Here, I will try to outline the fastest possible path to go from zero understanding of deep learning to an understanding of the basic ideas. In a follow up post, I’ll outline some deep learning packages where you could actually implement these ideas.

I think by far the best introduction to deep learning is Michael Nielsen’s ebook. Before you get started with it, I think the minimum required mathematics includes an understanding of the following:

- Vector and Matrix multiplication – especially when written in summation notation
- Exponents and Logarithms
- Derivatives and Partial Derivatives
- Probability, mainly Bayes Theorem (not actually needed for Michael Nielsen’s book, but it is essential for later topics)

I really think that if you understand those mathematical topics, you can start reading the ebook.

Here is my proposed learning strategy. Iterate between reading the ebook (Chapters 1-5 only) and playing with this cool interactive neural network every time a new idea is mentioned. For a first pass, just read the ebook and don’t do the exercises or worry about actual code implementation. Additionally, chapter 6 introduces convolutional neural networks which are a more advanced topic that can be saved for later.

Once you have some intuition about neural networks, I recommend reading this review by several of the big names in deep learning. This will give you a flavor of the current status of the field.

Now you are ready to start coding!

PS. If you want to get into more advanced deep learning topics, check out my previous Deep Learning Unit. And to really get up to speed on research, there is a deep learning book that should be published soon.

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