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Loss Capabilities in TensorFlow

Final Up to date on August 6, 2022

The loss metric is essential for neural networks. As all machine studying fashions are one optimization downside or one other, the loss is the target perform to attenuate. In neural networks, the optimization is completed with gradient descent and backpropagation. However what are loss capabilities, and the way are they affecting your neural networks?

On this publish, you’ll be taught what loss capabilities are and delve into some generally used loss capabilities and how one can apply them to your neural networks.

After studying this text, you’ll be taught:

  • What are loss capabilities, and the way they’re totally different from metrics
  • Frequent loss capabilities for regression and classification issues
  • Learn how to use loss capabilities in your TensorFlow mannequin

Let’s get began!

Loss capabilities in TensorFlow
Picture by Ian Taylor. Some rights reserved.


This text is split into 5 sections; they’re:

  • What are loss capabilities?
  • Imply absolute error
  • Imply squared error
  • Categorical cross-entropy
  • Loss capabilities in observe

What Are Loss Capabilities?

In neural networks, loss capabilities assist optimize the efficiency of the mannequin. They’re normally used to measure some penalty that the mannequin incurs on its predictions, such because the deviation of the prediction away from the bottom fact label. Loss capabilities are normally differentiable throughout their area (however it’s allowed that the gradient is undefined just for very particular factors, equivalent to x = 0, which is principally ignored in observe). Within the coaching loop, they’re differentiated with respect to parameters, and these gradients are used on your backpropagation and gradient descent steps to optimize your mannequin on the coaching set.

Loss capabilities are additionally barely totally different from metrics. Whereas loss capabilities can inform you the efficiency of our mannequin, they won’t be of direct curiosity or simply explainable by people. That is the place metrics are available in. Metrics equivalent to accuracy are rather more helpful for people to know the efficiency of a neural community although they won’t be good selections for loss capabilities since they won’t be differentiable.

Within the following, let’s discover some widespread loss capabilities: the imply absolute error, imply squared error, and categorical cross entropy.

Imply Absolute Error

The imply absolute error (MAE) measures absolutely the distinction between predicted values and the bottom fact labels and takes the imply of the distinction throughout all coaching examples. Mathematically, it is the same as $frac{1}{m}sum_{i=1}^mlverthat{y}_i–y_irvert$ the place $m$ is the variety of coaching examples and $y_i$ and $hat{y}_i$ are the bottom fact and predicted values, respectively, averaged over all coaching examples.

The MAE is rarely destructive and could be zero provided that the prediction matched the bottom fact completely. It’s an intuitive loss perform and may also be used as one among your metrics, particularly for regression issues, because you need to decrease the error in your predictions.

Let’s take a look at what the imply absolute error loss perform seems like graphically:

Imply absolute error loss perform, floor fact at x = 0 and x-axis symbolize the anticipated worth

Much like activation capabilities, you may also be involved in what the gradient of the loss perform seems like since you might be utilizing the gradient later to do backpropagation to coach your mannequin’s parameters.

Imply absolute error loss perform (blue) and gradient (orange)

You would possibly discover a discontinuity within the gradient perform for the imply absolute loss perform. Many are likely to ignore it because it happens solely at x = 0, which, in observe, hardly ever occurs since it’s the chance of a single level in a steady distribution.

Let’s check out how one can implement this loss perform in TensorFlow utilizing the Keras losses module:

This offers you 2.0 because the output as anticipated, since $ frac{1}{2}(lvert 2-1rvert + lvert 3-0rvert) = frac{1}{2}(4) = 4 $. Subsequent, let’s discover one other loss perform for regression fashions with barely totally different properties, the imply squared error.

Imply Squared Error

One other standard loss perform for regression fashions is the imply squared error (MSE), which is the same as $frac{1}{m}sum_{i=1}^m(hat{y}_i–y_i)^2$. It’s much like the imply absolute error because it additionally measures the deviation of the anticipated worth from the bottom fact worth. Nevertheless, the imply squared error squares this distinction (all the time non-negative since squares of actual numbers are all the time non-negative), which provides it barely totally different properties.

One notable one is that the imply squared error favors numerous small errors over a small variety of massive errors, which ends up in fashions with fewer outliers or at the least outliers which are much less extreme than fashions skilled with a imply absolute error. It is because a big error would have a considerably bigger impression on the error and, consequently, the gradient of the error when in comparison with a small error.


Imply squared error loss perform, floor fact at x = 0 and x-axis symbolize the anticipated worth

Then, wanting on the gradient,

Imply squared error loss perform (blue) and gradient (orange)

Discover that bigger errors would result in a bigger magnitude for the gradient and a bigger loss. Therefore, for instance, two coaching examples that deviate from their floor truths by 1 unit would result in a lack of 2, whereas a single coaching instance that deviates from its floor fact by 2 items would result in a lack of 4, therefore having a bigger impression.

Let’s take a look at how one can implement the imply squared loss in TensorFlow.

This offers the output 5.0 as anticipated since $frac{1}{2}[(2-1)^2 + (3-0)^2] = frac{1}{2}(10) = 5$. Discover that the second instance with a predicted worth of three and precise worth of 0 contributes 90% of the error beneath the imply squared error vs. 75% beneath the imply absolute error.

Typically, you may even see folks use root imply squared error (RMSE) as a metric. This may take the sq. root of MSE. From the angle of a loss perform, MSE and RMSE are equal.

Each MAE and MSE measure values in a steady vary. Therefore they’re for regression issues. For classification issues, you need to use categorical cross-entropy.

Categorical Cross-Entropy

The earlier two loss capabilities are for regression fashions, the place the output may very well be any actual quantity. Nevertheless, for classification issues, there’s a small, discrete set of numbers that the output may take. Moreover, the quantity used to label-encode the lessons is bigoted and with no semantic which means (e.g., utilizing the labels 0 for cat, 1 for canine, and a pair of for horse doesn’t symbolize {that a} canine is half cat and half horse). Subsequently, it shouldn’t have an effect on the efficiency of the mannequin.

In a classification downside, the mannequin’s output is a vector of chance for every class. In Keras fashions, this vector is normally anticipated to be “logits,” i.e., actual numbers to be reworked to chance utilizing the softmax perform or the output of a softmax activation perform.

The cross-entropy between two chance distributions is a measure of the distinction between the 2 chance distributions. Exactly, it’s $-sum_i P(X = x_i) log Q(X = x_i)$ for chance $P$ and $Q$. In machine studying, we normally have the chance $P$ offered by the coaching information and $Q$ predicted by the mannequin, during which $P$ is 1 for the proper class and 0 for each different class. The expected chance $Q$, nonetheless, is normally valued between 0 and 1. Therefore when used for classification issues in machine studying, this components could be simplified into: $$textual content{categorical cross entropy} = – log p_{gt}$$ the place $p_{gt}$ is the model-predicted chance of the bottom fact class for that exact pattern.

Cross-entropy metrics have a destructive signal as a result of $log(x)$ tends to destructive infinity as $x$ tends to zero. We would like a better loss when the chance approaches 0 and a decrease loss when the chance approaches 1. Graphically,

Categorical cross entropy loss perform, the place x is the anticipated chance of the bottom fact class

Discover that the loss is precisely 0 if the chance of the bottom fact class is 1 as desired. Additionally, because the chance of the bottom fact class tends to 0, the loss tends to constructive infinity as nicely, therefore considerably penalizing dangerous predictions. You would possibly acknowledge this loss perform for logistic regression, which is analogous besides the logistic regression loss is restricted to the case of binary lessons.

Now, wanting on the gradient of the cross entropy loss,

Categorical cross entropy loss perform (blue) and gradient (orange)

Wanting on the gradient, you possibly can see that the gradient is mostly destructive, which can be anticipated since, to lower this loss, you’d need the chance on the bottom fact class to be as excessive as attainable. Recall that gradient descent goes in the other way of the gradient.

There are two alternative ways to implement categorical cross entropy in TensorFlow. The primary methodology takes in one-hot vectors as enter:

This offers the output as 0.2876821 which is the same as $-log(0.75)$ as anticipated. The opposite manner of implementing the explicit cross entropy loss in TensorFlow is utilizing a label-encoded illustration for the category, the place the category is represented by a single non-negative integer indicating the bottom fact class as a substitute.

This likewise offers the output 0.2876821.

Now that you just’ve explored loss capabilities for each regression and classification fashions, let’s check out how you need to use loss capabilities in your machine studying fashions.

Loss Capabilities in Follow

Let’s discover how one can use loss capabilities in observe. You’ll discover this by a easy dense mannequin on the MNIST digit classification dataset.

First, obtain the information from the Keras datasets module:

Then, construct your mannequin:

And take a look at the mannequin structure outputted from the above code:

You may then compile your mannequin, which can be the place you introduce the loss perform. Since this can be a classification downside, use the cross entropy loss. Specifically, for the reason that MNIST dataset in Keras datasets is represented as a label as a substitute of a one-hot vector, use the SparseCategoricalCrossEntropy loss.

And at last, you prepare your mannequin:

And your mannequin efficiently trains with the next output:

And that’s one instance of how one can use a loss perform in a TensorFlow mannequin.

Additional Studying

Under is a few documentation on loss capabilities from TensorFlow/Keras:


On this publish, you might have seen loss capabilities and the position that they play in a neural community. You’ve gotten additionally seen some standard loss capabilities utilized in regression and classification fashions, in addition to how one can use the cross entropy loss perform in a TensorFlow mannequin.

Particularly, you discovered:

  • What are loss capabilities, and the way they’re totally different from metrics
  • Frequent loss capabilities for regression and classification issues
  • Learn how to use loss capabilities in your TensorFlow mannequin

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