There has been renewed interest in modelling the behaviour of evolutionary algorithms (EAs) by more traditional mathematical objects, such as ordinary differential equations or Markov chains. The advantage is that the analysis becomes greatly facilitated due to the existence of well established methods. However, this typically comes at the cost of disregarding information about the process. Here, we introduce the use of stochastic differential equations (SDEs) for the study of EAs. SDEs can produce simple analytical results for the dynamics of stochastic processes, unlike Markov chains which can produce rigorous but unwieldy expressions about the dynamics. On the other hand, unlike ordinary differential equations (ODEs), they do not discard information about the stochasticity of the process.

We show that these are especially suitable for the analysis of fixed budget scenarios and present analogues of the additive and multiplicative drift theorems from runtime analysis. In addition, we derive a new more general multiplicative drift theorem that also covers non-elitist EAs. This theorem simultaneously allows for positive and negative results, providing information on the algorithm's progress even when the problem cannot be optimised efficiently. Finally, we provide results for some well-known heuristics namely Random Walk (RW), Random Local Search (RLS), the (1+1) EA, the Metropolis Algorithm (MA), and the Strong Selection Weak Mutation (SSWM) algorithm.

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