I once had this question https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/1083338/structural-design-meta-optimization-is-there-mathematical-theory-optimiza about the methods for finding optimal structures, designs and policies (as another kind of structures - set of rules), i.e. optimization of the structure of the models not just the parameters for some pre-selected structure. So far I am sure that the genes of evolutionary computation (EC) can effectively encode structure and evolutionary computing can perform effective search for more optimal structures. EC algorithms are quite sophisticated - there is evolutionary programming (for search of strings in some grammar) and there is cultural algorithms (which incorporates already known certain knowledge for speedup of the search). But are there some other kind of search procedures (besides evolutionary computing) for searching more efficient structures. EC is stochastic search methods and is there deterministic search methods for the search of optimal structure? I expect only key-words, pointers and trends.
Or - more clearly - is EC the most general search framework? Are there search alogrithms or approaches than can not be reduced to the string of application of crossover, mutation and other operators of EC?