Neural networks and deep learning

To better explain neural networks and deep learning I’m going to leverage a strategy we use all the time – biology and nature.

One such example is the honeycomb design often found in the nest of honey bees.  The structure looks something like the design below taking a hexagonal shape (6 sides).

Turns out this design is special.  It uses minimal material to create a structure that is quite strong.  Upon discovering this, humans have borrowed this design and applied it in many other applications including architecture, transportation, engineering, biomedicine and more.  Neat right?

So why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with neural networks and deep learning?

Neural networks and deep learning are complicated concepts, but they also borrow from something we know relatively well – the design of our brain.

You see, our brains operate by leveraging neurons that carry electrical signals (information) back and forth across a network via connections called synapses.  The neurons work together to perform various actions, for example – learning.

OK great, but how does that apply here?

Well, neural networks and deep learning have been designed similarly to how our brains operate.

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A neural network also uses neurons interconnected through a network where they pass information through layers of other neurons to perform learning.  See the visual below.

OK, but what about deep learning?

Good question, deep learning is represented by the middle layer above.  It involves including what’s referred to as hidden layers as part of the neural network that perform a special kind of learning.  In complex neural networks there are many layers (hidden and not) and many combinations of outcomes possible due to all the connections.

Long story short, neural networks and deep learning mimic the design of our brain and as such are capable of wonderful advancements that sometimes even we can’t explain (yet).

I’ll talk more about real-world application for these technologies more tomorrow.

PS.  Here’s a case study on how we’ve leveraged the honeycomb structure elsewhere.  Here’s a few more links for reading on topics related to the honeycomb structure, other patterns in nature, neurons from the brain and neural networks.

Talk soon,

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