Basics

# Model-Building Basics

Flux's core feature is taking gradients of Julia code. The `gradient` function takes another Julia function `f` and a set of arguments, and returns the gradient with respect to each argument. (It's a good idea to try pasting these examples in the Julia terminal.)

``````using Flux.Tracker

f(x) = 3x^2 + 2x + 1

# df/dx = 6x + 2

df(2) # 14.0 (tracked)

# d²f/dx² = 6

d2f(2) # 6.0 (tracked)``````

(We'll learn more about why these numbers show up as `(tracked)` below.)

When a function has many parameters, we can pass them all in explicitly:

``````f(W, b, x) = W * x + b

(4.0 (tracked), 1.0, 2.0 (tracked))``````

But machine learning models can have hundreds of parameters! Flux offers a nice way to handle this. We can tell Flux to treat something as a parameter via `param`. Then we can collect these together and tell `gradient` to collect the gradients of all of them at once.

``````W = param(2) # 2.0 (tracked)
b = param(3) # 3.0 (tracked)

f(x) = W * x + b

params = Params([W, b])

There are a few things to notice here. Firstly, `W` and `b` now show up as tracked. Tracked things behave like normal numbers or arrays, but keep records of everything you do with them, allowing Flux to calculate their gradients. `gradient` takes a zero-argument function; no arguments are necessary because the `Params` tell it what to differentiate.

This will come in really handy when dealing with big, complicated models. For now, though, let's start with something simple.

## Simple Models

Consider a simple linear regression, which tries to predict an output array `y` from an input `x`.

``````W = rand(2, 5)
b = rand(2)

predict(x) = W*x .+ b

function loss(x, y)
ŷ = predict(x)
sum((y .- ŷ).^2)
end

x, y = rand(5), rand(2) # Dummy data
loss(x, y) # ~ 3``````

To improve the prediction we can take the gradients of `W` and `b` with respect to the loss and perform gradient descent. Let's tell Flux that `W` and `b` are parameters, just like we did above.

``````using Flux.Tracker

W = param(W)
b = param(b)

gs = Tracker.gradient(() -> loss(x, y), Params([W, b]))``````

Now that we have gradients, we can pull them out and update `W` to train the model. The `update!(W, Δ)` function applies `W = W + Δ`, which we can use for gradient descent.

``````using Flux.Tracker: update!

Δ = gs[W]

# Update the parameter and reset the gradient
update!(W, -0.1Δ)

loss(x, y) # ~ 2.5``````

The loss has decreased a little, meaning that our prediction `x` is closer to the target `y`. If we have some data we can already try training the model.

All deep learning in Flux, however complex, is a simple generalisation of this example. Of course, models can look very different – they might have millions of parameters or complex control flow. Let's see how Flux handles more complex models.

## Building Layers

It's common to create more complex models than the linear regression above. For example, we might want to have two linear layers with a nonlinearity like sigmoid (`σ`) in between them. In the above style we could write this as:

``````W1 = param(rand(3, 5))
b1 = param(rand(3))
layer1(x) = W1 * x .+ b1

W2 = param(rand(2, 3))
b2 = param(rand(2))
layer2(x) = W2 * x .+ b2

model(x) = layer2(σ.(layer1(x)))

model(rand(5)) # => 2-element vector``````

This works but is fairly unwieldy, with a lot of repetition – especially as we add more layers. One way to factor this out is to create a function that returns linear layers.

``````function linear(in, out)
W = param(randn(out, in))
b = param(randn(out))
x -> W * x .+ b
end

linear1 = linear(5, 3) # we can access linear1.W etc
linear2 = linear(3, 2)

model(x) = linear2(σ.(linear1(x)))

model(rand(5)) # => 2-element vector``````

Another (equivalent) way is to create a struct that explicitly represents the affine layer.

``````struct Affine
W
b
end

Affine(in::Integer, out::Integer) =
Affine(param(randn(out, in)), param(randn(out)))

# Overload call, so the object can be used as a function
(m::Affine)(x) = m.W * x .+ m.b

a = Affine(10, 5)

a(rand(10)) # => 5-element vector``````

Congratulations! You just built the `Dense` layer that comes with Flux. Flux has many interesting layers available, but they're all things you could have built yourself very easily.

(There is one small difference with `Dense` – for convenience it also takes an activation function, like `Dense(10, 5, σ)`.)

## Stacking It Up

It's pretty common to write models that look something like:

``````layer1 = Dense(10, 5, σ)
# ...
model(x) = layer3(layer2(layer1(x)))``````

For long chains, it might be a bit more intuitive to have a list of layers, like this:

``````using Flux

layers = [Dense(10, 5, σ), Dense(5, 2), softmax]

model(x) = foldl((x, m) -> m(x), layers, init = x)

model(rand(10)) # => 2-element vector``````

Handily, this is also provided for in Flux:

``````model2 = Chain(
Dense(10, 5, σ),
Dense(5, 2),
softmax)

model2(rand(10)) # => 2-element vector``````

This quickly starts to look like a high-level deep learning library; yet you can see how it falls out of simple abstractions, and we lose none of the power of Julia code.

A nice property of this approach is that because "models" are just functions (possibly with trainable parameters), you can also see this as simple function composition.

``````m = Dense(5, 2) ∘ Dense(10, 5, σ)

m(rand(10))``````

Likewise, `Chain` will happily work with any Julia function.

``````m = Chain(x -> x^2, x -> x+1)

m(5) # => 26``````

## Layer helpers

Flux provides a set of helpers for custom layers, which you can enable by calling

``Flux.@treelike Affine``

This enables a useful extra set of functionality for our `Affine` layer, such as collecting its parameters or moving it to the GPU.