Learning Deep Learning

Learning about Deep Learning that is.

It’s a specialized area of neural networks which itself is a specialized area of machine learning. Deep Learning is hot right now with very impressive results on tasks which have been difficult for other machine learning methods to solve.

I need to learn more and now. But how? Over the last few years the rise of the MOOCs has been providing a rich stream of learning possibilities for a huge range of subjects including high end tech as in Andrew Ng’s Coursera Machine Learning class, where basic neural networks were covered as part of the course.

Currently there is no Deep Learning MOOC. This will need to be a self-constructed curriculum. Who are the leaders in the field? The University of Toronto’s Geoffrey Hinton is on top, very closely followed by Yann LeCun of NYU and Yoshua Bengio at the University of Montreal. Last year Hinton was hired by Google and LeCun was hired by Facebook. Both retain their academic positions and part time teaching responsibility.

That’s the background. The rest of this post describes my start on learning about Deep Learning. The journey is far from over. These are only my initial steps and a few thoughts about where to go next.

Hinton’s Coursera Neural Networks class was offered in October 2012. It is an advanced neural networks class that goes way beyond the simple nets covered in Ng’s course. It is not specifically a deep learning class but does spend several lectures on the topic. The course has not been offered again and I don’t think it will. Hinton must be very busy with Google and indicates on his web page that he is not accepting new students for graduate study.

I looked at some of the archived video from this class. Even after Ng’s class I did not feel like I had the background to really appreciate the material. These lectures get deep fast. I need to prepare. Also for my particular learning style I want the “50,000 foot view” for Deep Learning and a sense of where all the pieces are going to fit.

So instead of jumping right in to the nearly 13 hours of Coursera class video I found A Tutorial on Deep Learning Hinton presented in 2009. The tutorial runs 3 hours and felt deeper than what I needed at that point. It may have been my unfamiliarity with Hinton’s
presentation style or maybe he was trying to compress the entirety of his experience to fit the venue. I did not finish watching this one.

Along the way I found Hugo Larochelle’s Neural Networks class videos. This is not a MOOC, just the videos from the course he teaches at Université de Sherbrooke. I like the presentation style and find the material accessible. He covers many neural network topics well beyond the basics. Still this is over 16 hours of lectures! I am impatient to get further in to deep learning concepts so I’ve been cherry picking these. I’ve watched most of the first two units to “calibrate” with what I learned from Ng’s class and have also gone through most of the autoencoder material.

Next I came upon a LeCun and Bengio lecture I could really get my mind around. It’s the one hour 2009 ICML workshop Tutorial: Deep Learning Architectures. Digging further I found LeCun’s 2013 ICML Deep Learning Tutorial very useful. This one is 1½ hours long. Now after watching these two I’m starting to see the shape of the field, that 50,000 foot view. This is what I need for my learning style, everyone’s style is different.

Will Stanton’s presentation at the May 2014 Data Science & Business Analytics meetup confirmed many of my perceptions, corrected some others, and exposed new dimensions to investigate.

Immediately after that I found a talk by Jeremy Howard at the Data Science Melbourne meetup on May 12th, 1¾ hours. (Jeremy was enrolled as a student in the initial offering of Bill Howe’s Coursera Introduction to Data Science. He contributed to many interesting forum threads there. He is currently involved in a startup creating deep learning tools. His last position was as president and chief scientist at Kaggle.) This talk is excellent. Jeremy covers the emergence of deep learning over other techniques, social and economic implications, and a bit of implementation detail. This is a must-watch, the talk that I would have liked to start with, but it did not yet exist.

Now at this point I am finally ready to absorb some Hinton presentations. His Google Tech Talks Recent Developments in Deep Learning (2010) and The Next Generation of Neural Networks (2007) were very good even if I did watch them out of chronological order. Each talk is one hour.

What next?

  • Working through the neural network course videos from both Hinton and Larochelle.
  • Trying out open source deep learning software packages.
  • Continuing to search/watch lectures. They are not all on youtube.
  • Google+ communities Machine Learning and Deep Learning are both very active.
  • Reddit has a very active and interesting subreddit /r/machinelearning. Yann LeCun did an AMA there last month. (There is also a /r/deeplearning subreddit but nothing is happening there.)
  • Check out LeCun’s Spring 2014 NYU Deep Learning course videos and notes.

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