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Improving the Scalability of XCS-Based Learning Classifier Systems

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posted on 2021-11-14, 01:28 authored by Iqbal, Muhammad

Using evolutionary intelligence and machine learning techniques, a broad range of intelligent machines have been designed to perform different tasks. An intelligent machine learns by perceiving its environmental status and taking an action that maximizes its chances of success. Human beings have the ability to apply knowledge learned from a smaller problem to more complex, large-scale problems of the same or a related domain, but currently the vast majority of evolutionary machine learning techniques lack this ability. This lack of ability to apply the already learned knowledge of a domain results in consuming more than the necessary resources and time to solve complex, large-scale problems of the domain. As the problem increases in size, it becomes difficult and even sometimes impractical (if not impossible) to solve due to the needed resources and time. Therefore, in order to scale in a problem domain, a systemis needed that has the ability to reuse the learned knowledge of the domain and/or encapsulate the underlying patterns in the domain. To extract and reuse building blocks of knowledge or to encapsulate the underlying patterns in a problem domain, a rich encoding is needed, but the search space could then expand undesirably and cause bloat, e.g. as in some forms of genetic programming (GP). Learning classifier systems (LCSs) are a well-structured evolutionary computation based learning technique that have pressures to implicitly avoid bloat, such as fitness sharing through niche based reproduction. The proposed thesis is that an LCS can scale to complex problems in a domain by reusing the learnt knowledge from simpler problems of the domain and/or encapsulating the underlying patterns in the domain. Wilson’s XCS is used to implement and test the proposed systems, which is a well-tested,  online learning and accuracy based LCS model. To extract the reusable building  blocks of knowledge, GP-tree like, code-fragments are introduced, which are more  than simply another representation (e.g. ternary or real-valued alphabets). This  thesis is extended to capture the underlying patterns in a problemusing a cyclic  representation. Hard problems are experimented to test the newly developed scalable  systems and compare them with benchmark techniques. Specifically, this work develops four systems to improve the scalability of XCS-based classifier systems. (1) Building blocks of knowledge are extracted fromsmaller problems of a Boolean domain and reused in learning more complex, large-scale problems in the domain, for the first time. By utilizing the learnt knowledge from small-scale problems, the developed XCSCFC (i.e. XCS with Code-Fragment Conditions) system readily solves problems of a scale that existing LCS and GP approaches cannot, e.g. the 135-bitMUX problem. (2) The introduction of the code fragments in classifier actions in XCSCFA (i.e. XCS with Code-Fragment Actions) enables the rich representation of GP, which when couples with the divide and conquer approach of LCS, to successfully solve various complex, overlapping and niche imbalance Boolean problems that are difficult to solve using numeric action based XCS. (3) The underlying patterns in a problem domain are encapsulated in classifier rules encoded by a cyclic representation. The developed XCSSMA system produces general solutions of any scale n for a number of important Boolean problems, for the first time in the field of LCS, e.g. parity problems. (4) Optimal solutions for various real-valued problems are evolved by extending the existing real-valued XCSR system with code-fragment actions to XCSRCFA. Exploiting the combined power of GP and LCS techniques, XCSRCFA successfully learns various continuous action and function approximation problems that are difficult to learn using the base techniques. This research work has shown that LCSs can scale to complex, largescale problems through reusing learnt knowledge. The messy nature, disassociation of  message to condition order, masking, feature construction, and reuse of extracted knowledge add additional abilities to the XCS family of LCSs. The ability to use  rich encoding in antecedent GP-like codefragments or consequent cyclic representation  leads to the evolution of accurate, maximally general and compact solutions in learning  various complex Boolean as well as real-valued problems. Effectively exploiting the combined power of GP and LCS techniques, various continuous action and function approximation problems are solved in a simple and straight forward manner. The analysis of the evolved rules reveals, for the first time in XCS, that no matter how specific or general the initial classifiers are, all the optimal classifiers are converged through the mechanism ‘be specific then generalize’ near the final stages of evolution. Also that standard XCS does not use all available information or all available genetic operators to evolve optimal rules, whereas the developed code-fragment action based systems effectively use figure  and ground information during the training process. Thiswork has created a platformto explore the reuse of learnt functionality, not just terminal knowledge as present, which is needed to replicate human capabilities.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Computer Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970108 Expanding Knowledhe in the Information and Computing Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Engineering and Computer Science


Browne, Will; Zhang, Mengjie