A First Principles Theory of Generalization

Some new research from University of California, Berkeley shades some new light into how to quantify neural networks knowledge.

Jesus Rodriguez
3 min readNov 10, 2022


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Most of machine learning(ML) papers we see these days are focused on advancing new techniques and methods in different areas such as natural language or computer vision. ML research is advancing at a frantic pace despite the lack of fundamental theory of machine intelligence. Some of the main questions in ML such as how to understand how neural networks learn or how to quantify knowledge generalization remain unanswered. From time to time, we come across papers that are challenging our fundamental understanding of ML theory with new ideas. This is the case of “Neural Tangent Kernel Eigenvalues Accurately Predict Generalization”, a groundbreaking paper just published by Berkeley AI Research(BAIR) that proposes nothing less that a new theory of generalization.

Understanding generalization remains one of the biggest mysteries in modern ML. In their paper, the BAIR researchers tackle an variation of the fundamental question of generalization stated in the following statement:

Can one efficiently predict, from first principles, how well a given network architecture will generalize when learning a given function, provided a given number of training examples?

To answer this question, the BAIR team relied on two recent breakthroughs in deep learning:

1) Infinite-Width Networks

One of the most interesting theoretical developments in the recent years of deep learning is the theory…



Jesus Rodriguez

CEO of IntoTheBlock, President of Faktory, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University and Wharton, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.