The field of metaheuristics has a long history of finding inspiration in natural systems, starting from evolution strategies, genetic algorithms, and ant colony optimization in the second half of the 20th century. In the last decades, however, the field has experienced an explosion of metaphor-centered methods claiming to be inspired by increasingly absurd natural (and even supernatural) phenomena—several different types of birds, mammals, fish and invertebrates, soccer and volleyball, reincarnation, zombies, and gods. Although metaphors can be powerful inspiration tools, the emergence of hundreds of barely discernible algorithmic variants under different labels and nomenclatures has been counterproductive to the scientific progress of the field, as it neither improves our ability to understand and simulate biological systems nor contributes generalizable knowledge or design principles for global optimization approaches. In this article we discuss some of the possible causes of this trend, its negative consequences for the field, and some efforts aimed at moving the area of metaheuristics toward a better balance between inspiration and scientific soundness.

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