School of Computing

Exploiting Immunological Metaphors in the Development of Serial, Parallel and Distributed Learning Algorithms

Andrew Watkins

PhD thesis, Computing Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, March 2005.


This thesis examines the use of immunological metaphors in building serial, parallel, and distributed learning algorithms. It offers a basic study in the development of biologically-inspired algorithms which merge inspiration from biology with known, standard computing technology to examine robust methods of computing. This thesis begins by detailing key interactions found within the immune system that provide inspiration for the development of a learning system. It then exploits the use of more processing power for the development of faster algorithms. This leads to the exploration of distributed computing resources for the examination of more biologically plausible systems.

This thesis offers the following main contributions. The components of the immune system that exhibit the capacity for learning are detailed. A framework for discussing learning algorithms is proposed. Three properties of every learning algorithm-memory, adaptation, and decision-making-are identified for this framework, and traditional learning algorithms are placed in the context of this framework. An investigation into the use of immunological components for learning is provided. This leads to an understanding of these components in terms of the learning framework. A simplification of the Artificial Immune Recognition System (AIRS) immune-inspired learning algorithm is provided by employing affinity-dependent somatic hypermutation. A parallel version of the Clonal Selection Algorithm (CLONALG) immune learning algorithm is developed. It is shown that basic parallel computing techniques can provide computational benefits for this algorithm. Exploring this technology further, a parallel version of AIRS is offered. It is shown that applying these same parallel computing techniques to AIRS, while less scalable than when applied to CLONALG, still provides computational gains. A distributed approach to AIRS is offered, and it is argued that this approach provides a more biologically appealing model. The simple distributed approach is proposed in terms of an initial step toward a more complex, distributed system.

Biological immune systems exhibit complex cellular interactions. The mechanisms of these interactions, while often poorly understood, hint at an extremely powerful information processing/problem solving system. This thesis demonstrates how the use of immunological principles coupled with standard computing technology can lead to the development of robust, biologically inspired learning algorithms.

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Bibtex Record

author = {Andrew Watkins},
title = {{Exploiting Immunological Metaphors in the Development of Serial, Parallel and Distributed Learning Algorithms}},
month = {March},
year = {2005},
pages = {182-196},
keywords = {determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants},
note = {},
doi = {},
url = {},
    publication_type = {phdthesis},
    submission_id = {5257_1116943735},
    school = {Computing Laboratory},
    address = {University of Kent, Canterbury, UK},

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Last Updated: 21/03/2014