Yesterday presented a real mental struggle.

I entered my office at AIMS with good friend Adriaan who had spent the night at my flat. I walked him through my work in Genetic Programming, sharing the challenges and success to date. The next step was to flatten the GP tree into a live polynomial in order to push real-world data through and learn how each tree performs.

I had devised a bottom-up approach, analysing the GP tree structure using the 2D array which holds each node and all of its associated values. A series of nested for-next loops would build the formula, starting at the bottom and working to the top. A bit mechanical, but something I knew how to do.

Adriaan suggested a top-down recursive method. I understood the concept of recursion, but had never programmed one properly. He drew an example on the black board and I was lost. He drew another, and I remained lost. I need physical examples for my brain to grasp a concept, and recursion is fairly ambiguous by nature. I grew frustrated. And Adriaan had to leave for Town.

I worked on two other updates to my code. Now my operands and coefficients reside in external .csv files which are imported at run-time.

Arun arrived an hour later and suggested I write a basic recursion script to calculate factorials. Of course. That made sense. And it worked!

I then returned to my script and in about two hours more had it working. The challenge was fine-tuning the code to present 3 different levels of recursion depending on the ‘arity’ (number of child nodes) for each parent node. In the end, the number of lines of code was similar to my original approach, but recursion is more elegant … and I learned something new.

Thank you Adriaan and Arun!

Now, my GP code generates randomly generated mathematical polynomials which will soon be tested in a tournament to determine which ones will move into four types of mutation and reproduction to build the subsequent generation.