Artificial Intelligence
8 mins

Choosing or Coding a Neural Network

While crafting a neural network from scratch is feasible, it's often more practical to select a pre-trained one from libraries like Hugging Face and adapt it to your needs.


Building on our previous discussion about Neural Networks, this article delves into the intricacies of coding or selecting a neural network. While crafting a neural network from scratch is feasible, it's often more practical to select a pre-trained one from libraries like Hugging Face and adapt it to your needs.

Our blog Leveraging existing foundation models for ai applications is useful to read in conjunction with this blog.

Crafting a Neural Network

A neural network, in essence, is a computational construct powered by code. Here's a step-by-step overview of developing one:

Foundation: Developers employ languages like Python, C++, Java, or R to sculpt the network's architecture, set its connections, and dictate its learning trajectory. Python, with its extensive machine learning libraries and intuitive syntax, is a favourite.

Data Handling: Gather, cleanse, and format your data. This includes managing missing values, normalising data scales, encoding variables, and segregating data into training, validation, and test sets.

Architectural Decisions: Define your network's layers, their types (dense, convolutional, recurrent, etc.), neuron counts, and the activation functions they'll use.

Learning Configuration: Pinpoint a loss function that quantifies the disparity between predictions and actuals. Then, select an optimiser to tweak the neural network's weights aiming to minimise this loss.

Training: Repeatedly feed your data to the network, letting the optimiser adjust weights for better predictions.

Evaluation: Test the network's prowess using validation and test datasets. This step flags potential overfitting or underfitting and guides model refinement.

Fine-tuning: Use feedback from evaluations to alter the network's architecture, learning parameters, or training strategy for enhanced accuracy.

Deployment: Embed your trained network into your system, empowering it to process fresh data, generate predictions, and inform decisions.

Oversight: Regularly monitor your deployed network. Retrain with new data, tweak the design, or address emerging challenges as needed.

Exploring Neural Network Libraries

Several libraries offer pre-trained neural networks:

Hugging Face Transformers: A go-to for cutting-edge NLP tasks, known for its comprehensive model hub and integration with TensorFlow and PyTorch.

TensorFlow: A comprehensive suite from Google Brain, ideal for diverse deep learning tasks.

Keras: An intuitive interface for neural network construction, now nested within TensorFlow.

PyTorch: Esteemed for its dynamic and intuitive design, it's a favourite in academic and research circles.

Caffe, Theano, CNTK, MXNet, DL4J, Neural Network Libraries: Each offers unique features tailored to various needs, from speed to modularity or integration with Java environments.

Opting for a Pre-Trained Network from Hugging Face

Hugging Face is a renowned hub for natural language processing models. When selecting a neural network from their vast repository, consider the following:

Objective Definition: Understand your primary goal. It could range from sentiment analysis to text classification or even language translation.

Model Exploration: Familiarise yourself with the extensive model offerings, including stalwarts like BERT, GPT-2, and RoBERTa. Each serves a distinct purpose.

Model Hub Insights: The community-driven Hugging Face Model Hub provides user ratings, reviews, and download counts, offering insights into model reliability and efficacy.

Model Efficiency: If deployment constraints exist, like mobile devices, consider compact models that balance size with performance.

Fine-Tuning: Even top-tier pre-trained models might need adjustments for niche tasks. Hugging Face offers ample documentation to facilitate this.

Integration and Rollout: Post-selection, Hugging Face ensures easy integration with major machine learning frameworks, easing your deployment journey.

Neural Networks and Backends: Unraveling the Connection

In the context of libraries like Hugging Face Transformers, the term "backend" refers to the foundational deep learning framework (like TensorFlow or PyTorch) that drives the model. Here's a breakdown:

Backend's Role: It's responsible for the neural network's architectural definition, learning processes, weight optimisation, and even hardware acceleration.

Why Two Backends in Hugging Face? PyTorch is beloved by researchers for its dynamic nature and debugging ease. In contrast, TensorFlow is production-friendly, offering potentially optimised performance through its static computational nature.

Neural Network Model vs. Backend: The former pertains to the design and structure of the network, while the latter denotes the software framework enabling the model's functioning.


Whether you're crafting a neural network from the ground up or leveraging a pre-existing one, understanding the nuances of your tools and frameworks is essential. This knowledge ensures that your AI solutions are robust, efficient, and tailored to your unique challenges.

April 26, 2023

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