# A Unique Perspective on Understanding the True Purpose of Hidden Layers in a Neural Network

### Intuitive guide to handling non-linearity with neural networks.

Everyone knows the objective of an activation function in a neural network.

They let the network learn non-linear patterns.

There is nothing new here, and I am sure you are aware of that too.

However, one thing I have often realized is that most people struggle to build an intuitive understanding of what exactly a neural network consistently tries to achieve during its layer-after-layer transformations.

Today, let me provide you with a unique perspective on this, which would really help you understand the internal workings of a neural network.

I have supported this post with plenty of visuals for better understanding.

Yet, if there’s any confusion, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Also, for simplicity, we shall consider a binary classification use case.

Let’s begin!

#### Background

We know that in a neural network, the data undergoes a series of transformations at each hidden layer.

More specifically, this involves the following operations at every layer:

Linear transformation of the data obtained from the previous layer

…followed by a non-linearity using an activation function — ReLU, Sigmoid, Tanh, etc.

The above transformations are performed on every hidden layer of a neural network.

**Now, notice something here.**

Assume that we just applied the above data transformation on the **very last hidden layer **of the neural network.

Once we do that, the activations progress toward the output layer of the network for one final transformation, **which is entirely linear**.

**The above transformation is entirely linear because all sources of non-linearity (activations functions) exist on or before the last hidden layer.**

And during the forward pass, once the data leaves the last hidden layer, there is no further scope for non-linearity.

Thus, to make accurate predictions, the data received by the output layer from the last hidden layer MUST BE linearly separable.

To summarize….

While transforming the data through all its hidden layers and just before reaching the output layer, **a neural network is constantly hustling to project the data to a space where it somehow becomes linearly separable**.

If it does, the output layer becomes analogous to a logistic regression model, which can easily handle this linearly separable data.

In fact, we can also verify this experimentally.

To visualize the input transformation, we can add a dummy hidden layer with just two neurons **right before the output layer **and train the neural network again.

Why do we add a layer with just two neurons?

This way, we can easily visualize the transformation.

We expect that if we plot the activations of this 2D dummy hidden layer, they must be linearly separable.

The below visual precisely depicts this.

As we notice above, while the input data was linearly inseparable, the input received by the output layer is indeed linearly separable.

This transformed data can be easily handled by the output classification layer.

And this shows that all a neural network is trying to do is transform the data into a linearly separable form before reaching the output layer.

Hope that helped!

👉 Over to you: While this discussion was for binary classification, can you tell what a neural network would do for regression?

**👉 If you liked this post, don’t forget to leave a like ❤️. It helps more people discover this newsletter on Substack and tells me that you appreciate reading these daily insights.**

**The button is located towards the bottom of this email.**

Thanks for reading!

**Latest full articles**

If you’re not a full subscriber, here’s what you missed:

DBSCAN++: The Faster and Scalable Alternative to DBSCAN Clustering

Federated Learning: A Critical Step Towards Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning

You Cannot Build Large Data Projects Until You Learn Data Version Control!

Why Bagging is So Ridiculously Effective At Variance Reduction?

Sklearn Models are Not Deployment Friendly! Supercharge Them With Tensor Computations.

Deploy, Version Control, and Manage ML Models Right From Your Jupyter Notebook with Modelbit

Gaussian Mixture Models (GMMs): The Flexible Twin of KMeans.

To receive all full articles and support the Daily Dose of Data Science, consider subscribing:

**👉 Tell the world what makes this newsletter special for you by leaving a review here :)**

👉 If you love reading this newsletter, feel free to share it with friends!

## A Unique Perspective on Understanding the True Purpose of Hidden Layers in a Neural Network

Excellent. Lucidly put. Keep it up.

That's only the case when the task is binary classification, right?