Optimize Using Gradient Descent

Inside the Black Box of Mathematical Optimization…


We are going to talk about mathematical optimization. This term is not to be confused with the word ‘optimization’ that we use in our everyday lives, for instance, improving the efficiency of a workflow. This kind of optimization means to find an optimal solution from a set of possible candidate solutions. An optimization problem is generally given in the following way: one, there is a set of variables we can play with, and two, there is an objective function that we wish to minimize or maximize.

Let’s build a better understanding of this concept through an example. For instance, let’s imagine that we have to cook a meal for our friends from a given set of ingredients. The question is, how much salt, vegetables and meat goes into the pan. These are our variables that we can adjust, and the goal is to choose the optimal amount of these ingredients to maximize the tastiness of the meal. Tastiness will be our objective function, and for a moment, we shall pretend that tastiness is an objective measure of a meal.

What does this mean in practice? In our cooking example, after making several meals, we would ask our guests about the tastiness of these meals. From their responses, we would recognize that adding a bit more salt led to very favorable results, and since these people are notorious meat eaters, decreasing the amount of vegetables and increasing the meat content also led to favorable reviews. Therefore, on the back of this newfound knowledge, will cook more with these variable changes in pursuit of the “best possible meal in the history of mankind”.


Artificial Intelligence: Fear & Fearmongering

Beyond the Duality of Mainstream Debates…


Lately, there has been a constant fear lurking around the AI landscape, which has raised several debates around the technology. A lot fear that AI may soon exceed human intelligence which has further given rise to a lot of fearmongers, who are rather misleading the society towards artificial intelligence.

Until last few weeks, I never anticipated to be writing this article but now I hope to make sincere efforts in busting the fearmongers by descripting information which is far undercooked from what mainstream media might unfortunately be suggesting.

Artificial Intelligence has jumped from sci-fi movie plots into mainstream news headlines in just a few years of time. Why are we talking about it now? Multiple factors have converged to push AI to relevance.

  1. Moore’s Law: Computer processing power is doubling every two years.
  2. The data-hungry AI algorithms are finally being fed via modern data generated rates.
  3. Amount of funding for AI research has seen growth.
  4. There’s decades of establish AI research now, giving us improved algorithms.

Undoubtedly, progress in AI has found its way into many facets of our daily lives. Moreover, companies of all sizes are leveraging AI capabilities for many functions – spam filtering, speech recognition, web search rankings and so on. In spite of all the process, it is disappointing to see continuing irrational fear about AI to avoid hypothetical dystopias. However, history has proven time and time again that there’s often skepticism and fearmongering around disruptive technologies, before they ultimately improve human life.


Checkmate: Artificial Intelligence’s Game Playing Challenge

How Computer Chess Changed the World?…


It’s been a while since I enrolled myself for Udacity’s Nanodegree on Artificial Intelligence (which I truly rate above all the online learning experiences I have had). Amidst studying about ‘game playing agents’ during the coursework, one of the assignments was to summarize a research paper, for which I read about one of the most seminal breakthroughs in the history of Artificial Intelligence, Deep Blue.

Deep Blue was a chess-playing computer developed by IBM. It is known for being the first computing machine to have won a chess match against a reigning world champion under regular time controls.

When IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997 in a six game chess match, Kasparov came to believe that he was facing a machine that could experience human intuition.

“The machine refused to move to a position that had a decisive short-term advantage… It was showing a very human sense of danger.” – Garry Kasparov

To Kasparov, Deep Blue looked as if to be experiencing the game rather than just crunching the numbers. Might Kasparov have actually detected a hint of analogical thinking in Deep Blue’s play and mistaken it for human intervention?

“Chess is beautiful enough to waste your life for” – Hans Rees, Dutch Grandmaster.

The oft-quoted adage of Hans Rees most succinctly describes the human obsession with the ancient game of kings. For centuries, the act of playing chess has been upheld as the very paragon of intellectual activity. It is the game’s reputation as both a strategically deep system and as a thinking man’s activity that originally made the idea of mechanized chess player and intriguing notion. For much of modern history, chess playing was seen as a “litmus test” of the ability for computers to act intelligently.


Book Review: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The theory of creation summarized…


Scientists may not be as appealing as they were in the early 20th century. In an era where the world is waffling in its commitment to natural sciences, it is reassuring to hear Stephen Hawking defend this esoteric field for its own sake. As the title implies, ‘A Brief History of Time’ is a succinct review of this challenging task, providing the reader with a jaunty summary of key cosmological ideas including multidimensional space, the inflationary universe, and the cosmic fates that explain the construction and potential destruction of the universe. He discusses two major theories, relativity and quantum physics, that modern scientists use to describe the universe. Finally, he talks about the search for a unifying theory that explains everything in the universe in a coherent manner.

Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ is an attempt to clarify to laymen the laws of physics and their impact on the functioning of the universe. In the book, Hawking tries to explain dense and sophisticated theories in a way similar to a fire-side chat with a scientist, such that someone without an advanced physics degree can understand. For most of the part, he’s successful. Given the variety of subjects that the book touches, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone curious about physics or to someone looking for something challenging to read. It’s one of a very few books in this category that maintained a continued interest despite the fact that a lot of its contents stretch the reader further than is usually expected in a book of this sort. I must admit, there were more than a few times when I was a little lost and unable to follow the thread of what Hawking was explaining. I believe, this had more to do with the concepts that Hawking brings up instead of a problem with his actual writing. In every chapter, came a point where my brain could not hold on to another permutation of a theory. Of all the books I’ve read in my life, this has to have the highest educational value per page.