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Experiments in Handwriting with a Neural Network

Shan Carter
David Ha
Ian Johnson
Christopher Olah
Distill (2016)


Neural networks are an extremely successful approach to machine learning, but it’s tricky to understand why they behave the way they do. This has sparked a lot of interest and effort around trying to understand and visualize them, which we think is so far just scratching the surface of what is possible. In this article we will try to push forward in this direction by taking a generative model of handwriting1 and visualizing it in a number of ways. In the end we don’t have some ultimate answer or visualization, but we do have some interesting ideas to share. Ultimately we hope they make it easier to divine some meaning from the internals of these model.