Neutrality and Epistasis in Program Space
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Joseph Renzullo,  Westley Weimer, Melanie Moses, Stephanie Forrest

Genetic Improvement of software can succeed only when the program is mutated using operators that are well-matched to the search problem at hand, whether it is repairing bugs or improving a nonfunctional property of the program. In the case of bug repair, it is critical to maintain most of the program’s existing logic, while searching for mutations that address the faulty parts of the program. This delicate balance depends on the neutral space of the program, that is, the topology of the connected network of programs that are equivalent under the fitness metric, which in our case is test-suite equivalence. We characterize the topology of the neutral space located around C programs, each of which has its own test suite. We also study interactions between independent single-edits (mutations) to a set of C programs, known as epistasis. The results we present are relevant to the GI community because they can inform design choices, e.g., choice of operators and search strategies. They are relevant to the Software Engineering community, because they point to fundamental characteristics of software that can suggest improvements to various SE tools.

Experiments in Genetic Divergence for Emergent Systems
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Christopher McGowan, Alexander Wild, Barry Porter

Emergent software systems take a step towards tackling the ever- increasing complexity of modern software, by having systems self- assemble from a library of building blocks, and then continually re-assemble themselves from alternative building blocks to learn which compositions of behaviour work best in each deployment environment. One of the key challenges in emergent systems is populating the library of building blocks, and particularly a set of alternative implementations of particular building blocks, which form the runtime search space of optimal behaviour. We present initial work in using a fusion of genetic improvement and genetic synthesis to automatically populate a divergent set of implementations of the same functionality, allowing emergent systems to explore new behavioural alternatives without human input. Our early results indicate this approach is able to successfully yield useful divergent implementations of building blocks which are more suited than any existing alternative for particular operating conditions.

A Turing Test for Genetic Improvement
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Afsoon Afzal, Jeremy Lacomis, Claire Le Goues, Christopher S. Timperley

Genetic improvement is a research field that aims to develop search-based techniques for improving existing code. GI has been used to automatically repair bugs, reduce energy consumption, and to improve run-time performance. In this paper, we reflect on the often-overlooked relationship between GI and developers within the context of continually evolving software systems. We introduce a distinction between transparent and opaque patches based on intended lifespan and developer interaction. Finally, we outline a Turing test for assessing the ability of a GI system to produce opaque patches that are acceptable to humans. This motivates research into the role GI systems will play in transparent development contexts.

Comparing Line and AST Granularity Level for Program Repair using PyGGI
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Gabin An, Jinhan Kim, Shin Yoo

PyGGI is a lightweight Python framework that can be used to implement generic Genetic Improvement algorithms at the API level. The original version of PyGGI only provided lexical modifications, i.e., modifications of the source code at the physical line granularity level. This paper introduces new extensions to PyGGI that enables syntactic modifications for Python code, i.e., modifications that operates at the AST granularity level. Taking advantage of the new extensions, we also present a case study that compares the lexical and syntactic search granularity level for automated program repair, using ten seeded faults in a real world open source Python project. The results show that search landscapes at the AST granularity level are more productive due to the smaller sizes of ingredient spaces, but may require longer time for search because the larger number of syntactically intact candidates leads to more test executions.

Performance Localisation
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Brendan Cody-Kenny, Michael O’Neill, Stephen Barrett

Profiling techniques highlight where performance issues manifest and provide a starting point for tracing cause back through a program. While people diagnose and understand the cause of performance to guide formulation of a performance improvement, we seek automated techniques for highlighting performance improvement opportunities to guide search algorithms. We investigate mutation-based approaches for highlighting where a performance improvement is likely to exist. For all modification locations in a program, we make all possible modifications and analyse how often modifications reduce execution count. We compare the resulting code location rankings against rankings derived using a profiler and find that mutation analysis provides the higher accuracy in highlighting performance improvement locations in a set of benchmark problems, though at a much higher execution cost. We see both approaches as complimentary and consider how they may be used to further guide Genetic Programming in finding performance improvements.

A spoonful of DevOps helps the GI go down

Benoit Baudry, Nicolas Harrand, Eric Schulte, Chris Timperley, Shin Hwei Tan, Marija Selakovic, Emamurho Ugherughe

DevOps emphasizes a high degree of automation at all phases of the software development lifecyle. Meanwhile, Genetic Improvement (GI) focuses on the automatic improvement of software artifacts. In this paper, we discuss why we believe that DevOps offers an excellent technical context for easing the adoption of GI techniques by software developers.
We also discuss A/B testing as a prominent and clear example of GI taking place in the wild today, albeit one with human-supervised fitness and mutation operators.

Learning to Synthesize
Yingfei Xiong, Bo Wang, Guirong Fu, Linfei Zang

In many scenarios we need to find the most likely program under a local context, where the local context can be an incomplete program, a partial specification, natural language description, etc. We call such problem program estimation. In this paper we propose an abstract framework, learning to synthesis, or L2S in short, to address this problem. L2S combines four tools to achieve this: syntax is used to define the search space and search steps, constraints are used to prune off invalid candidates at each search step, machine-learned models are used to estimate conditional probabilities for the candidates at each search step, and search algorithms are used to find the best possible solution. The main goal of L2S is to lay out the design space to motivate the research on program estimation. We have performed a preliminary evaluation by instantiatingthis framework for synthesizing conditions of an automated program repair (APR) system. The training data are from the project itself and related JDK packages. Compared to ACS, a state-of-the-art condition synthesis system for program repair, our approach could deal with a larger search space such that we fixed 4 additional bugs outside the search space of ACS, and relies only the source code of the current projects.

Evolutionary Fuzzing for Genetic Improvement: Toward Adaptive Software Defense
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Jason Landsborough, Stephen Harding, Bryan Beabout

As fuzz testing strategies have become more and more sophisticated, we see a natural application of fuzz testing to Genetic Improvement techniques. In particular, the ability to generate high quality and high coverage tests with advanced fuzzers can greatly enhance the effectiveness of Genetic Improvement algorithms—especially when the algorithm is applied to bug fixing or other similar kinds of software improvement to improve qualities such as security.