The Python program below uses a multi-layer perceptron to classify images from the MNIST dataset. The program should run in a few minutes and achieve an accuracy of just under 97%. It has a few notable differences from the previous program that only used logistic regression.

This program has parameters feature_thetas and feature_theta0 for the feature detection models as well as output_thetas and output_theta0 for the classification model.

Feature detection happens with logistic regression models operating on raw inputs:

features = 1.0 / (1.0 + tf.exp(tf.matmul(example_input, feature_thetas) + feature_theta0))

Classification happens with a softmax model operating on features:

model_output = tf.nn.softmax(tf.matmul(features, output_thetas) + output_theta0)

Number of Features

The model implemented by this program detects 500 features of the input. The number 500 is called a hyperparameter of the model (in contrast to the parameters ). The choice of hyperparameter values is a matter of experience and experimentation. Generally, if the number of features is smaller than the number of inputs, then the features are a “compressed” representation of the input.

Initialization of

The previous program initialized thetas and theta0 values to zero. For multi-layer perceptrons, this is not a good idea. When their parameter values are exactly the same, the feature detection models are all detecting the same feature! Their gradients will be the same and they will be updated by the same amounts, rendering them largely redundant. Researchers have searched for good initial values of , and VariableInitializerRandom uses random values in a range recommended by Yoshua Bengio and Xavier Glorot in their AISTATS 2010 paper, Understanding the difficulty of training deep feedforward neural networks. To convince yourself of the value of careful initialization, replace the instatiations of VariableInitializerRandom with VariableInitializerZero. You will notice a decline in accuracy.