Understanding how deep learning works:

We know that machine learning is about mapping inputs (such as images) to targets (such as the label “cat”), which is done by observing many examples of input and targets.

We also know that deep neural networks do this input-to-target mapping via a deep sequence of simple data transformations (layers) and that these data transformations are learned by exposure to examples. Now let’s look at how this learning happens, concretely.

The specification of what a layer does to its input data is stored in the layer’s weights, which in essence are a bunch of numbers. In technical terms, we’d say that the transformation implemented by a layer is parameterized by its weights(Weights are also sometimes called the parameters of a layer.) In this context, learning means finding a set of values for the weights of all layers in a network, such that the network will correctly map example inputs to their associated targets. But here’s the thing: a deep neural network can contain tens of millions of parameters. Finding the correct value for all of them may seem like a daunting task, especially given that modifying the value of one parameter will affect the behavior of all the others!


To control something, first you need to be able to observe it. To control the output of a neural network, you need to be able to measure how far this output is from what you expected. This is the job of the loss function of the network, also called the objective function. The loss function takes the predictions of the network and the true target(what you wanted the network to output) and computes a distance score, capturing how well the network has done on this specific example.


The fundamental trick in deep learning is to use this score as a feedback signal to adjust the value of the weights a little, in a direction that will lower the loss score for the current example. This adjustment is the job of the optimizer, which implements what’s called the Backpropagation algorithm: the central algorithm in deep learning.


Initially, the weights of the network are assigned random values, so the network merely implements a series of random transformations. Naturally, its output is far from what it should ideally be, and the loss score is accordingly very high. But with every example the network processes, the weights are adjusted a little in the correct direction, and the loss score decreases. This is the training loop, which, repeated a sufficient
number of times (typically tens of iterations over thousands of examples), yields weight values that minimize the loss function. A network with a minimal loss is one for which the outputs are as close as they can be to the targets: a trained network. Once again, it’s a simple mechanism that, once scaled, ends up looking like magic.

References: deep learning with python francois chollet

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