Multi-objective evolutionary algorithms (MOEAs) have become increasingly popular as multi-objective problem solving techniques. An important open problem is to understand the role of populations in MOEAs. We present two simple bi-objective problems which emphasise when populations are needed. Rigorous runtime analysis points out an exponential runtime gap between the population-based algorithm simple evolutionary multi-objective optimiser (SEMO) and several single individual-based algorithms on this problem. This means that among the algorithms considered, only the population-based MOEA is successful and all other algorithms fail.
An earlier version of this paper appeared as Giel and Lehre (2006).