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Understanding Neural Networks via Feature Visualization: A survey


A neuroscience method to understanding the brain is to find and study the preferred stimuli that highly activate an individual cell or groups of cells. Recent advances in machine learning enable a family of methods to synthesize preferred stimuli that cause a neuron in an artificial or biological brain to fire strongly. Those methods are known as Activation Maximization (AM) or Feature Visualization via Optimization. In this chapter, we (1) review existing AM techniques in the literature; (2) discuss a probabilistic interpretation for AM; and (3) review the applications of AM in debugging and explaining networks.


Anh Nguyen, Jason Yosinski, Jeff Clune


Interpretable AI: Interpreting, Explaining and Visualizing Deep Learning

Full Paper

‘Understanding Neural Networks via Feature Visualization: A survey’ (PDF)

Uber AI

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Jason Yosinski
Jason Yosinski is a founding member of Uber AI Labs and there leads the Deep Collective research group. He is known for contributions to understanding neural network modeling, representations, and training. Prior to Uber, Jason worked on robotics at Caltech, co-founded two web companies, and started a robotics program in Los Angeles middle schools that now serves over 500 students. He completed his PhD working at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab, University of Montreal, JPL, and Google DeepMind. He is a recipient of the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, has co-authored over 50 papers and patents, and was VP of ML at Geometric Intelligence, which Uber acquired. His work has been profiled by NPR, the BBC, Wired, The Economist, Science, and the NY Times. In his free time, Jason enjoys cooking, reading, paragliding, and pretending he's an artist.
Jeff Clune
Jeff Clune is the former Loy and Edith Harris Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Wyoming, a Senior Research Manager and founding member of Uber AI Labs, and currently a Research Team Leader at OpenAI. Jeff focuses on robotics and training neural networks via deep learning and deep reinforcement learning. He has also researched open questions in evolutionary biology using computational models of evolution, including studying the evolutionary origins of modularity, hierarchy, and evolvability. Prior to becoming a professor, he was a Research Scientist at Cornell University, received a PhD in computer science and an MA in philosophy from Michigan State University, and received a BA in philosophy from the University of Michigan. More about Jeff’s research can be found at