Approximation quality of the hypervolume indicator


In order to allow a comparison of (otherwise incomparable) sets, many evolutionary multi-objective optimizers use indicator functions to guide the search and to evaluate the performance of search algorithms. The most widely used indicator is the hypervolume indicator. It measures the volume of the dominated portion of the objective space bounded from below by a reference point. Though the hypervolume indicator is very popular, it has not been shown that maximizing the hypervolume indicator of sets of bounded size is indeed equivalent to the overall objective of finding a good approximation of the Pareto front. To address this question, we compare the optimal approximation ratio with the approximation ratio achieved by two-dimensional sets maximizing the hypervolume indicator. We bound the optimal multiplicative approximation ratio of n points by 1 + Theta(1/n) for arbitrary Pareto fronts. Furthermore, we prove that the same asymptotic approximation ratio is achieved by sets of n points that maximize the hypervolume indicator. However, there is a provable gap between the two approximation ratios which is even exponential in the ratio between the largest and the smallest value of the front. We also examine the additive approximation ratio of the hypervolume indicator in two dimensions and prove that it achieves the optimal additive approximation ratio apart from a small ratio <= n/(n - 2), where n is the size of the population. Hence the hypervolume indicator can be used to achieve a good additive but not a good multiplicative approximation of a Pareto front. This motivates the introduction of a "logarithmic hypervolume indicator" which provably achieves a good multiplicative approximation ratio.