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The genetic algorithm is a method for solving both constrained and unconstrained optimization problems that is based on natural selection, the process that drives biological evolution. The genetic algorithm repeatedly modifies a population of individual solutions. At each step, the genetic algorithm selects individuals from the current population to be parents and uses them to produce the children for the next generation. Over successive generations, the population “evolves” toward an optimal solution. You can apply the genetic algorithm to solve a variety of optimization problems that are not well suited for standard optimization algorithms, including problems in which the objective function is discontinuous, nondifferentiable, stochastic, or highly nonlinear. The genetic algorithm can address problems of mixed integer programming, where some components are restricted to be integer-valued.
This flow chart outlines the main algorithmic steps. For details, see How the Genetic Algorithm Works.
The genetic algorithm uses three main types of rules at each step to create the next generation from the current population:
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