Data Analytics and Mining for Dummies

Data Analytics and Mining is often perceived as an extremely tricky task cut out for Data Analysts and Data Scientists having a thorough knowledge encompassing several different domains such as mathematics, statistics, computer algorithms and programming. However, there are several tools available today that make it possible for novice programmers or people with no absolutely no algorithmic or programming expertise to carry out Data Analytics and Mining. One such tool which is very powerful and provides a graphical user interface and an assembly of nodes for ETL: Extraction, Transformation, Loading, for modeling, data analysis and visualization without, or with only slight programming is the KNIME Analytics Platform.

KNIME, or the Konstanz Information Miner, was developed by the University of Konstanz and is now popular with a large international community of developers. Initially KNIME was originally made for commercial use but now it is available as an open source software and has been used extensively in pharmaceutical research since 2006 and also a powerful data mining tool for the financial data sector. It is also frequently used in the Business Intelligence (BI) sector.

KNIME as a Data Mining Tool

KNIME is also one of the most well-organized tools which enables various methods of machine learning and data mining to be integrated. It is very effective when we are pre-processing data i.e. extracting, transforming, and loading data.

KNIME has a number of good features like quick deployment and scaling efficiency. It employs an assembly of nodes to pre-process data for analytics and visualization. It is also used for discovering patterns among large volumes of data and transforming data into more polished/actionable information.

Some Features of KNIME:

  • Free and open source
  • Graphical and logically designed
  • Very rich in analytics capabilities
  • No limitations on data size, memory usage, or functionalities
  • Compatible with Windows ,OS and Linux
  • Written in Java and edited with Eclipse.

A node is the smallest design unit in KNIME and each node serves a dedicated task. KNIME contains graphical, drag-drop nodes that require no coding. Nodes are connected with one’s output being another’s input, as a workflow. Therefore end-to-end pipelines can be built requiring no coding effort. This makes KNIME stand out, makes it user-friendly and make it accessible for dummies not from a computer science background.

KNIME workflow designed for graduate admission prediction

KNIME workflow designed for graduate admission prediction

KNIME has nodes to carry out Univariate Statistics, Multivariate Statistics, Data Mining, Time Series Analysis, Image Processing, Web Analytics, Text Mining, Network Analysis and Social Media Analysis. The KNIME node repository has a node for every functionality you can possibly think of and need while building a data mining model. One can execute different algorithms such as clustering and classification on a dataset and visualize the results inside the framework itself. It is a framework capable of giving insights on data and the phenomenon that the data represent.

Some commonly used KNIME node groups include:

  • Input-Output or I/O:  Nodes in this group retrieve data from or to write data to external files or data bases.
  • Data Manipulation: Used for data pre-processing tasks. Contains nodes to filter, group, pivot, bin, normalize, aggregate, join, sample, partition, etc.
  • Views: This set of nodes permit users to inspect data and analysis results using multiple views. This gives a means for truly interactive exploration of a data set.
  • Data Mining: In this group, there are nodes that implement certain algorithms (like K-means clustering, Decision Trees, etc.)

Comparison with other tools 

The first version of the KNIME Analytics Platform was released in 2006 whereas Weka and R studio were released in 1997 and 1993 respectively. KNIME is a proper data mining tool whereas Weka and R studio are Machine Learning tools which can also do data mining. KNIME integrates with Weka to add machine learning algorithms to the system. The R project adds statistical functionalities as well. Furthermore, KNIME’s range of functions is impressive, with more than 1,000 modules and ready-made application packages. The modules can be further expanded by additional commercial features.

Simple RNN

Simple RNN: the first foothold for understanding LSTM

*In this article “Densely Connected Layers” is written as “DCL,” and “Convolutional Neural Network” as “CNN.”

In the last article, I mentioned “When it comes to the structure of RNN, many study materials try to avoid showing that RNNs are also connections of neurons, as well as DCL or CNN.” Even if you manage to understand DCL and CNN, you can be suddenly left behind once you try to understand RNN because it looks like a different field. In the second section of this article, I am going to provide a some helps for more abstract understandings of DCL/CNN , which you need when you read most other study materials.

My explanation on this simple RNN is based on a chapter in a textbook published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is also recommended in some deep learning courses of Stanford University.

First of all, you should keep it in mind that simple RNN are not useful in many cases, mainly because of vanishing/exploding gradient problem, which I am going to explain in the next article. LSTM is one major type of RNN used for tackling those problems. But without clear understanding forward/back propagation of RNN, I think many people would get stuck when they try to understand how LSTM works, especially during its back propagation stage. If you have tried climbing the mountain of understanding LSTM, but found yourself having to retreat back to the foot, I suggest that you read through this article on simple RNNs. It should help you to gain a solid foothold, and you would be ready for trying to climb the mountain again.

*This article is the second article of “A gentle introduction to the tiresome part of understanding RNN.”

1, A brief review on back propagation of DCL.

Simple RNNs are straightforward applications of DCL, but if you do not even have any ideas on DCL forward/back propagation, you will not be able to understand this article. If you more or less understand how back propagation of DCL works, you can skip this first section.

Deep learning is a part of machine learning. And most importantly, whether it is classical machine learning or deep learning, adjusting parameters is what machine learning is all about. Parameters mean elements of functions except for variants. For example when you get a very simple function f(x)=a + bx + cx^2 + dx^3, then x is a variant, and a, b, c, d are parameters. In case of classical machine learning algorithms, the number of those parameters are very limited because they were originally designed manually. Such functions for classical machine learning is useful for features found by humans, after trial and errors(feature engineering is a field of finding such effective features, manually). You adjust those parameters based on how different the outputs(estimated outcome of classification/regression) are from supervising vectors(the data prepared to show ideal answers).

In the last article I said neural networks are just mappings, whose inputs are vectors, matrices, or sequence data. In case of DCLs, inputs are vectors. Then what’s the number of parameters ? The answer depends on the the number of neurons and layers. In the example of DCL at the right side, the number of the connections of the neurons is the number of parameters(Would you like to try to count them? At least I would say “No.”). Unlike classical machine learning you no longer need to do feature engineering, but instead you need to design networks effective for each task and adjust a lot of parameters.

*I think the hype of AI comes from the fact that neural networks find features automatically. But the reality is difficulty of feature engineering was just replaced by difficulty of designing proper neural networks.

It is easy to imagine that you need an efficient way to adjust those parameters, and the method is called back propagation (or just backprop). As long as it is about DCL backprop, you can find a lot of well-made study materials on that, so I am not going to cover that topic precisely in this article series. Simply putting, during back propagation, in order to adjust parameters of a layer you need errors in the next layer. And in order calculate the errors of the next layer, you need errors in the next next layer.

*You should not think too much about what the “errors” exactly mean. Such “errors” are defined in this context, and you will see why you need them if you actually write down all the mathematical equations behind backprops of DCL.

The red arrows in the figure shows how errors of all the neurons in a layer propagate backward to a neuron in last layer. The figure shows only some sets of such errors propagating backward, but in practice you have to think about all the combinations of such red arrows in the whole back propagation(this link would give you some ideas on how DCLs work).

These points are minimum prerequisites for continuing reading this  RNN this article. But if you are planning to understand RNN forward/back propagation at  an abstract/mathematical level that you can read academic papers,  I highly recommend you to actually write down all the equations of DCL backprop. And if possible you should try to implement backprop of three-layer DCL.

2, Forward propagation of simple RNN

In fact the simple RNN which we are going to look at in this article has only three layers. From now on imagine that inputs of RNN come from the bottom and outputs go up. But RNNs have to keep information of earlier times steps during upcoming several time steps because as I mentioned in the last article RNNs are used for sequence data, the order of whose elements is important. In order to do that, information of the neurons in the middle layer of RNN propagate forward to the middle layer itself. Therefore in one time step of forward propagation of RNN, the input at the time step propagates forward as normal DCL, and the RNN gives out an output at the time step. And information of one neuron in the middle layer propagate forward to the other neurons like yellow arrows in the figure. And the information in the next neuron propagate forward to the other neurons, and this process is repeated. This is called recurrent connections of RNN.

*To be exact we are just looking at a type of recurrent connections. For example Elman RNNs have simpler recurrent connections. And recurrent connections of LSTM are more complicated.

Whether it is a simple one or not, basically RNN repeats this process of getting an input at every time step, giving out an output, and making recurrent connections to the RNN itself. But you need to keep the values of activated neurons at every time step, so virtually you need to consider the same RNNs duplicated for several time steps like the figure below. This is the idea of unfolding RNN. Depending on contexts, the whole unfolded DCLs with recurrent connections is also called an RNN.

In many situations, RNNs are simplified as below. If you have read through this article until this point, I bet you gained some better understanding of RNNs, so you should little by little get used to this more abstract, blackboxed  way of showing RNN.

You have seen that you can unfold an RNN, per time step. From now on I am going to show the simple RNN in a simpler way,  based on the MIT textbook which I recomment. The figure below shows how RNN propagate forward during two time steps (t-1), (t).

The input \boldsymbol{x}^{(t-1)}at time step(t-1) propagate forward as a normal DCL, and gives out the output \hat{\boldsymbol{y}} ^{(t)} (The notation on the \boldsymbol{y} ^{(t)} is called “hat,” and it means that the value is an estimated value. Whatever machine learning tasks you work on, the outputs of the functions are just estimations of ideal outcomes. You need to adjust parameters for better estimations. You should always be careful whether it is an actual value or an estimated value in the context of machine learning or statistics). But the most important parts are the middle layers.

*To be exact I should have drawn the middle layers as connections of two layers of neurons like the figure at the right side. But I made my figure closer to the chart in the MIT textbook, and also most other study materials show the combinations of the two neurons before/after activation as one neuron.

\boldsymbol{a}^{(t)} is just linear summations of \boldsymbol{x}^{(t)} (If you do not know what “linear summations” mean, please scroll this page a bit), and \boldsymbol{h}^{(t)} is a combination of activated values of \boldsymbol{a}^{(t)} and linear summations of \boldsymbol{h}^{(t-1)} from the last time step, with recurrent connections. The values of \boldsymbol{h}^{(t)} propagate forward in two ways. One is normal DCL forward propagation to \hat{\boldsymbol{y}} ^{(t)} and \boldsymbol{o}^{(t)}, and the other is recurrent connections to \boldsymbol{h}^{(t+1)} .

These are equations for each step of forward propagation.

  • \boldsymbol{a}^{(t)} = \boldsymbol{b} + \boldsymbol{W} \cdot \boldsymbol{h}^{(t-1)} + \boldsymbol{U} \cdot \boldsymbol{x}^{(t)}
  • \boldsymbol{h}^{(t)}= g(\boldsymbol{a}^{(t)})
  • \boldsymbol{o}^{(t)} = \boldsymbol{c} + \boldsymbol{V} \cdot \boldsymbol{h}^{(t)}
  • \hat{\boldsymbol{y}} ^{(t)} = f(\boldsymbol{o}^{(t)})

*Please forgive me for adding some mathematical equations on this article even though I pledged not to in the first article. You can skip the them, but for some people it is on the contrary more confusing if there are no equations. In case you are allergic to mathematics, I prescribed some treatments below.

*Linear summation is a type of weighted summation of some elements. Concretely, when you have a vector \boldsymbol{x}=(x_0, x_1, x_2), and weights \boldsymbol{w}=(w_0,w_1, w_2), then \boldsymbol{w}^T \cdot \boldsymbol{x} = w_0 \cdot x_0 + w_1 \cdot x_1 +w_2 \cdot x_2 is a linear summation of \boldsymbol{x}, and its weights are \boldsymbol{w}.

*When you see a product of a matrix and a vector, for example a product of \boldsymbol{W} and \boldsymbol{v}, you should clearly make an image of connections between two layers of a neural network. You can also say each element of \boldsymbol{u}} is a linear summations all the elements of \boldsymbol{v}} , and \boldsymbol{W} gives the weights for the summations.

A very important point is that you share the same parameters, in this case \boldsymbol{\theta \in \{\boldsymbol{U}, \boldsymbol{W}, \boldsymbol{b}, \boldsymbol{V}, \boldsymbol{c} \}}, at every time step. 

And you are likely to see this RNN in this blackboxed form.

3, The steps of back propagation of simple RNN

In the last article, I said “I have to say backprop of RNN, especially LSTM (a useful and mainstream type or RNN), is a monster of chain rules.” I did my best to make my PowerPoint on LSTM backprop straightforward. But looking at it again, the LSTM backprop part still looks like an electronic circuit, and it requires some patience from you to understand it. If you want to understand LSTM at a more mathematical level, understanding the flow of simple RNN backprop is indispensable, so I would like you to be patient while understanding this step (and you have to be even more patient while understanding LSTM backprop).

This might be a matter of my literacy, but explanations on RNN backprop are very frustrating for me in the points below.

  • Most explanations just show how to calculate gradients at each time step.
  • Most study materials are visually very poor.
  • Most explanations just emphasize that “errors are back propagating through time,” using tons of arrows, but they lack concrete instructions on how actually you renew parameters with those errors.

If you can relate to the feelings I mentioned above, the instructions from now on could somewhat help you. And I am going to share some study materials on simple RNNs in an external link so that you can gain a clear and mathematical understanding on how simple RNNs work.

Backprop of RNN , as long as you are thinking about simple RNNs, is not so different from that of DCLs. But you have to be careful about the meaning of errors in the context of RNN backprop. Back propagation through time (BPTT) is one of the major methods for RNN backprop, and I am sure most textbooks explain BPTT. But most study materials just emphasize that you need errors from all the time steps, and I think that is very misleading and confusing.

You need all the gradients to adjust parameters, but you do not necessarily need all the errors to calculate those gradients. Gradients in the context of machine learning mean partial derivatives of error functions (in this case J) with respect to certain parameters, and mathematically a gradient of J with respect to \boldsymbol{\theta \in \{\boldsymbol{U}, \boldsymbol{W}, \boldsymbol{b}^{(t)}, \boldsymbol{V}, \boldsymbol{c} \}}is denoted as ( \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}}  ). And another confusing point in many textbooks, including the MIT one, is that they give an impression that parameters depend on time steps. For example some study materials use notations like \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}^{(t)}}, and I think this gives an impression that this is a gradient with respect to the parameters at time step (t). In my opinion this gradient rather should be written as ( \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}} )^{(t)} . But many study materials denote gradients of those errors in the former way, so from now on let me use the notations which you can see in the figures in this article.

In order to calculate the gradient \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{x}^{(t)}} you need errors from time steps s (s \geq t) \quad (as you can see in the figure, in order to calculate a gradient in a colored frame, you need all the errors in the same color).

*Another confusing point is that the \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\ast ^{(t)}}}, \boldsymbol{\ast} \in \{\boldsymbol{a}^{(t)}, \boldsymbol{h}^{(t)}, \boldsymbol{o}^{(t)}, \dots \} are correct notations, because \boldsymbol{\ast} are values of neurons after forward propagation. They depend on time steps, and these are very values which I have been calling “errors.” That is why parameters do not depend on time steps, whereas errors depend on time steps.

As I mentioned before, you share the same parameters at every time step. Again, please do not assume that parameters are different from time step to time step. It is gradients/errors (you need errors to calculate gradients) which depend on time step. And after calculating errors at every time step, you can finally adjust parameters one time, and that’s why this is called “back propagation through time.” (It is easy to imagine that this method can be very inefficient. If the input is the whole text on a Wikipedia link, you need to input all the sentences in the Wikipedia text to renew parameters one time. To solve this problem there is a backprop method named “truncated BPTT,” with which you renew parameters based on a part of a text. )

And after calculating those gradients \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}^{(t)}} you can take a summation of them: \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}}=\sum_{t=0}^{t=\tau}{\frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}^{(t)}}}. With this gradient \frac{\partial J}{\partial \boldsymbol{\theta}} , you can finally renew the value of \boldsymbol{\theta} one time.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that simple RNNs are no longer for practical uses, and that comes from exploding/vanishing problem of RNN. This problem was one of the reasons for the AI winter which lasted for some 20 years. In the next article I am going to write about LSTM, a fancier type of RNN, in the context of a history of neural network history.

* I make study materials on machine learning, sponsored by DATANOMIQ. I do my best to make my content as straightforward but as precise as possible. I include all of my reference sources. If you notice any mistakes in my materials, including grammatical errors, please let me know (email: yasuto.tamura@datanomiq.de). And if you have any advice for making my materials more understandable to learners, I would appreciate hearing it.

Simple RNN

Prerequisites for understanding RNN at a more mathematical level

Writing the A gentle introduction to the tiresome part of understanding RNN Article Series on recurrent neural network (RNN) is nothing like a creative or ingenious idea. It is quite an ordinary topic. But still I am going to write my own new article on this ordinary topic because I have been frustrated by lack of sufficient explanations on RNN for slow learners like me.

I think many of readers of articles on this website at least know that RNN is a type of neural network used for AI tasks, such as time series prediction, machine translation, and voice recognition. But if you do not understand how RNNs work, especially during its back propagation, this blog series is for you.

After reading this articles series, I think you will be able to understand RNN in more mathematical and abstract ways. But in case some of the readers are allergic or intolerant to mathematics, I tried to use as little mathematics as possible.

Ideal prerequisite knowledge:

  • Some understanding on densely connected layers (or fully connected layers, multilayer perception) and how their forward/back propagation work.
  •  Some understanding on structure of Convolutional Neural Network.

*In this article “Densely Connected Layers” is written as “DCL,” and “Convolutional Neural Network” as “CNN.”

1, Difficulty of Understanding RNN

I bet a part of difficulty of understanding RNN comes from the variety of its structures. If you search “recurrent neural network” on Google Image or something, you will see what I mean. But that cannot be helped because RNN enables a variety of tasks.

Another major difficulty of understanding RNN is understanding its back propagation algorithm. I think some of you found it hard to understand chain rules in calculating back propagation of densely connected layers, where you have to make the most of linear algebra. And I have to say backprop of RNN, especially LSTM, is a monster of chain rules. I am planing to upload not only a blog post on RNN backprop, but also a presentation slides with animations to make it more understandable, in some external links.

In order to avoid such confusions, I am going to introduce a very simplified type of RNN, which I call a “simple RNN.” The RNN displayed as the head image of this article is a simple RNN.

2, How Neurons are Connected

    \begin{equation*}   1 = 3 - 2 \end{equation*}

How to connect neurons and how to activate them is what neural networks are all about. Structures of those neurons are easy to grasp as long as that is about DCL or CNN. But when it comes to the structure of RNN, many study materials try to avoid showing that RNNs are also connections of neurons, as well as DCL or CNN(*If you are not sure how neurons are connected in CNN, this link should be helpful. Draw a random digit in the square at the corner.). In fact the structure of RNN is also the same, and as long as it is a simple RNN, and it is not hard to visualize its structure.

Even though RNN is also connections of neurons, usually most RNN charts are simplified, using blackboxes. In case of simple RNN, most study material would display it as the chart below.

But that also cannot be helped because fancier RNN have more complicated connections of neurons, and there are no longer advantages of displaying RNN as connections of neurons, and you would need to understand RNN in more abstract way, I mean, as you see in most of textbooks.

I am going to explain details of simple RNN in the next article of this series.

3, Neural Networks as Mappings

If you still think that neural networks are something like magical spider webs or models of brain tissues, forget that. They are just ordinary mappings.

If you have been allergic to mathematics in your life, you might have never heard of the word “mapping.” If so, at least please keep it in mind that the equation y=f(x), which most people would have seen in compulsory education, is a part of mapping. If you get a value x, you get a value y corresponding to the x.

But in case of deep learning, x is a vector or a tensor, and it is denoted with \boldsymbol{x} . If you have never studied linear algebra , imagine that a vector is a column of Excel data (only one column), a matrix is a sheet of Excel data (with some rows and columns), and a tensor is some sheets of Excel data (each sheet does not necessarily contain only one column.)

CNNs are mainly used for image processing, so their inputs are usually image data. Image data are in many cases (3, hight, width) tensors because usually an image has red, blue, green channels, and the image in each channel can be expressed as a hight*width matrix (the “height” and the “width” are number of pixels, so they are discrete numbers).

The convolutional part of CNN (which I call “feature extraction part”) maps the tensors to a vector, and the last part is usually DCL, which works as classifier/regressor. At the end of the feature extraction part, you get a vector. I call it a “semantic vector” because the vector has information of “meaning” of the input image. In this link you can see maps of pictures plotted depending on the semantic vector. You can see that even if the pictures are not necessarily close pixelwise, they are close in terms of the “meanings” of the images.

In the example of a dog/cat classifier introduced by François Chollet, the developer of Keras, the CNN maps (3, 150, 150) tensors to 2-dimensional vectors, (1, 0) or (0, 1) for (dog, cat).

Wrapping up the points above, at least you should keep two points in mind: first, DCL is a classifier or a regressor, and CNN is a feature extractor used for image processing. And another important thing is, feature extraction parts of CNNs map images to vectors which are more related to the “meaning” of the image.

Importantly, I would like you to understand RNN this way. An RNN is also just a mapping.

*I recommend you to at least take a look at the beautiful pictures in this link. These pictures give you some insight into how CNN perceive images.

4, Problems of DCL and CNN, and needs for RNN

Taking an example of RNN task should be helpful for this topic. Probably machine translation is the most famous application of RNN, and it is also a good example of showing why DCL and CNN are not proper for some tasks. Its algorithms is out of the scope of this article series, but it would give you a good insight of some features of RNN. I prepared three sentences in German, English, and Japanese, which have the same meaning. Assume that each sentence is divided into some parts as shown below and that each vector corresponds to each part. In machine translation we want to convert a set of the vectors into another set of vectors.

Then let’s see why DCL and CNN are not proper for such task.

  • The input size is fixed: In case of the dog/cat classifier I have mentioned, even though the sizes of the input images varies, they were first molded into (3, 150, 150) tensors. But in machine translation, usually the length of the input is supposed to be flexible.
  • The order of inputs does not mater: In case of the dog/cat classifier the last section, even if the input is “cat,” “cat,” “dog” or “dog,” “cat,” “cat” there’s no difference. And in case of DCL, the network is symmetric, so even if you shuffle inputs, as long as you shuffle all of the input data in the same way, the DCL give out the same outcome . And if you have learned at least one foreign language, it is easy to imagine that the orders of vectors in sequence data matter in machine translation.

*It is said English language has phrase structure grammar, on the other hand Japanese language has dependency grammar. In English, the orders of words are important, but in Japanese as long as the particles and conjugations are correct, the orders of words are very flexible. In my impression, German grammar is between them. As long as you put the verb at the second position and the cases of the words are correct, the orders are also relatively flexible.

5, Sequence Data

We can say DCL and CNN are not useful when you want to process sequence data. Sequence data are a type of data which are lists of vectors. And importantly, the orders of the vectors matter. The number of vectors in sequence data is usually called time steps. A simple example of sequence data is meteorological data measured at a spot every ten minutes, for instance temperature, air pressure, wind velocity, humidity. In this case the data is recorded as 4-dimensional vector every ten minutes.

But this “time step” does not necessarily mean “time.” In case of natural language processing (including machine translation), which you I mentioned in the last section, the numberings of each vector denoting each part of sentences are “time steps.”

And RNNs are mappings from a sequence data to another sequence data.

*At least I found a paper on the RNN’s capability of universal approximation on many-to-one RNN task. But I have not found any papers on universal approximation of many-to-many RNN tasks. Please let me know if you find any clue on whether such approximation is possible. I am desperate to know that. 

6, Types of RNN Tasks

RNN tasks can be classified into some types depending on the lengths of input/output sequences (the “length” means the times steps of input/output sequence data).

If you want to predict the temperature in 24 hours, based on several time series data points in the last 96 hours, the task is many-to-one. If you sample data every ten minutes, the input size is 96*6=574 (the input data is a list of 574 vectors), and the output size is 1 (which is a value of temperature). Another example of many-to-one task is sentiment classification. If you want to judge whether a post on SNS is positive or negative, the input size is very flexible (the length of the post varies.) But the output size is one, which is (1, 0) or (0, 1), which denotes (positive, negative).

*The charts in this section are simplified model of RNN used for each task. Please keep it in mind that they are not 100% correct, but I tried to make them as exact as possible compared to those in other study materials.

Music/text generation can be one-to-many tasks. If you give the first sound/word you can generate a phrase.

Next, let’s look at many-to-many tasks. Machine translation and voice recognition are likely to be major examples of many-to-many tasks, but here name entity recognition seems to be a proper choice. Name entity recognition is task of finding proper noun in a sentence . For example if you got two sentences “He said, ‘Teddy bears on sale!’ ” and ‘He said, “Teddy Roosevelt was a great president!” ‘ judging whether the “Teddy” is a proper noun or a normal noun is name entity recognition.

Machine translation and voice recognition, which are more popular, are also many-to-many tasks, but they use more sophisticated models. In case of machine translation, the inputs are sentences in the original language, and the outputs are sentences in another language. When it comes to voice recognition, the input is data of air pressure at several time steps, and the output is the recognized word or sentence. Again, these are out of the scope of this article but I would like to introduce the models briefly.

Machine translation uses a type of RNN named sequence-to-sequence model (which is often called seq2seq model). This model is also very important for other natural language processes tasks in general, such as text summarization. A seq2seq model is divided into the encoder part and the decoder part. The encoder gives out a hidden state vector and it used as the input of the decoder part. And decoder part generates texts, using the output of the last time step as the input of next time step.

Voice recognition is also a famous application of RNN, but it also needs a special type of RNN.

*To be honest, I don’t know what is the state-of-the-art voice recognition algorithm. The example in this article is a combination of RNN and a collapsing function made using Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC). In this model, the output of RNN is much longer than the recorded words or sentences, so a collapsing function reduces the output into next output with normal length.

You might have noticed that RNNs in the charts above are connected in both directions. Depending on the RNN tasks you need such bidirectional RNNs.  I think it is also easy to imagine that such networks are necessary. Again, machine translation is a good example.

And interestingly, image captioning, which enables a computer to describe a picture, is one-to-many-task. As the output is a sentence, it is easy to imagine that the output is “many.” If it is a one-to-many task, the input is supposed to be a vector.

Where does the input come from? I told you that I was obsessed with the beauty of the last vector of the feature extraction part of CNN. Surprisingly the the “beautiful” vector, which I call a “semantic vector” is the input of image captioning task (after some transformations, depending on the network models).

I think this articles includes major things you need to know as prerequisites when you want to understand RNN at more mathematical level. In the next article, I would like to explain the structure of a simple RNN, and how it forward propagate.

* I make study materials on machine learning, sponsored by DATANOMIQ. I do my best to make my content as straightforward but as precise as possible. I include all of my reference sources. If you notice any mistakes in my materials, please let me know (email: yasuto.tamura@datanomiq.de). And if you have any advice for making my materials more understandable to learners, I would appreciate hearing it.

Visual Question Answering with Keras – Part 1

This is Part I of II of the Article Series Visual Question Answering with Keras

Making Computers Intelligent to answer from images

If we look closer in the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Deep Learning has gained more popularity in the recent years and has achieved the human-level performance in the tasks such as Speech Recognition, Image Classification, Object Detection, Machine Translation and so on. However, as humans, not only we but also a five-year child can normally perform these tasks without much inconvenience. But the development of such systems with these capabilities has always considered an ambitious goal for the researchers as well as for developers.

In this series of blog posts, I will cover an introduction to something called VQA (Visual Question Answering), its available datasets, the Neural Network approach for VQA and its implementation in Keras and the applications of this challenging problem in real life. 

Table of Contents:

1 Introduction

2 What is exactly Visual Question Answering?

3 Prerequisites

4 Datasets available for VQA

4.1 DAQUAR Dataset

4.2 CLEVR Dataset

4.3 FigureQA Dataset

4.4 VQA Dataset

5 Real-life applications of VQA

6 Conclusion

 

  1. Introduction:

Let’s say you are given a below picture along with one question. Can you answer it?

I expect confidently you all say it is the Kitchen without much inconvenience which is also the right answer. Even a five-year child who just started to learn things might answer this question correctly.

Alright, but can you write a computer program for such type of task that takes image and question about the image as an input and gives us answer as output?

Before the development of the Deep Neural Network, this problem was considered as one of the difficult, inconceivable and challenging problem for the AI researcher’s community. However, due to the recent advancement of Deep Learning the systems are capable of answering these questions with the promising result if we have a required dataset.

Now I hope you have got at least some intuition of a problem that we are going to discuss in this series of blog posts. Let’s try to formalize the problem in the below section.

  1. What is exactly Visual Question Answering?:

We can define, “Visual Question Answering(VQA) is a system that takes an image and natural language question about the image as an input and generates natural language answer as an output.”

VQA is a research area that requires an understanding of vision(Computer Vision)  as well as text(NLP). The main beauty of VQA is that the reasoning part is performed in the context of the image. So if we have an image with the corresponding question then the system must able to understand the image well in order to generate an appropriate answer. For example, if the question is the number of persons then the system must able to detect faces of the persons. To answer the color of the horse the system need to detect the objects in the image. Many of these common problems such as face detection, object detection, binary object classification(yes or no), etc. have been solved in the field of Computer Vision with good results.

To summarize a good VQA system must be able to address the typical problems of CV as well as NLP.

To get a better feel of VQA you can try online VQA demo by CloudCV. You just go to this link and try uploading the picture you want and ask the related question to the picture, the system will generate the answer to it.

 

  1. Prerequisites:

In the next post, I will walk you through the code for this problem using Keras. So I assume that you are familiar with:

  1. Fundamental concepts of Machine Learning
  2. Multi-Layered Perceptron
  3. Convolutional Neural Network
  4. Recurrent Neural Network (especially LSTM)
  5. Gradient Descent and Backpropagation
  6. Transfer Learning
  7. Hyperparameter Optimization
  8. Python and Keras syntax
  1. Datasets available for VQA:

As you know problems related to the CV or NLP the availability of the dataset is the key to solve the problem. The complex problems like VQA, the dataset must cover all possibilities of questions answers in real-world scenarios. In this section, I will cover some of the datasets available for VQA.

4.1 DAQUAR Dataset:

The DAQUAR dataset is the first dataset for VQA that contains only indoor scenes. It shows the accuracy of 50.2% on the human baseline. It contains images from the NYU_Depth dataset.

Example of DAQUAR dataset

Example of DAQUAR dataset

The main disadvantage of DAQUAR is the size of the dataset is very small to capture all possible indoor scenes.

4.2 CLEVR Dataset:

The CLEVR Dataset from Stanford contains the questions about the object of a different type, colors, shapes, sizes, and material.

It has

  • A training set of 70,000 images and 699,989 questions
  • A validation set of 15,000 images and 149,991 questions
  • A test set of 15,000 images and 14,988 questions

Image Source: https://cs.stanford.edu/people/jcjohns/clevr/?source=post_page

 

4.3 FigureQA Dataset:

FigureQA Dataset contains questions about the bar graphs, line plots, and pie charts. It has 1,327,368 questions for 100,000 images in the training set.

4.4 VQA Dataset:

As comapred to all datasets that we have seen so far VQA dataset is relatively larger. The VQA dataset contains open ended as well as multiple choice questions. VQA v2 dataset contains:

  • 82,783 training images from COCO (common objects in context) dataset
  • 40, 504 validation images and 81,434 validation images
  • 443,757 question-answer pairs for training images
  • 214,354 question-answer pairs for validation images.

As you might expect this dataset is very huge and contains 12.6 GB of training images only. I have used this dataset in the next post but a very small subset of it.

This dataset also contains abstract cartoon images. Each image has 3 questions and each question has 10 multiple choice answers.

  1. Real-life applications of VQA:

There are many applications of VQA. One of the famous applications is to help visually impaired people and blind peoples. In 2016, Microsoft has released the “Seeing AI” app for visually impaired people to describe the surrounding environment around them. You can watch this video for the prototype of the Seeing AI app.

Another application could be on social media or e-commerce sites. VQA can be also used for educational purposes.

  1. Conclusion:

I hope this explanation will give you a good idea of Visual Question Answering. In the next blog post, I will walk you through the code in Keras.

If you like my explanations, do provide some feedback, comments, etc. and stay tuned for the next post.

Introduction to ROC Curve

The abbreviation ROC stands for Receiver Operating Characteristic. Its main purpose is to illustrate the diagnostic ability of classifier as the discrimination threshold is varied. It was developed during World War II when Radar operators had to decide if the blip on the screen is an enemy target, a friendly ship or just a noise.  For these purposes they measured the ability of a radar receiver operator to make these important distinctions, which was called the Receiver Operating Characteristic.

Later it was found useful in interpreting medical test results and then in Machine learning classification problems. In order to get an introduction to binary classification and terms like ‘precision’ and ‘recall’ one can look into my earlier blog  here.

True positive rate and false positive rate

Let’s imagine a situation where a fire alarm is installed in a kitchen. The alarm is supposed to emit a sound in case fire smoke is detected in the room. Unfortunately, there is a lot of cooking done in the kitchen and the alarm may trigger the sound too often. Thus, instead of serving a purpose the alarm becomes a nuisance due to a large number of false alarms. In statistical terms these types of errors are called type 1 errors, or false positives.

One way to deal with this problem is to simply decrease sensitivity of the device. We do this by increasing the trigger threshold at the alarm setting. But then, not every alarm should have the same threshold setting. Consider the same type of device but kept in a bedroom. With high threshold, the device might miss smoke from a real short-circuit in the wires which poses a real danger of fire. This kind of failure is called Type 2 error or a false negative. Although the two devices are the same, different types of threshold settings are optimal for different circumstances.

To specify this more formally, let us describe the performance of a binary classifier at a particular threshold by the following parameters:

 

These parameters take different values at different thresholds. Hence, they define the performance of the classifier at particular threshold. But we want to examine in overall how good a classifier is. Fortunately, there is a way to do that. We plot the True Positive Rate (TPR) and False Positive rate (FPR) at different thresholds and this plot is called ROC curve.

Let’s try to understand this with an example.

A case with a distinct population distribution

Let’s suppose there is a disease which can be identified with deficiency of some parameter (maybe a certain vitamin). The distribution of population with this disease has a mean vitamin concentration sharply distinct from the mean of a healthy population, as shown below.

This is result of dummy data simulating population of 2000 people,the link to the code is given  in the end of this blog.  As the two populations are distinctly separated (there is no  overlap between the two distributions), we can expect that a classifier would have an easy job distinquishing healthy from sick people. We can run a logistic regression classifier with a threshold of .5 and be 100% succesful in detecting the decease.

The confusion matrix may look something like this.

In this ideal case with a threshold  of  .5 we do not make a single wrong classification. The True positive rate and False positive rate are 1 and 0, respectively. But we can shift the threshold. In that case, we will  get different confusion matrices. First we plot threshold vs. TPR.

We see for most values of threshold the TPR is close to 1 which again proves data is easy to classify and the classifier is returning high probabilities  for the most of positives .

Similarly Let’s plot threshold vs. FPR.

For most of the data points FPR is close to zero. This is also good. Now its time to plot the ROC curve using these results (TPR vs FPR).

Let’s try to interpret  the results,  all the points lie on line x=0 and y=1, it means for all the points FPR is zero or TPR is one, making  the curve a square. which means the classifier does perfectly well.

Case with overlapping  population distribution

The above example was about a perfect classifer. However, life is often not so easy. Now let us consider another more realistic situation in which the parameter distribution of the population is not as distinct as in the previous case. Rather, the mean of the parameter with healthy and not healthy datapoints are close and the distributions overlap, as shown in the next figure.

If we set the threshold to 0.5, the confusion matrix may look like this.

Now, any new choice of threshold location will affect both false positives and false negatives. In fact, there is a trade-off. If we shift the threshold with the goal to reduce false negatives, false positives will increase. If we move the threshold to the other direction and reduce false positive, false negatives will increase.

The plots (TPR vs Threshold) , (FPR vs Threshold) are shown below

If we plot the ROC curve from these results, it looks like this:

From the curve we see the classifier does not perform as well as the earlier one.

What else can be infered from this curve? We first need to understand what the diagonal in this plot represent. The diagonal represents ‘Line of no discrimination’, which we obtain if we randomly guess. This is the ROC curve for the worst possible classifier. Therefore, by comparing the obtained ROC curve with the diagonal, we see how much better our classifer is from random guessing.

The further away ROC curve from the diagonal is (the closest it is to the top left corner) , better the classifier is.

Area Under the curve

The overall performance of the classifier is given by the area under the ROC curve and is usually denoted as AUC. Since TPR and FPR lie within the range of 0 to 1, the AUC also assumes values between 0 and 1. The higher the value of AUC, the better is the overall performance of the classifier.

Let’s see this for the two different distributions which we saw earlier.

As we know the classifier had worked perfectly in the first case with points at (0,1) the area under the curve is 1 which is perfect. In the latter case the classifier was not able to perform as good, the ROC curve is between the diagonal and left hand corner. The AUC as we can see is less than 1.

Some other general characteristics

There are still few points that needs to be discussed on a General ROC curve

  • The ROC curve does not provide information about the actual values of thresholds used for the classifier.
  • Performance of different classifiers can be compared using the AUC of different Classifier. The larger the AUC, the better the classifier.
  • The vertical distance of the ROC curve from the no discrimination line gives a measure of ‘INFORMEDNESS’. This is known as Youden’s J satistic. This statistics can take values between 0 and 1.

Youden’s  J statistic is defined for every point on the ROC curve . The point at which Youden’s  J satistics reaches its maximum for a given ROC curve can be used to guide the selection of the threshold to be used for that classifier.

I hope this post does the job of providing an understanding of ROC curves  and AUC. The  Python program for simulating the example given earlier can be found here .

Please feel free to adjust the mean of the distributions and see the changes in the plot.


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Sentiment Analysis of IMDB reviews

 

Download the Data Sources

The data sources used in this article can be downloaded here:

Deep Learning and Human Intelligence – Part 2 of 2

Data dependency is one of the biggest problem of Deep Learning Architectures. This difficulty lies not so much in the algorithm of Deep Learning as in the invisible structure of the data itself.

This is part 2 of 2 of the Article Series: Deep Learning and Human Intelligence.

We saw that the process of discovering numbers was accompanied with many aspects of what are today basic ideas of Machine Learning. But let us go back, a little before that time, when humankind did not fully discovered the concept of numbers. How would a person, at such a time, perceive quantity and the count of things? Some structures are easily recognizable as patterns of objects, that is numbers, like one sun, 2 trees, 3 children, 4 clouds and so on. Sets of objects are much simpler to count if all the objects of the set are present. In such a case it is sufficient to keep a one-to-one relationship between two different set, without the need for numbers, to make a judgement of crucial importance. One could consider the case of two enemies that go to war and wish to know which has a larger army. It is enough to associate a small stone to every enemy soldier and do the same with his one soldier to be able to decide, depending if stones are left or not, if his army is larger or not, without ever needing to know the exact number soldier of any of the armies.

But also does things can be counted which are not directly visible, and do not allow a direct association with direct observable objects that can be seen, like stones. Would a person, at that time, be able to observe easily the 4-th day since today, 5 weeks from now, when even the concept of week is already composite? Counting in this case is only possible if numbers are already developed through direct observation, and we use something similar with stones in our mind, i.e. a cognitive association, a number. Only then, one can think of the concept of measuring at equidistant moments in time at all. This is the reason why such measurements where still cutting edge in the time of Galileo Galilei as we seen before. It is easily to assume that even in the time when humans started to count, such indirect concepts of numbers were not considered to be in relation with numbers. This implies that many concepts with which we are today accustomed to regard as a number, were considered as belonging to different groups, cluster which are not related. Such an hypothesis is not even that much farfetched. Evidence for such a time are still present in some languages, like Japanese.

When we think of numbers, we associate them with the Indo-Arabic numbers, but in Japanese numbers have no decimal structure and counting depends not only on the length of the set (which is usually considered as the number), but also on the objects that make up the set. In Japanese one can speak of meeting roku people, visiting muttsu cities and seeing ropa birds, but referring each time to the same number: six. Additional, many regular or irregular suffixes make the whole system quite complicated. The division of counting into so many clusters seems unnecessarily complicated today, but can easily be understood from a point of view where language and numbers still form and, the numbers, were not yet a uniform concept. What one can learn from this is that the lack of a unifying concept implies an overly complex dependence on data, which is the present case for Deep Learning and AI in general.

Although Deep Learning was a breakthrough in the development of Artificial Intelligence, the task such algorithms can perform were and remained very narrow. It may identify birds or cancer cells, but it will miss the song of the birds or the cry of the patient with cancer. When Watson, a Deep Learning Architecture played the famous Jeopardy game against two former Champions and won, it still made several simple mistakes, like going for the same wrong answer like the player before. If it could listen to the answer of the candidate, it could delete the top answer it had, and gibe the second which was the right one. With other words, Deep Learning Architecture are not multi-tasking and it is for this reason that some experts in AI are calling them intelligent idiots.

Imagine spending time learning to play a game for years and years, and then, when mastering it and wish to play a different game, to be unable to use any of the past experience (of gaming) for the new one and needing to learn everything from scratch. That could be quite depressing and would make life needlessly difficult. This is the reason why people involved in developing Deep Learning worked from early on in the development of multi-tasking Deep Learning Architectures. On the way a different method of using Deep Learning was discovered: transfer learning. Because the time it takes for a Deep Learning Architecture to learn is very long, transfer learning uses already learned Deep Learning Architectures but for slightly different task. It is similar to the use of past experiences in solving new problems, but, the advantage of transfer learning is, it allow the using of past experiences (what it already learned) which reduces dramatically the amount of new data needed in performing a new task. Still, transfer learning is far away from permitting Deep Learning Architectures to perform any kind of task learning only from one master data set.

The management of a unique master data set which includes all the needed data to enable human accuracy for any human activity, is not enough. One needs another ingredient, the so called cost function which translates, in this case, to the human brain. There are all our experiences and knowledge. How long does it takes to collect sufficient of both to handle a normal human life? How much to achieve our highest potential? If not a lifetime, at least decades. And this also applies to our job: as a IT-developer, a Data Scientist or a professor at the university. We will always have to learn new things, how to use them, and how to expand the limits of our perceptions. The vast amount of information that science has gathered over the last four centuries makes it impossible for any human being to become an expert in all of it. Thus, one has to specialized. After the university, anyone has to choose o subject which is appealing enough to study it for decades. Here is the first sign of what can be understood as data segmentation and dependency. Such improvements can come in various forms: an algorithm in the IT, a theorem in mathematics, a new way to look at particles in physics or a new method to scan for diseases in biology, and so on. But there is a price to pay for specialization: the inability to be an expert in another field or subfield. (Subfields induces limitation!)

Lets take the Deep Learning algorithm itself as an example. For IT and much of everyday life, this is a real breakthrough, but it lacks any scientific, that is mathematical, foundation. There are no theorems which proofs that it will find (converge, to use a mathematical term) the global optimum. This does not appear to be of any great consequences if it can be so efficient, except that, when adding new data and let the algorithm learn the same architecture again, there is no guaranty what so ever that it will be as good as the old model, or even better. On the contrary, it is as real as the efficiency of the first model, that chances are that the new model with the new data will perform worse than the old model, and one has to invest again time in finding a better model, or even a different architecture. On the other hand, with a mathematical proof of convergence, it would be always possible to know in what condition such a convergence can be achieved. In other words, without deep knowledge in mathematics, any proof of a consistent Deep Learning Algorithm is impossible.

Such a situation is true for any other corssover between fields. A mathematical genius will make a lousy biologist, a great chemist will make a average economist, and a top economist will be a poor physicist. Knowledge is difficult to transfer and this is true also for everyday experiences. We learn from very small to play a game like football, but are unable to use the reflexes to play basketball, or tennis better than a normal beginner. We learn a new language after years and years of practice, but are unable to use the way we learned to learn faster other languages. We are trapped within the knowledge we developed from the data we used. It is for this reason why we cannot transfer the knowledge a mathematician has developed over decades to use it in biology or psychology, even if the knowledge is very advanced. Instead of thinking in knowledge, we thing in data. This is similar to the people which were unaware of numbers, and used sets (data) to work with them. Numbers could be very difficult to transmit from one person to another in former times.

Only think on all the great achievements that our society managed, like relativity, quantum mechanics, DNA, machines, etc. Such discoveries are the essences of human knowledge and took millennia to form and centuries to crystalize. Still, all this knowledge is captive in the data, in the special frame in which it was discovered and never had the chance to escape. Imagine the possibility to use thoughts/causalities like the one in relativity or quantum mechanics in biology, or history, or of the concept of DNA in mathematics or art. Imagine a music composition where the law of the notes allows a “tunnel effect” like in quantum mechanics, lower notes to warp the music scales like in relativity and/or to twist two music scale in a helix-like play. How many way to experience life awaits us. Or think of the knowledge hidden in mathematics which could help develop new medicine, but can not be transmitted.

Another example of the connection we experience between knowledge and the data through which we obtain it, are children. They are classical example when it come determine if one is up to explain to them something. Take as an explain something simple they can observe often, like lightning and thunder. Normal concepts like particles, charge, waves, propagation, medium of propagation, etc. become so complicated to expose by other means then the one through which they were discovered, that it becomes nearly impossible to explain to children how it works and that they do not need to fear it. Still, one can use analogy (i.e., transfer) to enable an explanation. Instead of particles, one can use balls, for charge one can use hardness, waves can be shown with strings by keeping one end fix and waving the other, propagation is the movement of the waves from one end of the string to the other end, medium of propagation is the difference between walking in air and water, etc. Although difficult, analogies can be found which enables us to explain even to children how complex phenomena works.

The same is true also for Deep Learning. The model, the knowledge it can extract from the data can be expressed only by such data alone. There is no transformation of the knowledge from one type of data to another. If such a transformation would exists, then Deep Learning would be able to learn any human task by only a set of data, a master data set. Without such a master data set and a corresponding cost function it will be nearly impossible to develop AI that mimics human behavior. With other words, without the realization how our mind works, and how to crystalize by this the data needed, AI will still need to look at all the activities separately. It also implies that AI are restricted to the human understanding of reality and themselves. Only with such a characteristic of a living being, thus also AI, can development of its on occur.

Interview – The Importance of Machine Learning for the Data Driven Business

To become more data-driven, organizations must mature their analytics and automate more of their decision making processes for innovation and differentiation. Data science seems like the right approach, yet is a new and fast moving field that seems to have as many dead ends as it has high ways to value. Cloudera Fast Forward Labs, led by Hilary Mason, shows companies the way.

Alice Albrecht is a research engineer at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs.  She spends her days researching the latest and greatest in machine learning and artificial intelligence and bringing that knowledge to working prototypes and delivering concrete advice for clients.  Prior to joining Fast Forward Labs, Alice worked in both finance and technology companies as a practicing data scientist, data science leader, and – most recently – a data product manager.  In addition to teaching machines to do cool things, Alice is passionate about mentoring and helping others grow in their careers.  Alice holds a PhD from Yale in cognitive neuroscience where she studied how humans summarize sensory information from the world around them and the neural substrates that underlie those summaries.

Read this article in German:
“Interview – Die Bedeutung von Machine Learning für das Data Driven Business“

Data Science Blog: Ms. Albrecht, you are a well-known keynote speaker for data science and artificial intelligence. While data science has arrived business already, deep learning seems to be the new trend. Is artificial intelligence for business already normal business or is it an overrated hype?

I’d say it isn’t either of those two options.  Data science is now widely adopted but companies still struggle to integrate this new discipline into their existing businesses.  As for deep learning, it really depends on the company that’s looking into using this technique.  I wouldn’t say that deep learning is by any means part of business as usual- nor should it be.  It’s a tool like any other and building a capacity for using a tool without clearly defined business needs is a recipe for disaster.

Data Science Blog: Just to make sure what we are talking about: What are the differences and overlaps between data analytics, data science, machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence?

Here at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs, we like to think of data analytics as collecting data and counting things (mostly for quick charts and reports).  Data science solves business problems by counting cleverly and predicting things with the data that’s collected.  Machine learning is about solving problems with new kinds of feedback loops that improve with more data.  Deep learning is a particular type of machine learning and is not itself a separate concept or type of tool.  Artificial intelligence taps into something more complicated than what we’re seeing today – it’s much broader than training machines to repetitively do very specialized tasks or solve very narrow problems.

Data Science Blog: And how can we add the context to big data?

From a theoretical perspective, data science has been around for decades. The building blocks for modern day machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence are based on mathematical theorems  that go back to the 1940’s and 1950’s. The challenge was that at the time, compute power and data storage capacity were simply too expensive for the approaches to be implemented. Today that’s all changed.. Not only has the cost of data storage dropped considerably, open source technology like Apache Hadoop has made it possible to store any volume of data at costs approaching zero. Compute power, even highly specialised chip architectures, are now also available on demand and only for the time organisations need them through public and private cloud solutions. The decreased cost of both data storage and compute power, together with a growing list of tools and resources readily available via the open source community allows companies of any size to benefit from data (no matter that size of that data).

Data Science Blog: What are the challenges for organizations in getting started with data science?

I see two big challenges when getting started with data science.  One is ensuring that you have organizational alignment around exactly what type of work data scientists will deliver (and timing for those projects).  The second hurdle is around ensuring that you have the right data in place before you start hiring data scientists. This can be tricky if you don’t have in-house expertise in this area, so sometimes it’s better to hire a data engineer or a data strategist (or director of data science) before you ever get started building out a data science team.

Data Science Blog: There are many discussions about how to build a data-driven business. Is it just about using data science to get a better understanding of customer behavior?

No, being data driven doesn’t just mean better understanding your customers (though that is one way that data science can help in an organization).  Aside from building an organization that relies on data and analytics to help them make decisions (about customer behavior or otherwise), being a data-driven business means that data is powering your core products.

Data Science Blog: The number of technologies, tools and frameworks is increasing. For organizations this also means increasing complexity. Do companies need to stay always up-to-date or could it be an advice to wait and imitate pioneers later?

While it’s not critical (or advisable) for organizations to adopt every new advancement that comes along, it is critical for them to stay abreast of emerging frameworks.  If a business waits to see what others are doing, and therefore don’t invest in understanding how new advancements can affect their particular business, they’ve likely already missed the boat.

Data Science Blog: Global players have big budgets just for doing research and setting up data labs. Middle-sized companies need to see the break even point soon. How can we accelerate the value generation of data science?

Having a team that is highly focused on a specific set of projects that are well-scoped and aligned to the business makes all the difference.  Data science and machine learning don’t have to sacrifice doing research and being innovative in order to produce value.  The biggest difference is that smaller teams will have to be more aware of how their choice of project fits into emerging frameworks and their particular acute and near term business needs.

Data Science Blog: How does Cloudera Fast Forward Labs help other organizations to accelerate their start with machine learning?

We advise organizations, based on their particular needs, on what the latest advancements are in machine learning and data science, how to build and structure their data teams to develop the capabilities they need to meet their goals, and how to quickly implement custom forward-looking solutions using their own data and in-house expertise.

Data Science Blog: Finally, a question for our younger readers who are looking for a career as a data expert: What makes a good data scientist? Do you like to work with introverted coding nerds or the data loving business experts?

A good data scientists should be deeply curious and have a love for the ways in which data can lead to new discoveries and power the next generation of products.  We expect the people who thrive in this field to come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Deep Learning and Human Intelligence – Part 1 of 2

Many people are under the impression that the new wave of data science, machine learning and/or digitalization is new, that it did not exist before. But its history is as long as the history of humanity and/or science itself.  The scientific discovery could hardly take place without the necessary data. Even the process of discovering the numbers included elements of machine learning: pattern recognition, comparison between different groups (ranking), clustering, etc. So what differentiates mathematical formulas from machine learning and how does it relate to artificial intelligence?

There is no difference between the two if seen from the perspective of formulas however, such a perspective limits the type of data to which they can be applied. Data stored via tables consist of structured data and are stored in so-called relational databases. The reason for such a data storage is the connection between different fields that assume a well-established structure in advance, such as a company’s sales or balance sheet. However, with the emergence of personal computers, many of the daily activities have been digitalized: music, pictures, movies, and so on. All this information is stored unrelated to other data and therefore called unstructured data.

IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2015, DOI: 10.1109/ICCV.2015.428

Copyright: IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2015, DOI: 10.1109/ICCV.2015.428

The essence of scientific discoveries was and will be structure. Not surprisingly, the mathematical formulas revolve around relations between variables – information, in general. For example, Galileo derived the law of falling balls from measuring the successive hight of a falling ball. The main difficulty was to obtain measurements at regular time intervals. What about if the data is not structured, which mathematical formula should be applied then? There is a distribution of people’s height, but no distribution for the pictures taken in all holidays for the last year, there is an amplitude for acoustic signals, but no function that detects the similarity between two songs. This is one of the reasons why machine learning focuses heavily on clustering and classification.

Roughly speaking, these simple examples are enough to categorize the difference between scientific discovery and machine learning. Science is about discovering relationships between different variables, Machine Learning tries to automatize processes. Every technical improvement is part of the automation, so why is everything different in this case? Because the current automation deals with human intelligence. The car automates the walking, the kitchen stove the fire, but Machine Learning parts of the human intelligence. There is a difference between the previous automation steps and those of human intelligence. All the previous ones are either outside the human body – such as Fire – or unconsciously executed (once learned) – walking, spinning, etc. The automation induced by Machine Learning affects a part of the human intelligence that we consciously perceive. Of course, today’s machine learning tools are unable to automate all human intelligence, but it is a fascinating step in that direction.

A breakthrough in Machine Learning tasks was achieved in 2012 when the first Deep Learning algorithm for detecting types of images, reached near-human accuracy. It could appreciate the likelihood that the image is a human face, a train, a ball or a fish without having “seen” the picture before. Such an algorithm can be used in various areas:  personally – facial recognition in pictures and/or social media – as tagging of images or videos, medicine – cancer detection, etc. For understanding such cutting-edge issues of classification, one cannot avoid understanding how Deep Learning works. To see the beauty of such algorithms and, at the same time, to be able to comprehend the difficulty of working with them, an example will be the best guide.

The building blocks of Deep Learning are neurons, operational units, which perform mathematical operations or logical operations like AND, OR, etc., and are modelled after the neurons in the brain. Already in the 1950’s two neuroscientist, Hubel and Wiesel, observed that not all neurons in the brain are responding in the same fashion to visual stimuli. Some responded only to horizontal lines, whereas others to vertical lines, with other words, the brain is constructed with specialized neurons. Groups of such neurons are called, in the Machine Learning community, layers. Like in the brain, neurons with different properties are clustered in different layers. This implies that layers have also specific properties and have to be arranged in a specific way, called architecture. It is this architecture which differentiates Deep Learning from Artificial Neuronal Networks (ANN are similar to a layer).

Unfortunately, scientists still haven’t figured out how the brain works, thus to discover how to train Deep Learning from data was not an easy task, and is also the reason why another example is used to explain the training of Deep Learning: the eye. One has always to remember: once it is known how Deep Learning works, it is simple to find example which illustrates the working mechanism.  For such an analogy, it is sufficient for someone without any knowledge about Deep Learning, to keep in mind only the elements that compose such architectures: input data, different layers of neurons, output layers, ReLu’s.

Input data are any type of information, in our example it is light. Of course, that Deep Learning is not limited only to images or videos, but also to sound and/or time series, which would imply that the example would be the ear and sound waves, or the brain and numbers.

Layers can be seen as cells in the eye. It is well known that the eye is formed of different layers connected to each other with each of them having different properties, functionalities. The same is true also for the layers of a Deep Learning architecture: one can see the neurons as cells of the layer as the tissue. While, mathematically, the neurons are nothing more than simple operations, usually linear weight functions, they can be seen as the properties of individual cells. Each layer has one weight matrix, which gives the neuron (and layer) specific properties depending on the data and the task at hand.

It is here that the architecture becomes very important. What Deep Learning offers is a default setting of the layers with unknown weights. One can see this as trying to build an eye knowing that there are different types of cells and different ways how tissues of such cells can be arranged, but not which cell exactly is needed (with what properties) and which arrangement of layers works best. Such an approach has the advantage that one is capable of building any type of organ desired, but the disadvantage is also very obvious: it is time consuming to find the appropriate cell properties and layers arrangements.

Still, the strategy of Deep Learning is a significant departure from the Machine Learning approaches. The performance of Machine Learning methods is as good as the features engineering performed by Data Scientists, and thus depending on the creativity of the Data Scientist. In the case of Deep Learning the engineers of the features is performed automatically as part of the model building. This is a huge improvement, as the only difficult task is to have enough data and computer power to find the right weights matrices. Such an endeavor was performed also by nature for the eye — and is also the reason why one can choose it as an example for Deep Learning — evolution. It is not surprising that Deep Learning is one of the best direction scientists have of Artificial Intelligence today.

The evolution of the eye can be seen, from the perspective of Data Scientists, as the continuous training of a Deep Learning architecture which enables to recognize and track one or more objects. The performance of the evolutional process can be summed up as the fine tuning of the cells which are getting more and more susceptible to light and the adaptation of layers to enable a better vision. Different animals in different environments and different targets — as the hawk and the fly — developed different eyes than humans, but they all work according to the same principle. The tasks that Deep Learning is performing today are similar, for example it can be used to drive cars but there is still a difference:  there is no connection to other organs. Deep Learning is not the approximation of an Artificial Organism, like an android, but a simplified Artificial Organ that can work on its own.

Returning to the working mechanism of the Deep Learning architecture, we can already follow the analogy of what happens if a ray of light is hitting the eye. Once the eye is fully adapted to the task, one can followed how the information enters the Deep Learning architecture (Artificial Eye) by penetrating the input layer. already here arises the question, what kind of eye is the best? One where a small source of light can reach as many neurons as possible, or the one where the light sources reaches only few neurons? In order to take such a decision, a last piece of the puzzle is required: ReLu. One can see them as synapses between neurons (cells) and/or similarly for tissue. By using continuous functions, such as the shape of the latter ‘S’ (called sigmoid), the information from one neuron will be distributed over a large number of other neurons. If one uses the maximum function, then only few neurons are updated with processed information from earlier layers.

Such sparse structures between neurons, was a major improvement in the development of the technique of training Deep Learning architectures. Again, it has a strong evolutionary analogy: energy efficiency. By needing less neurons, the tissues and architecture are both kept to a minimal size which enables flexibility in development and less energy. As the information is process by the different layers, the Artificial Eye is gathering more and more complex (non-linear) structures — the adapted features –, which help to decide, from past experience, what kind of object is detected.

This was part 1 of 2 of the article series. Continue with Part 2.

Ways AI & ML Are Changing How We Live

From Amazon’s Alexa, a personal assistant that can do anything from making your to-do list to giving a wide range of real-time information about the world around you, to Google’s DeepMind that has very recently made headlines for possibly being able to predict the future, AI and ML are the biggest development in human history.

Machine Learning Used by Hospitals

We hear a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the realm of insurance Big Data, but there isn’t much buzz around how AI and ML are revolutionising hospitals. The national health expenditures were around $3.4 trillion and estimated to increase from 17.8 percent of GDP to 19.9 percent between 2015 and 2025. By 2021, industry analysts have predicted that the AI health market will reach $6.6 billion. By 2026, such increases in AI technology in the healthcare sector will save the economy around $150 billion annually.

Some of the most popular Artificial Intelligence applications used in hospitals now are:

  • Predictive Health Trackers – Technology that has the ability to monitor patients’ health status using real-time data collection. One such technology is the Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) which can predict if someone is about to have an asthma attack.
  • Chatbots – It isn’t only retail customer service that uses chatbots to deal with consumers. Now hospitals have automated physicians that inquire and route clinicians to the right specialists.
  • Predictive AnalyticsCleveland Clinics have partnered with Microsoft (Cortana) while John Hopkins has partnered up with GE in order to create Machine Learning technology that has the ability to monitor patients and prevent patient emergencies before they happen. It does this by analysing data for primary indicators of potential risks.

Cognitive Marketing – Content Marketing on Steroids

Customer experience and content marketing are terms often tossed around in the world of business and advertising these days. Why do we bring them up now, you ask? Well, things are about to be kicked into sixth gear, thanks to Cognitive Marketing. To explain what that is, let’s go back a bit: remember when Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo bested the top human player at the game? This wasn’t some computer beating a bored office clerk at the game of Solitaire. In order to achieve that victory, Google’s AI had to “actually show its cognitive capability to ‘think’ like humans, because to win the game, ‘intuition’ was needed rather than just ‘logical reasoning’.” Similar algorithm-powered AI’s are enabling machines to learn and grow on their own. Soon, they’ll reach the potential to create content for marketeers at a massive scale. Not only that, but they’ll always deliver the right content, to the right kind of audience, at just the right time.

More Ways Than One: How Retail Is Harnessing AI & ML

  1. Developing Store That Don’t Need Checkout Lines

Tech companies and online retail giants such as Amazon want to create cashier-free stores, at least they are trying to. Last year Amazon launched its Amazon Go which uses sensors and hundreds of cameras to track what customers pick up and then charge the amount to an application on their smart phone, put simply. But only months into the experiment Amazon has said they need to work out some kinks in the system. As of now, Amazon Go’s system can only handle 20 or so customers at a time.

Among other issues, The Guardian, citing an unnamed source, wrote in an article, stated “…if an item has been moved from its specific spot on the shelf.”  Located in Seattle, Washington, Amazon Go is now running in “beta mode” only for Amazon employees as it tests its systems. And these tests are showing that Amazon’s attempt at a cashier-free brick-and-mortar convenience store is far from ready for the real world. A Journal report stated, “For now, the technology functions flawlessly only if there are a small number of customers present, or when their movements are slow.”

  1. Could Drones Be Delivering Goods to Your Home One Day?

Imagine ordering something online from, let’s say, Amazon, and it arrives at your door in 30 minutes or so via drone. Does that sound like something out of the movie The Fifth Element? Maybe, but this technology is already is already here.

Amazon Prime Air made its first delivery to a customer via a GPS-guided flying drone on December 7th, 2016. It only took 13 minutes for the drone to deliver the merchandise to the customer. This sort of technology will be a huge game changer for retail. The supply chain industry is headed for a revolution – drone delivery is coming, and retailers who want to keep up really should adopt such technologies.

Even in 2016, consumers were totally ready to accept drone delivery. The Walk Sands Future of Retail 2016 Study showed that 79 percent of US consumers said they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to choose drone delivery if their product could be delivered within an hour. For me, I’d choose it just to see how cool it was. I think it would be pretty rad to have a drone land in my yard with my package, don’t you? Furthermore, other consumers stated they would pay up to $10 for a drone delivery. Lastly, 26 percent of consumers are already expecting to have their packages delivered to them in the next two years or so.

Driverless Delivery Vehicles Already Here as Well

There was a movie I watched some months ago – you most likely heard of it or even watched it. It was the latest movie about Wolverine titled Logan. There was a certain scene that never left my memory (basically because I found it awesome) where Logan and his companions were driving along a freeway full of driverless tractor trailers that had no tractor.

In an article written for pastemagazine.com, Carlos Alvarez of Getty wrote: “… Logan’s writer and director James Mangold’s inclusion of the self-driving trucking machines make it clear that the filmmaker understands the writing on the wall about the future of shipping. It’s a future without truck drivers.” He continues to explain that the movie takes place a little over 10 years from now in 2029.

“The change may well be here long before 2029. It’s only 2017, and already we’re seeing the beginnings of automated trucking taking over the industry. At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show this January, Peloton Technology demonstrated “platooning,” where trucks are kept in a row on the highway to reduce wind resistance and save fuel. The trucks are controlled by computers on a “Level One” of autonomous driving,” Alvarez continued in his article.

Now in Germany, Mercedes-Benz is has been developing and testing their Actros truck which is fitted with a ‘highway pilot’ system, which acts like an auto-pilot and includes a radar and stereo camera system. So far, German carmaker Daimler has restricted testing on a German autobahn. The autobahn is generally safer than testing in city conditions since the curves are not as steep. Since the tests have started, this autonomous truck has already driven over 20,000 kilometres.

Did I Say Flying Taxis? Huh, Yeah I Did!

But, if you are still not amazed, then I am about to blow your socks off. Dubai has promised to build a fully autonomous public transportation system by 2030, including autonomous flying drone taxis! Now that is really something. And it isn’t a matter of when they’ll be produced and in use because they already are.

Manufactured in China by the drone-making firm EHang, these really freaking cool quad drones on steroids can carry one person weighing up to 100 kilogrammes (I weigh over that, guess I’m walking) plus maybe a backpack or suitcase. They can fly about 30 kilometres (or 19 miles), at a speed of 60 miles per hour, give or take. And, if that isn’t the cool part, you won’t need any lessons on how to fly it. Simply push a button and it flies you from point A to point B. Whether or not you have to give it directions, don’t know. Either way, this is mostly likely the coolest piece of tech out there right now.

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