Efficient Multi-Start Strategies for Local Search Algorithms

A. György, L. Kocsis<

Local search algorithms applied to optimization problems often suffer from getting trapped in a local optimum. The common solution for this deficiency is to restart the algorithm when no progress is observed. Alternatively, one can start multiple instances of a local search algorithm, and allocate computational resources (in particular, processing time) to the instances depending on their behavior. Hence, a multi-start strategy has to decide (dynamically) when to allocate additional resources to a particular instance and when to start new instances. In this paper we propose multi-start strategies motivated by works on multi-armed bandit problems and Lipschitz optimization with an unknown constant. The strategies continuously estimate the potential performance of each algorithm instance by supposing a convergence rate of the local search algorithm up to an unknown constant, and in every phase allocate resources to those instances that could converge to the optimum for a particular range of the constant. Asymptotic bounds are given on the performance of the strategies. In particular, we prove that at most a quadratic increase in the number of times the target function is evaluated is needed to achieve the performance of a local search algorithm started from the attraction region of the optimum. Experiments are provided using SPSA (Simultaneous Perturbation Stochastic Approximation) and k-means as local search algorithms, and the results indicate that the proposed strategies work well in practice, and, in all cases studied, need only logarithmically more evaluations of the target function as opposed to the theoretically suggested quadratic increase.


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