December 3, 2002
I’ve done a bit of work with genetic algorithms, and all of my experiences were the same. I’d set up a situation where I had a particular goal in mind (e.g., a walking robot design), and set up the rules so that the genetic algorithm would breed one of these by itself. In all of my cases, the algorithm instead found ways to achieve the goal through loopholes in the rules. So if the rule was to make a robot that got from one side of a room to another, it would instead design a very tall robot that just fell across the room, touching the far wall with winning time and efficiency.
If genetic algorithms are so good at finding loopholes, we should put them to work on our tax laws. We could develop a system that generates TurboTax input files with various legal distributions of your money until the genetic algorithm found some crazy way of legally minimizing your taxes. Of course it would probably just end up finding bugs in TurboTax.