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Neural Networks Introduction

In this chapter, we will introduce neural networks and how to implement them in TensorFlow. Most of the subsequent chapters will be based on neural networks, so learning how to use them in TensorFlow is very important. We will start by introducing basic concepts of neural networking and work up to multilayer networks. In the last section we will create a neural network that learns to play Tic Tac Toe.

In this chapter, we'll cover the following recipes:

  • Implementing Operational Gates
  • Working with Gates and Activation Functions
  • Implementing a One Layer Neural Network
  • Implementing Different Layers
  • Using Multilayer Networks
  • Improving Predictions of Linear Models
  • Learning to Play Tic Tac Toe

Neural networks are currently breaking records in tasks such as image and speech recognition, reading handwriting, understanding text, image segmentation, dialogue systems, autonomous car driving, and so much more. While some of these aforementioned tasks will be covered in later chapters, it is important to introduce neural networks as an easy-to-implement machine learning algorithm, so that we can expand on it later.

The concept of a neural network has been around for decades. However, it only recently gained traction because we now have the computational power to train large networks because of advances in processing power, algorithm efficiency, and data sizes.

A neural network is basically a sequence of operations applied to a matrix of input data. These operations are usually collections of additions and multiplications followed by applications of non-linear functions. One example that we have already seen is logistic regression, the last section in Chapter 3, Linear Regression. Logistic regression is the sum of the partial slope-feature products followed by the application of the sigmoid function, which is non-linear. Neural networks generalize this a bit more by allowing any combination of operations and non-linear functions, which includes the applications of absolute value, maximum, minimum, and so on.

The important trick with neural networks is called 'back propagation'. Back propagation is a procedure that allows us to update the model variables based on the learning rate and the output of the loss function. We used back propagation to update our model variables in the Chapter 3, Linear Regression and Chapter 4, and the Support Vector Machine chapter.

Another important feature to take note of in neural networks is the non-linear activation function. Since most neural networks are just combinations of addition and multiplication operations, they will not be able to model non-linear data sets. To address this issue, we have used the non-linear activation functions in the neural networks. This will allow the neural network to adapt to most non-linear situations.

It is important to remember that, like most of the algorithms we have seen so far, neural networks are sensitive to the hyper-parameters that we choose. In this chapter, we will see the impact of different learning rates, loss functions, and optimization procedures.

There are more resources for learning about neural networks that are more in depth and detailed. Here are some following resources:

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