Lessons from the Evolutionary Computation Bestiary

Felipe Campelo, Claus Aranha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The field of metaheuristics has a long history of finding inspiration in natural systems, starting from evolution strategies, genetic algorithms, and ant colony optimization in the second half of the 20th century. In the last decades, however, the field has experienced an explosion of metaphor-centered methods claiming to be inspired by increasingly absurd natural (and even supernatural) phenomena—several different types of birds, mammals, fish and invertebrates, soccer and volleyball, reincarnation, zombies, and gods. Although metaphors can be powerful inspiration tools, the emergence of hundreds of barely discernible algorithmic variants under different labels and nomenclatures has been counterproductive to the scientific progress of the field, as it neither improves our ability to understand and simulate biological systems nor contributes generalizable knowledge or design principles for global optimization approaches. In this article we discuss some of the possible causes of this trend, its negative consequences for the field, and some efforts aimed at moving the area of metaheuristics toward a better balance between inspiration and scientific soundness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-432
Number of pages12
JournalArtificial Life
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is the author’s final version of the paper, "Lessons from the Evolutionary Computation Bestiary" which has been accepted for publication in Artificial Life. It is made available in Aston Publications Explorer for non-commercial purposes only, in accordance with the MIT Press Author Posting Guidelines.


  • Metaheuristics
  • critical analysis
  • discussion


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