# Preface¶

Just a few years ago, there were no legions of deep learning scientists developing intelligent products and services at major companies and startups. When the youngest of us (the authors) entered the field, machine learning didn’t command headlines in daily newspapers. Our parents had no idea what machine learning was, let alone why we might prefer it to a career in medicine or law. Machine learning was a forward-looking academic discipline with a narrow set of real-world applications. And those applications, e.g. speech recognition and computer vision, required so much domain knowledge that they were often regarded as separate areas entirely for which machine learning was one small component. Neural networks, the antecedents of the deep learning models that we focus on in this book, were regarded as outmoded tools.

In just the past five years, deep learning has taken the world by
surprise, driving rapid progress in fields as diverse as computer
vision, natural language processing, automatic speech recognition,
reinforcement learning, and statistical modeling. With these advances in
hand, we can now build cars that drive themselves (with increasing
autonomy), smart reply systems that anticipate mundane replies, helping
people dig out from mountains of email, and software agents that
dominate the world’s best humans at board games like Go, a feat once
deemed to be decades away. Already, these tools are exerting a widening
impact, changing the way movies are made, diseases are diagnosed, and
playing a growing role in basic sciences – from astrophysics to biology.
This book represents our attempt to make deep learning approachable,
teaching you both the *concepts*, the *context*, and the *code*.

## About This Book¶

### One Medium Combining Code, Math, and HTML¶

For any computing technology to reach its full impact, it must be well-understood, well-documented, and supported by mature, well-maintained tools. The key ideas should be clearly distilled, minimizing the onboarding time needing to bring new practitioners up to date. Mature libraries should automate common tasks, and exemplar code should make it easy for practitioners to modify, apply, and extend common applications to suit their needs. Take dynamic web applications as an example. Despite a large number of companies, like Amazon, developing successful database-driven web applications in the 1990s, the full potential of this technology to aid creative entrepreneurs has only been realized over the past ten years, owing to the development of powerful, well-documented frameworks.

Realizing deep learning presents unique challenges because any single application brings together various disciplines. Applying deep learning requires simultaneously understanding (i) the motivations for casting a problem in a particular way, (ii) the mathematics of a given modeling approach, (iii) the optimization algorithms for fitting the models to data, (iv) and the engineering required to train models efficiently, navigating the pitfalls of numerical computing and getting the most out of available hardware. Teaching both the critical thinking skills required to formulate problems, the mathematics to solve them, and the software tools to implement those solutions all in one place presents formidable challenges. Our goal in this book is to present a unified resource to bring would-be practitioners up to speed.

We started this book project in July 2017 when we needed to explain
MXNet’s (then new) Gluon interface to our users. At the time, there were
no resources that were simultaneously (1) up to date, (2) covered the
full breadth of modern machine learning with anything resembling of
technical depth, and (3) interleaved the exposition one expects from an
engaging textbook with the clean runnable code one seeks in hands-on
tutorials. We found plenty of code examples for how to use a given deep
learning framework (e.g. how to do basic numerical computing with
matrices in TensorFlow) or for implementing particular techniques
(e.g. code snippets for LeNet, AlexNet, ResNets, etc) in the form of
blog posts or on GitHub. However, these examples typically focused on
*how* to implement a given approach, but left out the discussion of
*why* certain algorithmic decisions are made. While sporadic topics have
been covered in blog posts, e.g. on the website
Distill or personal blogs, they only covered
selected topics in deep learning, and often lacked associated code. On
the other hand, while several textbooks have emerged, most notably
Goodfellow, Bengio and Courville,
2016, which offers an excellent
survey of the concepts behind deep learning, these resources don’t marry
the descriptions to realizations of the concepts in code, sometimes
leaving readers clueless as to how to implement them. Moreover, too many
resources are hidden behind the paywalls of commercial course providers.

We set out to create a resource that could (1) be freely available for
everyone, (2) offer sufficient technical depth to provide a starting
point on the path to actually becoming an applied machine learning
scientist, (3) include runnable code, showing readers *how* to solve
problems in practice, and (4) that allowed for rapid updates, both by
us, and also by the community at large, and (5) be complemented by a
forum for interactive discussion of
technical details and to answer questions.

These goals were often in conflict. Equations, theorems, and citations are best managed and laid out in LaTeX. Code is best described in Python. And webpages are native in HTML and JavaScript. Furthermore, we want the content to be accessible both as executable code, as a physical book, as a downloadable PDF, and on the internet as a website. At present there exist no tools and no workflow perfectly suited to these demands, so we had to assemble our own. We describe our approach in detail in the appendix. We settled on Github to share the source and to allow for edits, Jupyter notebooks for mixing code, equations and text, Sphinx as a rendering engine to generate multiple outputs, and Discourse for the forum. While our system is not yet perfect, these choices provide a good compromise among the competing concerns. We believe that this might be the first book published using such an integrated workflow.

### Learning by Doing¶

Many textbooks teach a series of topics, each in exhaustive detail. For example, Chris Bishop’s excellent textbook, Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, teaches each topic so thoroughly, that getting to the chapter on linear regression requires a non-trivial amount of work. While experts love this book precisely for its thoroughness, for beginners, this property limits its usefulness as an introductory text.

In this book, we’ll teach most concepts *just in time*. In other words,
you’ll learn concepts at the very moment that they are needed to
accomplish some practical end. While we take some time at the outset to
teach fundamental preliminaries, like linear algebra and probability. We
want you to taste the satisfaction of training your first model before
worrying about more esoteric probability distributions.

Aside from a few preliminary notebooks that provide a crash course in
the basic mathematical background, each subsequent notebook introduces
both a reasonable number of new concepts and provides a single
self-contained working example – using a real dataset. This presents an
organizational challenge. Some models might logically be grouped
together in a single notebook. And some ideas might be best taught by
executing several models in succession. On the other hand, there’s a big
advantage to adhering to a policy of *1 working example, 1 notebook*:
This makes it as easy as possible for you to start your own research
projects by leveraging our code. Just copy a notebook and start
modifying it.

We will interleave the runnable code with background material as needed.
In general, we will often err on the side of making tools available
before explaining them fully (and we will follow up by explaining the
background later). For instance, we might use *stochastic gradient
descent* before fully explaining why it is useful or why it works. This
helps to give practitioners the necessary ammunition to solve problems
quickly, at the expense of requiring the reader to trust us with some
curatorial decisions.

Throughout, we’ll be working with the MXNet library, which has the rare
property of being flexible enough for research while being fast enough
for production. This book will teach deep learning concepts from
scratch. Sometimes, we want to delve into fine details about the models
that would typically be hidden from the user by `Gluon`

’s advanced
abstractions. This comes up especially in the basic tutorials, where we
want you to understand everything that happens in a given layer or
optimizer. In these cases, we’ll often present two versions of the
example: one where we implement everything from scratch, relying only on
NDArray and automatic differentiation, and another, more practical
example, where we write succinct code using `Gluon`

. Once we’ve taught
you how some component works, we can just use the `Gluon`

version in
subsequent tutorials.

### Content and Structure¶

The book can be roughly divided into three sections:

- The first part covers prerequisites and basics. The first chapter offers an Introduction to Deep Learning. In Crashcourse, we’ll quickly bring you up to speed on the prerequisites required for hands-on deep learning, such as how to acquire and run the codes covered in the book. Deep Learning Basics covers the most basic concepts and techniques of deep learning, such as multi-layer perceptrons and regularization.
- The next three chapters focus on modern deep learning techniques. Deep Learning Computation describes the various key components of deep learning calculations and lays the groundwork for the later implementation of more complex models. Next we explain Convolutional Neural Networks, powerful tools that form the backbone of most modern computer vision systems in recent years. Subsequently, we introduce Recurrent Neural Networks, models that exloit temporal or sequential structure in data, and are commonly used for natural language processing and time series prediction. These sections will get you up to speed on the basic tools behind most modern deep learning.
- Part three discusses scalability, efficiency and applications. First we discuss several common Optimization Algorithms used to train deep learning models. The next chapter, Performance, examines several important factors that affect the computational performance of your deep learning code. Chapters 9 and 10 illustrate major applications of deep learning in computer vision and natural language processing, respectively.

An outline of the book together with possible flows for navigating it is given below. The arrows provide a graph of prerequisites:

### Code¶

Most sections of this book feature executable code. We recognize the importance of an interactive learning experience in deep learning. At present certain intuitions can only be developed through trial and error, tweaking the code in small ways and observing the results. Ideally, an elegant mathematical theory might tell us precisely how to tweak our code to achieve a desired result. Unfortunately, at present such elegant theories elude us. Despite our best attempts, our explanations for of various techniques might be lacking, sometimes on account of our shortcomings, and equally often on account of the nascent state of the science of deep learning. We are hopeful that as the theory of deep learning progresses, future editions of this book will be able to provide insights in places the present edition cannot.

Most of the code in this book is based on Apache MXNet. MXNet is an
open-source framework for deep learning and the preferred choice of AWS
(Amazon Cloud Services), as well as many colleges and companies. All of
the code in this book has passed tests under MXNet 1.2.0. However, due
to the rapid development of deep learning, some code *in the print
edition* may not work properly in future versions of MXNet. However, we
plan to keep the online version remain up-to-date. In case of such
problems, please consult the section “Installation and
Running” to update the code and
runtime environment. At times, to avoid unnecessary repetition, we
encapsulate the frequently-imported and referred-to functions, classes,
etc. in this book in the `gluonbook`

package, version number 1.0.0. We
give a detailed overview of these functions and classes in the appendix
“gluonbook package index”

### Target Audience¶

This book is for students (undergraduate or graduate), engineers, and researchers, who seek a solid grasp of the practical techniques of deep learning. Because we explain every concept from scratch, no previous background in deep learning or machine learning is required. Fully explaining the methods of deep learning requires some mathematics and programming, but we’ll only assume that you come in with some basics, including (the very basics of) linear algebra, calculus, probability, and Python programming. Moreover, this book’s appendix provides a refresher on most of the mathematics covered in this book. Most of the time, we will prioritize intuition and ideas over mathematical rigor. There are many terrific books which can lead the interested reader further. For instance Linear Analysis by Bela Bollobas covers linear algebra and functional analysis in great depth. All of Statistics is a terrific guide to statistics. And if you have not used Python before, you may want to peruse the Python tutorial.

### Forum¶

Associated with this book, we’ve launched a discussion forum, located at discuss.mxnet.io. When you have questions on any section of the book, you can find the associated discussion page by scanning the QR code at the end of the section to participate in its discussions. The authors of this book and broader MXNet developer community frequently participate in forum discussions.

## Acknowledgments¶

We are indebted to the hundreds of contributors for both the English and the Chinese drafts. They helped improve the content and offered valuable feedback. Specifically, we thank every contributor of this English draft for making it better for everyone. Their GitHub IDs or names are (in no particular order): alxnorden, avinashingit, bowen0701, brettkoonce, Chaitanya Prakash Bapat, cryptonaut, edgarroman, gkutiel, John Mitro, Liang Pu, Rahul Agarwal, mohamed-ali, mstewart141, Mike Müller, NRauschmayr, prakhar1989, sad-, sfermigier, sundeepteki, topecongiro, vishaalkapoor, vishwesh5, YaYaB, Yuhong Chen, Evgeniy Smirnov, lgov, Simon Corston-Oliver, IgorDzreyev, trungha-ngx. Moreover, we thank Amazon Web Services, especially Swami Sivasubramanian, Raju Gulabani, Charlie Bell, and Andrew Jassy for their generous support in writing this book. Without the available time, resources, discussions with colleagues, and continuous encouragement this book would not have happened.

## Summary¶

- Deep learning has revolutionized pattern recognition, introducing technology that now powers a wide range of technologies, including computer vision, natural language processing, automatic speech recognition.
- To successfully apply deep learning, you must understand how to cast a problem, the mathematics of modeling, the algorithms for fitting your models to data, and the engineering techniques to implement it all.
- This book presents a comprehensive resource, including prose, figures, mathematics, and code, all in one place.
- To answer questions related to this book, visit our forum at https://discuss.mxnet.io/.
- Apache MXNet is a powerful library for coding up deep learning models and running them in parallel across GPU cores.
- Gluon is a high level library that makes it easy to code up deep learning models using Apache MXNet.
- Conda is a Python package manager that ensures that all software dependencies are met.
- All notebooks are available for download on GitHub and the conda
configurations needed to run this book’s code are expressed in the
`environment.yml`

file. - If you plan to run this code on GPUs, don’t forget to install the necessary drivers and update your configuration.

## Exercises¶

- Register an account on the discussion forum of this book discuss.mxnet.io.
- Install Python on your computer.
- Follow the links at the bottom of the section to the forum, where you’ll be able to seek out help and discuss the book and find answers to your questions by engaging the authors and broader community.
- Create an account on the forum and introduce yourself.