You don’t seem to be the blog writing kind!

This is the most common first reaction I got from my friends when I told them I am think of starting a blog. They couldn’t have been more surprised if I had informed them that I was thinking of starting a political movement (which, as it happens, I did think of a few days later).

I have read quite a few blogs over the years but always considered them to be something other people do, like winning the lottery or going on voluntourism trips to Chad. For one thing, I didn’t know what to write about. I love maths but don’t have a formal background in it. I did spend a few years pretending to be a physicist (more precisely, a string theorist which is close enough) but that was a while back.

Recently, I got to learn a little bit about neural networks and related topics in machine learning. It is a very interesting field in an interesting stage of development. There is a large and growing body of “experimental” results. A major driver of this success is the increasing availability of cheap computation which allows for quick turnaround on testing new ideas. I think, eventually however, it would become necessary to build a unified theoretical understanding of why things work the way they do (to paraphrase Wigner, understanding the the unreasonable effectiveness of neural networks). The theoretical underpinnings of the field are still in relative infancy and there is good scope for making progress here.

While that is a lofty goal which is best left to the professionals in the field, my personal aim is to merely understand what is already known on the theoretical side of the field. I felt that a blog was a good place to record these expository rantings. The decision was made easier when I found out that wordpress supports inline LaTeX (i.e. no equation editor nightmare) and here we are.

The purpose, then, of this blog is to describe my attempts to understand some basic questions in ML and get the community of interested readers to help me understand them better. It is extremely unlikely that there would be anything original here but I will try my best to make it interesting. Also expect some occasional forays into random topics in physics or maths that catch my fancy. Stay tuned!