The principle of modularization has proven to be extremely successful in the field of technical applications and particularly for Software Engineering purposes. The question to be answered within the present article is whether mechanisms can also be identified within the framework of Evolutionary Computation that cause a modularization of solutions. We will concentrate on processes, where modularization results only from the typical evolutionary operators, i.e. selection and variation by recombination and mutation (and not, e.g., from special modularization operators). This is what we call Self-Organized Modularization.
Based on a combination of two formalizations by Radcliffe and Altenberg, some quantitative measures of modularity are introduced. Particularly, we distinguish Built-in Modularityas an inherent property of a genotype and Effective Modularity, which depends on the rest of the population. These measures can easily be applied to a wide range of present Evolutionary Computation models.
It will be shown, both theoretically and by simulation, that under certain conditions, Effective Modularity (as defined within this paper) can be a selection factor. This causes Self-Organized Modularization to take place. The experimental observations emphasize the importance of Effective Modularityin comparison with Built-in Modularity. Although the experimental results have been obtained using a minimalist toy model, they can lead to a number of consequences for existing models as well as for future approaches.
Furthermore, the results suggest a complex self-amplification of highly modular equivalence classes in the case of respected relations. Since the well-known Holland schemata are just the equivalence classes of respected relations in most Simple Genetic Algorithms, this observation emphasizes the role of schemata as Building Blocks (in comparison with arbitrary subsets of the search space).