Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm annoyed.

Perhaps I'm easily annoyed. But every time I read the paper Conservation of Information in Search - Measuring the Cost of Success, I'm getting, well, pretty much distressed. I wanted to write a concise rebuke of this article, but you can't be concise: there is so much disturbing in it, often little things. Take for instance this innocuous little sentence
To illustrate, consider a single-parent version of a simple mutation algorithm analyzed by McKay [32].
The reader may be interested in McKay's analysis of a simple mutation algorithm, and follows the reference:
D. J. C.MacKay, Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002.
Thankfully, David J.C. MacKay (he seems to prefer this spelling) put his book online. And yes, it is a book, a textbook with over 600 pages. It's covering a wide range, so at least, Dembski and Marks should have given the pages which they thought to be relevant. Which they thought to be relevant is a key phrase, because a skimming of the book doesn't render anything resembling an analysis of a simple mutation algorithm like the one in the article: yes, there is Chapter III, 19 :Why have Sex? Information Acquisition and Evolution - but this is explicitly about algorithms with multiple parents, it just doesn't fit a single parent version - MacKay assumes for instance that the fitness of the parents is normally distributed, something you just can't have for a single parent version. So why do Marks and Dembski give MacKay as a reference? I have no idea.

And it's going on

Just checking the next reference: [34] A. Papoulis, Probability, Random Variables, and Stochastic Processes, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991, pp. 537–542. for this little piece of marginal information
When μ << 1, the search is a simple Markov birth process [34] that converges to the target.
You may say: At least, they are giving a page number. But it's the wrong one! Take out your 3rd edition of Papoulis's very good introduction to the theory of probability, and you'll find Markov birth processes on pp. 647 - 650: why can't they get at least the details right?


  1. The MacKay reference for the (1,n)-EA seemed like purposeful avoidance of citing the evolutionary computation literature, and I had intended to look into the matter.

    So why do Marks and Dembski give MacKay as a reference? I have no idea.

    I do. As I indicated in my frustrated rant at Bounded Intelligence, Dembski and Marks evidently did not want to alert editors to the fact that they were doing theoretical analysis of evolutionary algorithms. It definitely would not have helped their prospects of publication if they had drawn reviewers knowledgeable in the theory of evolutionary computation.

    Thanks for sharing this additional evidence of scholarly misconduct, and for saving me some work.

  2. It's on Google books as well. Try searching for single parent. :-)

  3. I assume it's like searching for partitioned search in The Blind Watchmaker...