Sometimes good candidates can be lost when cross-over or mutation results in offspring that are weaker than the parents. Often the EA will re-discover these lost improvements in a subsequent generation but there is no guarantee. To combat this we can use a feature known as elitism. Elitism involves copying a small propotion of the fittest candidates, unchanged, into the next generation. This can sometimes have a dramatic impact on performance by ensuring that the EA does not waste time re-discovering previously discarded partial solutions. Candidate solutions that are preserved unchanged through elitism remain eligible for selection as parents when breeding the remainder of the next generation.


The Watchmaker Framework supports elitism via the second parameter to the evolve method of an EvolutionEngine. This elite count is the number of candidates in a generation that should be copied unchanged from the previous generation, rather than created via evolution. Collectively these candidates are the elite. So for a population size of 100, setting the elite count to 5 will result in the fittest 5% of each generation being copied, without modification, into the next generation.