When I was in graduate school, I briefly played around in a branch of computational optimization theory known as genetic algorithms. From a conceptual standpoint, it was some pretty cool stuff.
Starting with a mathematical model, genetic algorithms insert random changes into an array of inputs. If the model performs better than the original, you’re headed in the right direction. If not, there’s no need to continue down that path. Over a number of repetitions, the optimal solution will eventually emerge.
One of the interesting features of genetic algorithms is that you can conduct your analysis against the real world. All that is necessary is the ability to construct an experiment and measure the results. The experiment can be repeated multiple times, each time randomizing the inputs slightly. Assuming one has the patience to conduct hundreds of runs, it’s possible to arrive at a “best” answer.
Granted, it’s not the most elegant method, but, in some cases, this might be the only game in town.
Of course, instead of one person running multiple solutions, this whole process works if multiple people each run a single solution. Right now, the Internet works this way. Each new technology or product that is introduced is a variation of other existing products. Which product is better? Well, that’s up to the market to decide.
The evolution of gaming consoles is a great place to see this process in action. Over the years, a number of consoles have been introduced, each one possessing its own unique randomizations.
During this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2014), the gaming population seems to have selected two consoles over the others: the PS4 and Xbox1. While there are differences between the two, these systems are very similar in form and function: price, footprint, controller function, online gaming, controller layout, etc. (Some gaming connoisseurs may argue the PS4 and Xbox are completely different, but I would ask them to compare and contrast with the Wii U. That will make my point.)
Another interesting item to point out — When the differences between the leading solutions become small, new out-of-the-box solutions start to emerge. Let’s say you don’t like the proprietary nature of either the PS4 or Xbox. Where can you go? Turns out that Valve Corporations’ Steam Machine running on a Linux kernel may be the solution. Will it turn out to be the next “best” answer for gaming consoles? Only time will tell.
Ramblin’ Reck Over Augusta — I want to extend a big thank you to Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and his wife Val for hosting a reception in the Augusta community last week. All of the Augusta Yellow Jackets in attendance had a wonderful time, and a big thank you to Josh, Kristi, Sam and the other volunteers who helped make the event happen. Personally, a huge shout out goes to the Ramblin’ Reck Club making the trip. It’s not often you see such a classy vehicle driving the streets of downtown Augusta.
Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.