Genetics and competing strategies in a threshold model for mail processing

Research output: Preprint or Working paperTechnical report


Multi-agent algorithms inspired by the division of labour in social insects are applied to a problem of distributed mail retrieval in which agents must visit mail producing cities and choose between mail types under certain constraints.The efficiency (i.e. the average amount of mail retrieved per time step), and the flexibility (i.e. the capability of the agents to react to changes in the environment) are investigated both in static and dynamic environments. New rules for mail selection and specialisation are introduced and are shown to exhibit improved efficiency and flexibility compared to existing ones. We employ a genetic algorithm which allows the various rules to evolve and compete. Apart from obtaining optimised parameters for the various rules for any environment, we also observe extinction and speciation. From a more theoretical point of view, in order to avoid finite size effects, most results are obtained for large population sizes. However, we do analyse the influence of population size on the performance. Furthermore, we critically analyse the causes of efficiency loss, derive the exact dynamics of the model in the large system limit under certain conditions, derive theoretical upper bounds for the efficiency, and compare these with the experimental results.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBirmingham
PublisherAston University
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)NCRG/2008/003
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2008


  • Distributed mail retrieval problem
  • Rules for mail selection and specialization
  • mail processing problem


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