Grok all the things

grok (v): to understand (something) intuitively.

Artificial Neural Networks

๐Ÿ‘ทโ€โ™€๏ธ ย Professionals

Today, we dive deep into the intricacies of Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). As we swim through layers of neurons and traverse the complex connections, we'll uncover the secrets behind how ANNs work, their fascinating history, and delve into intriguing examples.

๐Ÿ•ฐ A Brief History of Artificial Neural Networks

Before we embark on our journey through ANNs, let's hop into our time machine and go back to their inception.

  1. 1943: Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts published a paper on how neurons might work, introducing the concept of a simplified brain model called "threshold logic." What a breakthrough!
  2. 1950s: The era of Perceptron and ADALINE: Frank Rosenblatt developed the Perceptron, an algorithm for pattern recognition based on a simple artificial neuron called a "threshold logic unit." Shortly after, Bernard Widrow and Marcian Hoff invented ADALINE (ADAptive LInear NEuron), another single layer neural network.
  3. 1969: A roadblock! Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert published "Perceptrons," which proved that single-layer Perceptrons could not solve certain types of problems (XOR, for example). This resulted in reduced funding for neural network research.
  4. 1980s: A new era begins! The discovery of the backpropagation algorithm by Rumelhart, Hinton, and Williams brought about renewed excitement in neural network research.
  5. 1990s - Present: We now have Deep Learning! With advancements in computing power and efficient algorithms, ANNs have evolved into deep learning networks with multiple layers and numerous sophisticated architectures.

Now that we've emerged from our historical voyage, let's dive into the inner workings of ANNs!

๐Ÿงช Anatomy of an Artificial Neural Network

ANNs are computational models inspired by the human brain's interconnected neurons. They consist of layers of "neurons" or "nodes" that process and transmit information. Let's break it down further:

  1. Input Layer: The entry point for data (e.g., images, text, audio). Each input neuron represents a feature of the input data.
  2. Hidden Layers: Sandwiched between the input and output layers, hidden layers contain neurons that perform complex processing on input data.
  3. Output Layer: The final layer that produces the result (e.g., classification, regression).

Neurons: The Building Blocks of ANNs

Neurons are responsible for performing mathematical operations on their inputs and applying an activation function to produce an output. Here's how it works:

  1. Weights & Biases: Neurons receive input data multiplied by weights and added to biases. output = ฮฃ(input * weight) + bias
  2. Activation Function: This function is applied to the neuron's output to introduce non-linearity into the network. Examples include ReLU, sigmoid, and tanh.
def relu(x):
    return max(0, x)

def sigmoid(x):
    return 1 / (1 + math.exp(-x))

def tanh(x):
    return (math.exp(x) - math.exp(-x)) / (math.exp(x) + math.exp(-x))

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Training an Artificial Neural Network: Gradient Descent & Backpropagation

Training an ANN involves two fundamental steps: forward propagation and backpropagation.

Forward Propagation

First, input data propagates through the network to produce an output. The neurons in each layer process the inputs, generate outputs, and pass the information forward.


To determine how well the network performs, we need a loss function (e.g., cross-entropy or mean squared error). The backpropagation algorithm adjusts the weights and biases of the network to minimize this loss. Here's a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Compute the loss using the predicted output and true labels.
  2. Calculate the gradient of the loss concerning each weight and bias.
  3. Update the weights and biases using a learning rate, which defines how much the parameters should change. weight = weight - learning_rate * gradient

Gradient Descent Optimization

Gradient descent is an optimization technique for minimizing the loss function. It consists of two flavors:

  1. Batch Gradient Descent: The entire dataset is used to compute gradients and update weights/biases for each iteration.
  2. Stochastic Gradient Descent: Updates the weights/biases using a single training example for each iteration.

Additionally, there are modern optimization algorithms like RMSProp, Adam, and AdaGrad that improve upon basic gradient descent for improved training performance.

๐ŸŒŸ A Shining Example: Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs)

Let's explore CNNs, a popular type of ANN designed for image recognition. CNNs consist of Convolutional and Pooling layers, which work together to identify and learn features in images before passing them through Fully Connected layers for classification.

  1. Convolutional Layer: Applies filters to input images to learn features (e.g., edges, shapes, textures). output = filter * input
  2. Pooling Layer: Reduces dimensionality by downsampling the feature maps generated by the Convolutional layer (e.g., Max Pooling, Average Pooling).
  3. Fully Connected Layer: Once the image features have been learned, they're flattened and sent through Fully Connected layers to perform classification (e.g., dog, cat, airplane).

CNNs have made groundbreaking achievements in image recognition tasks, such as the ImageNet competition.

๐ŸŒ Applications of Artificial Neural Networks

ANNs have infiltrated virtually every sphere of our lives. Here are a few examples:

  1. Computer Vision: Image & video recognition, object detection (e.g., self-driving cars, surveillance systems).
  2. Natural Language Processing: Sentiment analysis, translation, text generation (e.g., chatbots, machine translation).
  3. Recommendation Systems: Personalized recommendations based on user preferences and behavior (e.g., Amazon, Netflix).
  4. Medical Diagnosis: Analyzing medical images and records to identify diseases and abnormalities.
  5. Speech Recognition: Transcribing spoken language into written text (e.g., Siri, Google Assistant).

๐Ÿš€ Final Thoughts

Our journey through the marvelous world of Artificial Neural Networks has come to an end. We've explored the history and structure of ANNs, delved into training algorithms like backpropagation and gradient descent, and witnessed real-world applications that have revolutionized technology.

I hope you've enjoyed this thrilling odyssey as much as I have and gained a deeper understanding of the incredible world of ANNs. Until next time, happy exploring! is a collection of articles on a variety of technology and programming articles assembled by James Padolsey. Enjoy! And please share! And if you feel like you can donate here so I can create more free content for you.