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Automatic differentiation and machine learning

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Derivatives, mostly in the form of gradients and Hessians, are ubiquitous in machine learning. Automatic differentiation (AD) is a technique for calculating derivatives efficiently and accurately, established in fields such as computational fluid dynamics, nuclear engineering, and atmospheric sciences. Despite its advantages and use in other fields, machine learning practitioners have been little influenced by AD and make scant use of available tools. We survey the intersection of AD and machine learning, cover applications where AD has the potential to make a big impact, and report on some recent developments in the adoption of this technique. We also aim to dispel some misconceptions that we would contend have impeded the use of AD within the machine learning community.

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