Many aspects of our lives today are possible thanks to machine learning – where a machine is trained to do a specific, yet complex, job. We no longer think twice about speaking to our digital devices, clicking on recommended products from online stores, or using language translation apps and websites.
Since the 1980s neural networks have been used as the mathematical model for machine learning. Inspired by the structure of our brains, each "neuron" is a simple mathematical calculation, taking numbers as input and producing a single number as an output. Originally the neural networks consisted of just one or two layers of neurons due to the computational complexity of the training process. But since the early 2000s deep neural networks consisting of many layers have been possible, and are now used for tasks that vary from pre-screening job applications to revolutionary approaches in health care.
Deep learning is increasingly important in many areas both outside and inside science. Its usefulness has been proven, but there still are a lot of unanswered questions about the theory of why such deep learning approaches work. And that is why the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) in Cambridge is running a research programme called Mathematics of deep learning (MDL), which aims to understand the mathematical foundations of deep learning.
To introduce you to the ideas involved, and to understand more about what the MDL programme is all about, we are putting together a collection of articles and podcasts over the next six months. Start by reading our introductions to the area, and stay tuned for more!
We produced this collection of content as part of our collaboration with the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INI), an international research centre and our neighbour here on the University of Cambridge's maths campus. INI attracts leading mathematical scientists from all over the world, and is open to all. Visit www.newton.ac.uk to find out more.