This year, GECCO 2018 offers 3 enticing keynote talks and a SIGEVO Lecture. All details will follow soon.

Deg Smiling

David E. Goldberg

ThreeJoy Associates, Big Beacon, and University of Illinois (Emeritus)

SIGEVO Lecture - On Becoming a Reflective Practitioner


The tension between theory, experiment, and practice plays out in genetic and evolutionary computation (GEC) as it plays out in other areas of science and technology. Back in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, I was always compelled to mix theory, experiment, and practical application in vigorous ways to achieve both understanding and effective computation, but my methodology often seemed to irritate more people than it satisfied. Theoreticians didn't think the work was quite "proper theory", and experimentalists/practitioners didn't think the work was sufficiently "real worldly." Although these concerns were always present in my GEC work, I haven't been thinking about them specifically over the last few years. Since resigning my tenure in 2010, I've been on a global quest to improve engineering education, a quest described in the book, A Whole New Engineer (www.wholenewengineer.org), and partially as a result of that journey, I think I can now better articulate some of the intuitions that led to the methodology of my earlier GEC career.
I start philosophically by sharing some of Don Schön's thoughts about the epistemology of practice. He asks, how is it, that practitioners, whether they be physicians, architects, engineers, accounts, computer scientists, or even physical scientists, know things in practice? The conventional wisdom, Schön claims, is that practitioners know things by first, mastering a body of well understood and accepted theory, then applying that theory in practice. Schön calls this theory of practical knowing, technical rationality, and he claims that it (1) is the dominant paradigm of epistemology of practice and that (2) it is largely mistaken (or at least, incomplete and misleading). As an alternative, he suggests that practitioners come to know through a process of reflection-in-action, and the talk discusses some of the key ideas behind this model of practice.
Thereafter, I revisit two case studies in early GEC work, the idea and use of deception and the idea and use of approximate little models through the lenses of technical rationality and reflection-in-action. The aim of this examination is to better understand the objections to and the intentions of the work, both. These are found to line up nicely along Schön's lines. Thereafter, I introduce Barry Johnson's notion of a polarity, and frame technical rationality and reflection-in-action. Johnson suggests that polarities are often regarded as solutions, but suggests that the appropriate stance is that poles must be managed. Here I suggest that the complexity of GEC demands the development of a population of reflective practitioners who actively manage the polarities of technical rationality and reflection-in-action, both. The talk discusses some of the key practices, particularly conversational practices, that can help do this.
The talk concludes with some theoretical and practical observations regarding the education of A Whole New Engineer and what these might offer the educators and education of the next generation of genetic algorithmists and evolutionary computationers.


David E. Goldberg (Dave) is a trained civil engineer (Michigan, 75, 76, 83) in hydraulics and hydrology, a registered engineer (PA), and a trained leadership coach (Georgetown, 2011). He taught engineering at Michigan, Alabama, and Illinois for 26 years, and as an academic, was known for his work in artificial intelligence, particularly genetic algorithms and evolutionary algorithms, amassing an h-index h=102, including 5 authored texts and a number of edited volumes, including the highly cited Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimization, and Machine Learning (Addison-Wesley, 1989). During his career he has co-founded a Silicon Valley startup (www.sharethis.com), 3 academic conferences, including one combining philosophy & engineering, and an educational transformation incubator (iFoundry at UIUC). He now heads www.ThreeJoy.com, a coaching & change leadership firm for higher education, and www.BigBeacon.org, a 501(c3) non-profit corporation devoted to transforming higher education.

In 2010, Dave resigned his tenure and distinguished professorship at the University of Illinois to help transform higher education in alignment with the creativity imperative of the 21st century. Specifically, he traveled to Asia, South America, Europe, and back to North America to unlock the keys to authentic transformation and thereby unleash a new generation of students, faculty, and educational leaders. Today, Dave travels the globe to help co-create more transformative educational institutions and organizations. His most recent book, A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education, is available in hardcover and e-book formats (www.wholenewengineer.org).