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The Painter and the Curator:
His ragged clothing was covered with splotches of paint - Burnt Sienna, Cerulean Blue, and Ochre to be specific. The Mediterranean sun was beating down on his back, as he wiped off beads of sweat from his forehead. He stared at his work. The canvas was a mess, and there was nothing meaningful on it. Even the most lenient art critics wouldn't call it modern art. He threw the canvas aside and started afresh.
In a tiny cottage by the sea, Benjamin had been slogging for hours trying to paint something original. The trouble was - He had no inspiration today. His whole life had been one of trying to find his purpose - He was a vagabond. But each time he picked up a brush to paint, a surge of electricity flowed through him as if this was what he was meant to do.
He wasn't alone though. His friend and roommate, William had gone out to get food. Starved for food, but not companionship. Unlike Ben (as he liked to be called), William wasn't an artist, but an appreciator of art. He could sense when there was life in a painting and when it was just an imitation.
William worked as an assistant at the local museum - His dream was to become a curator, but that remained a distant dream.
The pair had met at a local cafe. Over a shared plate of toasted bread smothered with olive oil and crushed tomatoes, the two of them connected over their shared passion for art. One loved to create, the other loved to critique.
Since that day, Will had helped Ben become a better painter, and Ben had helped Will sharpen his observational skills. Starting from a blank canvas was difficult, so Will nudged Ben to start with a splatter of colors on the pristine canvas. This would usually spark his imagination.
Ben's initial creations were ordinary - They didn't inspire or resemble the great artists of the time. Will would give Ben feedback on things he got wrong like the arc of the brushstrokes, the harmony of colors, and the lack of perspective, and, each time, Ben would take copious notes.
He didn't take the feedback lightly. He devoured it. Over time, he added a variety of techniques to his toolbelt. Will on the other hand used Ben's work as a way to sharpen his eye on the differences between amateur and master painters. In recent months though, it was getting harder. Ben was getting good, and Will really needed to inspect the painting over and over before finding out flaws.
A knock on the door announced William's return. The smell of the fresh paella was a dead giveaway. He needn't have knocked.
"What do you have today?", asked Will. "The same. No inspiration", glumly replied Ben. "Let me be the judge of that", said Will as he walked towards the canvas. His jaw dropped as he saw the painting. It was nothing like he had ever seen before. The colors jumped off the canvas, and the emotions of the brush as it danced on the canvas moved Will. He looked closer. Surely, there was something he could find to critique. Surely? There was nothing. It was flawless.
"What have you done?", asked Will. "I know right? I'm losing my grip.", grimaced Ben. "You're mad, my friend. This is one of the most original works of art I've ever seen. I can't find a single flaw". A weak smile creased Ben's unshaven face. These words meant the world to him. He had finally arrived.
You might be wondering what this story has to do with learning machine learning. It has everything to do with it. This story is a fictional description of a concept in deep learning called Generative Adversarial Networks (or GANs for short).
It's the technique behind all the fake faces of people that don't exist you see online. There are two networks involved in this, the Generator and the Discriminator.
The Generator network creates "art" for the Discriminator network to critique. The Discriminator compares the generator's work with real "art" and learns to distinguish between the two. The Generator's goal is to fool the Discriminator into thinking that what it produced is real, while the Discriminator's goal is to not be fooled and find flaws in the Generator's work.
The training of these two networks happens simultaneously and since each network is trying to outsmart the other, it is "adversarial" training. The training stops when the Generator fools the Discriminator.
In our story, Ben is the generator, Will is the discriminator and eventually, Ben fools Will. The Generator doesn't start from a blank slate. It starts from noise. In our story, Will asks Ben to start with a splatter of colors instead of a blank canvas.
The point I'm trying to drive home?
You can make ANY machine learning concept memorable by crafting a story for it. Make the characters and setting vivid, and their goals and aspirations concrete. Map the concept to the story.
Even if you forget the technical terms of the concept, you'll never forget the fundamental principles. The reason this works is that we are visual learners. We remember pictures better than we remember words. To learn more about this, read "Moonwalking with Einstein".
So, what story do you plan to craft?