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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Scaling Deep Learning for Science | Newswise

The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.

Photo: Jonathan Hines
"ORNL-designed algorithm leverages Titan to create high-performing deep neural networks" writes Jonathan Hines, Science writer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Inspired by the brain’s web of neurons, deep neural networks consist of thousands or millions of simple computational units. Leveraging the GPU computing power of the Cray XK7 Titan, ORNL researchers were able to auto-generate custom neural networks for science problems in a matter of hours as opposed to the months needed using conventional methods.
Photo: iStock

Deep neural networks—a form of artificial intelligence—have demonstrated mastery of tasks once thought uniquely human. Their triumphs have ranged from identifying animals in images, to recognizing human speech, to winning complex strategy games, among other successes.

Now, researchers are eager to apply this computational technique—commonly referred to as deep learning—to some of science’s most persistent mysteries. But because scientific data often looks much different from the data used for animal photos and speech, developing the right artificial neural network can feel like an impossible guessing game for nonexperts. To expand the benefits of deep learning for science, researchers need new tools to build high-performing neural networks that don’t require specialized knowledge.

Using the Titan supercomputer, a research team led by Robert Patton of the US Department of Energy’s(DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed an evolutionary algorithm capable of generating custom neural networks that match or exceed the performance of handcrafted artificial intelligence systems. Better yet, by leveraging the GPU computing power of the Cray XK7 Titan—the leadership-class machine managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL—these auto-generated networks can be produced quickly, in a matter of hours as opposed to the months needed using conventional methods.

The research team’s algorithm, called MENNDL (Multinode Evolutionary Neural Networks for Deep Learning), is designed to evaluate, evolve, and optimize neural networks for unique datasets. Scaled across Titan’s 18,688 GPUs, MENNDL can test and train thousands of potential networks for a science problem simultaneously, eliminating poor performers and averaging high performers until an optimal network emerges. The process eliminates much of the time-intensive, trial-and-error tuning traditionally required of machine learning experts.

“There’s no clear set of instructions scientists can follow to tweak networks to work for their problem,” said research scientist Steven Young, a member of ORNL’s Nature Inspired Machine Learning team. “With MENNDL, they no longer have to worry about designing a network. Instead, the algorithm can quickly do that for them, while they focus on their data and ensuring the problem is well-posed.”

Pinning down parameters  
Inspired by the brain’s web of neurons, deep neural networks are a relatively old concept in neuroscience and computing, first popularized by two University of Chicago researchers in the 1940s. But because of limits in computing power, it wasn’t until recently that researchers had success in training machines to independently interpret data.

Today’s neural networks can consist of thousands or millions of simple computational units—the “neurons”—arranged in stacked layers, like the rows of figures spaced across a foosball table. During one common form of training, a network is assigned a task (e.g., to find photos with cats) and fed a set of labeled data (e.g., photos of cats and photos without cats). As the network pushes the data through each successive layer, it makes correlations between visual patterns and predefined labels, assigning values to specific features (e.g., whiskers and paws). These values contribute to the weights that define the network’s model parameters. During training, the weights are continually adjusted until the final output matches the targeted goal. Once the network learns to perform from training data, it can then be tested against unlabeled data.

Although many parameters of a neural network are determined during the training process, initial model configurations must be set manually. These starting points, known as hyperparameters, include variables like the order, type, and number of layers in a network.

Source: Newswise (press release)

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