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An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms (Complex Adaptive Systems) Hardcover – February 27, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is the best general book on Genetic Algorithms written to date. It covers background, history, and motivation; it selects important, informative examples of applications and discusses the use of Genetic Algorithms in scientific models; and it gives a good account of the status of the theory of Genetic Algorithms. Best of all the book presents its material in clear, straightforward, felicitous prose, accessible to anyone with a college-level scientific background. If you want a broad, solid understanding of Genetic Algorithms—where they came from, what's being done with them, and where they are going—this is the book.
John H. Holland, Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, and Professor of Psychology, The University of Michigan; External Professor, the Santa Fe Institute.

About the Author

Melanie Mitchell is Research Professor and Director of the Adaptive Computation Program at the Santa Fe Institute.
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Product Details

  • Series: Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262133164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262133166
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,179,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Melanie Mitchell was born in Los Angeles, California. She attended Brown University, where she majored in mathematics and did research in astronomy, and the University of Michigan, where she received a Ph.D. in computer science. At Michigan she worked with her advisor, Douglas Hofstadter, to develop the Copycat project, a computer program that makes analogies. She is currently Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Melanie's most recent book, Complexity: A Guided Tour, won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award, was named by Amazon.com as one of the ten best science books of 2009, and was longlisted for the Royal Society's 2010 book prize.

Melanie directs the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity Explorer project, which offers free online courses related to complex systems. For more information, go to http://complexityexplorer.org.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although short, this book gives a good introduction to genetic algorithms for those who are first entering the field and are looking for insight into the underlying mechanisms behind them. It was first published in 1995, and considerable work has been done in genetic algorithms since then, but it could still serve as an adequate introduction. Emphasizing the scientific and machine learning applications of genetic algorithms instead of applications to optimization and engineering, the book could serve well in an actual course on adaptive algorithms. The author includes excellent problem sets at the end of each chapter, these being divided up into "thought exercises" and "computer exercises", and in the latter she includes some challenge problems for the ambitious reader.
Chapter 1 is an overview of the main properties of genetic algorithms, along with a brief discussion of their history. The role of fitness landscapes and fitness functions is clearly outlined, and the author defines genetic algorithms as methods for searching fitness landscapes for highly fit strings. An elementary example of a genetic algorithm is given, and the author compares genetic algorithms with more traditional search methods. The author emphasizes the unique features of genetic algorithms that distinguish them from other search algorithms, namely the roles of parallel population-based search with stochastic selection of individuals, and crossover and mutation. A list of applications is given, and two explicit examples of applications are given that deal with the Prisoner's Dilemna and sorting networks. The author also gives a brief discussion as to how genetic algorithms work from a more mathematical standpoint, emphasizing the role of Holland schemas.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Chris McKinstry on February 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is brief and to the point. You won't find here pages of source code that you could have easily ftp'd yourself. What you will find is solid theory in a mere 224 pages. This is the quickest and best way to get up to speed on GA's there is. Which is why it is a standard textbook in the field.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mark on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent introductory book on genetic algorithms. It's very concisely written and there are a ton of interesting projects and programs to do. I've done a few of them myself and learned a lot. This book is one of those that I keep going back to and I always find some new idea or thing to try out.

If you're a programmer and have been thinking of getting into genetic algorithms, you won't go wrong with this book. Very highly recommended.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By John Dalesandro on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have an engineering degree, and I found this to be a little tough to follow for two reasons:
1. Not enough step by step prodecure especially at the beginning. Mitchell is too quick to start with the math formulas. It turns out that Genetic Algorithms are fairly straight forward and easy to follow, but you have to read this book twice before you "get it" because Mitchell clouds the discussion with proofs and mathematical representations of systems. It is tough to follow.
2. Mitchell does a poor job of selecting meaningful examples to illustrate the points. A nice simple set of examples where the average person easily picture the system would have been delightful. Instead this author chooses to illustrate the Genetic Algorithms through uncommon neural networks amoung other exotic applications. I found myself struggling to understand both the example (I didn't know a thing about neural networks!) and the genetic algorithm.
When buying an Introduction type book, I expected it to be more 'down to earth'. this book is for advanced minds!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By dean_from_sa on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
First it must be said that the book is not an introduction that the non-scientist will easily understand. Some knowledge of computer programming is assumed. It acknowledges this in the last paragraph of the preface. Many of the notations in the book are unfamiliar to business or financial readers. There is no mathematics beyond algebra so the aforementioned prerequisites are the main hills to climb.
Mitchell's book is an overview of genetic algorithm analysis techniques as of 1996. The author gives a history of pre-computer evolutionary strategies and a summary of John Holland's pioneering work. A description of the basic terminology is presented and examples of problems solved using a GA (such as the prisoner's dilemma). The second chapter discusses evolving programs in Lisp and cellular automata. Also included in this chapter is a discussion of predicting dynamical systems. This was the section that has the most interest for me. Also interesting was the summary in this chapter about putting GAs into a neural network so that the ANNs could evolve.
The fifth chapter discusses when to employ a GA for maximum success. I appreciate the clearly thought out discussion of when to choose a GA for a problem. Sometimes authors of these types of books mimic the man with a hammer that thinks everything looks like a nail.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is ideal for someone totally new to the field of GAs. Mitchell begins with the fundamental concepts of the simple GA and proceeds to survey a wide variety of applications. I especially enjoyed the coverage of topics related to machine intelligence, which are sometimes left out in books that focus solely on optimization. The book contains enough information for someone with programming experience to code their own GA (including suggested computer exercises), although no source code is presented. However, the background gained from reading Mitchell's book will enable an easier read of more technical books (which may include source code implementations).
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