Adaptive Random Search Methods for Simulation Optimization
Prudius, Andrei A.
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This thesis is concerned with identifying the best decision among a set of possible decisions in the presence of uncertainty. We are primarily interested in situations where the objective function value at any feasible solution needs to be estimated, for example via a ``black-box' simulation procedure. We develop adaptive random search methods for solving such simulation optimization problems. The methods are adaptive in the sense that they use information gathered during previous iterations to decide how simulation effort is expended in the current iteration. We consider random search because such methods assume very little about the structure of the underlying problem, and hence can be applied to solve complex simulation optimization problems with little expertise required from an end-user. Consequently, such methods are suitable for inclusion in simulation software. We first identify desirable features that algorithms for discrete simulation optimization need to possess to exhibit attractive empirical performance. Our approach emphasizes maintaining an appropriate balance between exploration, exploitation, and estimation. We also present two new and almost surely convergent random search methods that possess these desirable features and demonstrate their empirical attractiveness. Second, we develop two frameworks for designing adaptive and almost surely convergent random search methods for discrete simulation optimization. Our frameworks involve averaging, in that all decisions that require estimates of the objective function values at various feasible solutions are based on the averages of all observations collected at these solutions so far. We present two new and almost surely convergent variants of simulated annealing and demonstrate the empirical effectiveness of averaging and adaptivity in the context of simulated annealing. Finally, we present three random search methods for solving simulation optimization problems with uncountable feasible regions. One of the approaches is adaptive, while the other two are based on pure random search. We provide conditions under which the three methods are convergent, both in probability and almost surely. Lastly, we include a computational study that demonstrates the effectiveness of the methods when compared to some other approaches available in the literature.