termination condition. The usual termination condition are either the number of generations or the convergence of the fitness.

Implementation Details

The base genetic algorithms which has been described above gives us the abstract understanding of the algorithm. The specifics of each step is dependent on the problem. We had tried multiple implementations for each step, which finally led us from the original over-fit vector to our current submission.


Given that the problem statement had already given us the over-fit vector, the goal was to eliminate the noise from the weights.

Choosing zeros

We ran our original program (here by program I shall mean our genetic algorithm implementation) over the given over-fit vector and observed the proceeding generations, in order to identify the noise in the given data.

Why? Because identifying noise was the key factor in eliminating overfitting. So, once we had a rough idea about which elements of the vector corresponded with noise, we set them to 0 manually.

$$\begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ -1.45799022 \times 10^{-12}\\ -2.28980078 \times 10^{-13}\\ 4.62010753 \times 10^{-11}\\ -1.75214813 \times 10^{-10}\\ -1.8366977 \times 10^{-15}\\ 8.5294406 \times 10^{-16}\\ 2.29423303 \times 10^{-05}\\ -2.04721003 \times 10^{-06}\\ -1.59792834 \times 10^{-08}\\ 9.98214034 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix} \rightarrow \begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ -1.8366977 \times 10^{-15}\\ 0.0\\ 2.29423303 \times 10^{-05}\\ -2.04721003 \times 10^{-06}\\ -1.59792834 \times 10^{-08}\\ 9.98214034 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix} $$


Crossover has a large impact when the population size is large, but in our case, we had to set it to be small. Each pair of crossover produces 2 offsprings.

In the entire duration of our project, we have tried and tested a lot of heuristics for crossover.

Keep the Best

Before all the individuals are sent for crossover and mutation, we kept some (in final case just 1) of our population vector in the nextGeneration by default.

We allowed it to get cross-overed or in other words "to mate", but before that made sure to keep one copy of it unchanged in our nextGeneration vector.

# Gurantee that top two will be selected without any mutation or
# crossover: 9 = 8 + 1
nextGeneration = population[:1]
nonMutatedNextGen = population[:1]

Prioritizing the fittest

Rather than letting all the individuals be a part of the crossover, we only select the top half vectors for creating the next generation. But the process of picking the individuals out of this filtered population is random.

This is part of the selection since we are eliminating half of the population before making the offsprings - hence, ensuring that only the best vectors are allowed to "mate".

$$\begin{bmatrix} \text{Individual } 1 \\ \text{Individual } 2 \\ \vdots \\ \text{Individual } 10 \\ \end{bmatrix} \rightarrow \begin{bmatrix} \text{Individual } 1 \\ \text{Individual } 2 \\ \vdots \\ \text{Individual } 5 \\ \end{bmatrix}$$

We used this heuristic for the major part of our project. However, towards the end - when we were fine tuning our vectors - we ignored selection in this step and allowed all the vectors to "mate" or get cross-overed.

$$\begin{bmatrix} \text{Individual } 1 \\ \text{Individual } 2 \\ \vdots \\ \text{Individual } 10 \\ \end{bmatrix} \rightarrow \begin{bmatrix} \text{Individual } 1 \\ \text{Individual } 2 \\ \vdots \\ \text{Individual } 10 \\ \end{bmatrix}$$

Crossover Function

We had tried a lot of variants for our crossover function but in the end settled with simulated binary crossover, as mentioned below.

Simulated Binary Crossover

As evident below, in our crossover function we took two parents, namely $parent_a$ and $parent_b$ along with a hyper-parameter $\beta$.

The hyper-parameter has the following given range: $0 <\beta < 1$.

The purpose of $\beta$ is to serve as a distribution index that determines how far children go from parents. The greater its value the closer the children are to parents.

The entire idea behind simulated binary crossover is to generate two children from two parents, satisfying the following equation. All the while, being able to control the variation between the parents and children using the distribution index value.

$$\frac{\text{offspring}_a + \text{offspring}_b}{2} = \frac{\text{parent}_a + \text{parent}_b}{2}$$
def crossOver(     self,     parent_a: Individual,     parent_b: Individual,     fitness_a: float,     fitness_b: float,   ) -> Tuple[Individual, Individual]:     """Crosses two parents      to give a two new offsprings"""      offspring_a = (       (    (1 + self.beta) * parent_a) +      ((1 - self.beta) * parent_b)     ) / 2      offspring_b = (       (    (1 - self.beta) * parent_a) +      ((1 + self.beta) * parent_b)     ) / 2      return offspring_a, offspring_b


$$\begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ -5.76450871 \times 10^{-16}\\ 0.0\\ 1.49845448 \times 10^{-05}\\ -1.04 \times 10^{-06}\\ -5.46 \times 10^{-09}\\ 3.83233413 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix} \rightarrow \begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ -5.77036367 \times 10^{-16}\\ 0.0\\ 1.50074509 \times 10^{-05}\\ -1.03949091 \times 10^{-06}\\ -5.46 \times 10^{-09}\\ 3.84 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix}$$


For values of such scale with such large error values, mutation was the most crucial part of the algorithm, hence involved a lot of experimentation. Mentioned below is the final method that was used.

Gaussian Mutation

The value by which a gene must be mutated should be of the same order as that of the value itself. The the probability of mutation itself also must be not very large, larger the mutation, smaller should the probability be.

Gaussian distribution with appropriate standard deviation and mean should suffice these conditions.

The above function was vectorized and was applied to the population in parallel.

def mutateOffspring(self, offspring: Individual) -> Individual:     """     Mutates an individual Current Algo: Select some indices randomly and     choose a new number from a gaussian distribution with mean as the     number at that index     """     flagArray = sciStats.bernoulli.rvs(  # type:ignore       p=self.mutationProbability, size=offspring.shape     )      generateGaus = lambda x: np.clip(       np.random.normal(loc=x, scale=abs(x) / 5e2),       -self.scalingFactor,       self.scalingFactor,     )     vectorizedGenerateGaus = np.vectorize(generateGaus)     gausArray = vectorizedGenerateGaus(offspring)      offspring[flagArray == 1] = gausArray[flagArray == 1]     return offspring


$$\begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ -5.77036367 \times 10^{-16}\\ 0.0\\ 1.50074509 \times 10^{-05}\\ -1.03949091 \times 10^{-06}\\ -5.46 \times 10^{-09}\\ 3.84 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix} \rightarrow \begin{bmatrix} 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ 0.0\\ -5.74980395 \times 10^{-16}\\ 0.0\\ 1.50074509 \times 10^{-05}\\ -1.03755096 \times 10^{-06}\\ -5.46 \times 10^{-09}\\ 3.85718176 \times 10^{-10}\\ \end{bmatrix}$$


The main purpose of selection here is to sort the new offsprings based on their fitness values in descending order.

Selection happens based on the fitness values. In our original implementation, the only form of selection that is happening is during the crossover when we eliminate half the population.

In later implementations, we included the following snippet because we were not eliminating individuals from mating during crossover.

population = nextGeneration[:self.populationSize]

Saving the fit vector

Other than sorting, we also save the most fit function of the population, we compare it with the best vector so far and replace if it performs better. This gives us the best vector throughout all the populations.

Fitness function

Fitness function is designed based on the problem statement and the requirements. For a simple linear regression problem with mean squared error problem, the fitness function can just be based on the train error.

Fitness function is more complicated when there are chances of falling in a local minima, but in the case of mean squared error there are no local minimas.

Throughout our implementation, we have played around with several forms for the fitness function. What we used the fitness function for is to sort the population — during initialization — based on the chosen definition of fitness function.

Below shown are some of our choices:

1. sortedIndices = (abs(fitness)).argsort()
2. sortedIndices = (abs(Testfitness)).argsort()
3. sortedIndices = (abs(fitness + testFitness)).argsort()
4. sortedIndices = (abs(fitness - testFitness)).argsort()
$$\text{fitness}(\mathbf{w}) =\text{Train Error}(\mathbf{w})\\ \text{testFitness}(\mathbf{w}) =\text{Test Error}(\mathbf{w})$$
def calculateFitness(self, population):     """Returns fitness array for the population"""     # return np.mean(population ** 2, axis=1) ** 0.5      errorList = [getErrors(indi, False) for indi in population.tolist()]     return (       np.array([error[0] for error in errorList]),       np.array([error[1] for error in errorList]),     )


for iteration in range(steps):  ----  ----

There is no definite termination condition defined for the genetic algorithm, rather it's the choice of the programmer. The termination conditions we used were the number of generations (as steps — an hyper-parameter) due to the limited number of queries.

Sample Iterations

GIven 3 images (below) are 3 iterations of the genetic algorithm with the certain chosen vectors as the population. All our major generations have been documented as .txt files under the folder generations.

Note: When this following was generated selection was being done within crossover (check Crossover Section for more details).

Generation 1

Generation 2