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H F C- the Hierarchical Fair Competition Model for 
    Scalable, Sustainable and Robust Evolutionary Computation

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HFC Metaphor: Hierarchical Fair Competition in Societal and Biological Systems

The HFC model was initially inspired by competition mechanisms observed in societal and economic systems. Competition is widespread in these systems, and selection is sometimes very strong, but diversity remains large.  Young individuals with outstanding capabilities in specialized areas do not have to face immediate competition with the most highly developed individuals in the population, but can rise rapidly as they become more able to compete, to play an important role in future advances. After close examination, we find there is a fundamental principle underlying many types of competition in both societal and biological systems: the Fair Competition Principle.

In human society, competitions are often organized into a hierarchy of levels. None of them will allow unfair competition – for example, a young child will not normally compete with college students in a math competition. We use the educational system to illustrate this principle in more detail.

In the educational system of China and many other developing countries, primary school students compete to get admission to middle schools and middle school students compete for spots in high schools. High school students compete to go to college and college students compete to go to graduate school (Figure 1) (in most Western countries, this competition starts at a later level, but is eventually present, nonetheless). In this hierarchically structured competition, at each level, only individuals of roughly equivalent ability will participate in any competition; i.e., in such societal systems, only fair competition is allowed. This hierarchical competition system is an efficient mechanism to protect young, potentially promising individuals from unfair competition, by allowing them to survive, learn, and grow up before joining more intense levels of competition. If some individuals are “lost” in these fair competitions, they were selected against while competing fairly only against their peers.  If we take the academic level as a fitness level, it means that only individuals with similar fitness can compete.

An interesting phenomenon sometimes found in societal competitions is the “child prodigy.” A ten-year-old child may have some extraordinary academic ability. These prodigies may skip across several educational levels and begin to take college classes at a young age. An individual with sufficient ability (fitness) can join any level of competition. This also suggests that in subpopulation migration, we should migrate individuals according to their fitness levels, rather than according to “time in grade.”

With such a fair competition mechanism that exports high-fitness individuals to higher-level competitions, societal systems reduce the prevalence of unfair competition and the unhealthy dominance or disruption that might otherwise be caused by “over-achieving” individuals. It maintains relatively low selection pressure at each level while maintaining the strong global selection pressure.

Similar “fair competition” is also enforced in the economic world, where a variety of regulations and laws (e.g., antitrust laws) are set up by the government or international organizations to ensure fair competition and exclude domination. These strategies are necessary to promote healthy competition and allow new start-ups to have a chance to mature.

The Fair Competition Principle in Biological Systems

It is somewhat surprising that in “cruel” biological/ ecological systems, the fair competition principle also holds in many cases. For example, there are mechanisms that reduce unmatched or unfair competition between young individuals and mature ones. Among mammals, young individuals often compete with their siblings under the supervision of parents, but not directly with other mature individuals, since their parents protect them against them. When the young grow up enough, they leave their parents and join the competition with other mature individuals. Evolution has found the mechanism of parental care to be useful in protecting the young and allowing them to grow up and develop their full potentials. Fair competition seems to be beneficial to the evolution of many species.

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