How to build your own Neural Network from scratch in Python?

What’s a Neural Network?

Most introductory texts to Neural Networks brings up brain analogies when describing them. Without delving into brain analogies, I find it easier to simply describe Neural Networks as a mathematical function that maps a given input to a desired output.

Neural Networks consist of the following components

An input layer, x

An arbitrary amount of hidden layers

An output layer, ŷ

A set of weights and biases between each layer, W and b

A choice of activation function for each hidden layer, σ. In this tutorial, we’ll use a Sigmoid activation function.

The diagram below shows the architecture of a 2-layer Neural Network (note that the input layer is typically excluded when counting the number of layers in a Neural Network)

Architecture of a 2-layer Neural Network

Creating a Neural Network class in Python is easy.

Training the Neural Network

The output ŷ of a simple 2-layer Neural Network is:

You might notice that in the equation above, the weights W and the biases b are the only variables that affects the output ŷ.

Naturally, the right values for the weights and biases determines the strength of the predictions. The process of fine-tuning the weights and biases from the input data is known as training the Neural Network.

Each iteration of the training process consists of the following steps:

Calculating the predicted output ŷ, known as feedforward

Updating the weights and biases, known as backpropagation

The sequential graph below illustrates the process.

Feedforward

As we’ve seen in the sequential graph above, feedforward is just simple calculus and for a basic 2-layer neural network, the output of the Neural Network is:

Let’s add a feedforward function in our python code to do exactly that. Note that for simplicity, we have assumed the biases to be 0.

However, we still need a way to evaluate the “goodness” of our predictions (i.e. how far off are our predictions)? The Loss Function allows us to do exactly that.

Loss Function

There are many available loss functions, and the nature of our problem should dictate our choice of loss function. In this tutorial, we’ll use a simple sum-of-sqaures error as our loss function.

That is, the sum-of-squares error is simply the sum of the difference between each predicted value and the actual value. The difference is squared so that we measure the absolute value of the difference.

Our goal in training is to find the best set of weights and biases that minimizes the loss function.

Backpropagation

Now that we’ve measured the error of our prediction (loss), we need to find a way to propagate the error back, and to update our weights and biases.

In order to know the appropriate amount to adjust the weights and biases by, we need to know the derivative of the loss function with respect to the weights and biases.

Recall from calculus that the derivative of a function is simply the slope of the function.

What’s a Neural Network?

Most introductory texts to Neural Networks brings up brain analogies when describing them. Without delving into brain analogies, I find it easier to simply describe Neural Networks as a mathematical function that maps a given input to a desired output.

Neural Networks consist of the following components

An input layer, x

An arbitrary amount of hidden layers

An output layer, ŷ

A set of weights and biases between each layer, W and b

A choice of activation function for each hidden layer, σ. In this tutorial, we’ll use a Sigmoid activation function.

The diagram below shows the architecture of a 2-layer Neural Network (note that the input layer is typically excluded when counting the number of layers in a Neural Network)

Architecture of a 2-layer Neural Network

Creating a Neural Network class in Python is easy.

Training the Neural Network

The output ŷ of a simple 2-layer Neural Network is:

You might notice that in the equation above, the weights W and the biases b are the only variables that affects the output ŷ.

Naturally, the right values for the weights and biases determines the strength of the predictions. The process of fine-tuning the weights and biases from the input data is known as training the Neural Network.

Each iteration of the training process consists of the following steps:

Calculating the predicted output ŷ, known as feedforward

Updating the weights and biases, known as backpropagation

The sequential graph below illustrates the process.

Feedforward

As we’ve seen in the sequential graph above, feedforward is just simple calculus and for a basic 2-layer neural network, the output of the Neural Network is:

Let’s add a feedforward function in our python code to do exactly that. Note that for simplicity, we have assumed the biases to be 0.

However, we still need a way to evaluate the “goodness” of our predictions (i.e. how far off are our predictions)? The Loss Function allows us to do exactly that.

Loss Function

There are many available loss functions, and the nature of our problem should dictate our choice of loss function. In this tutorial, we’ll use a simple sum-of-sqaures error as our loss function.

That is, the sum-of-squares error is simply the sum of the difference between each predicted value and the actual value. The difference is squared so that we measure the absolute value of the difference.

Our goal in training is to find the best set of weights and biases that minimizes the loss function.

Backpropagation

Now that we’ve measured the error of our prediction (loss), we need to find a way to propagate the error back, and to update our weights and biases.

In order to know the appropriate amount to adjust the weights and biases by, we need to know the derivative of the loss function with respect to the weights and biases.

Recall from calculus that the derivative of a function is simply the slope of the function.