SKLearn has this broad claim in its FAQs:

Outside of neural networks, GPUs don’t play a large role in machine learning today, and much larger gains in speed can often be achieved by a careful choice of algorithms.

Anyone care to add color for or against this claim?

  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify which algorithm do you think would benefit from the GPU? The linear models ones? $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2019 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ They are excluding anything with neural networks in the comment, so I am looking for an inventory of machine learning algorithms that are not neural networks and are uniquely resistant to being parallelized on a GPU. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2019 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, okay, I thought you had models in mind. Other than neural networks, I don't know what else would benefit from vectorization. The linear models would benefit a little bit, but very little. Maybe Euclidean distances computed by kNN and k-means would benefit a little too. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2019 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


GPU doesn't inherently fit naturally into all machine learning algorithms. A natural contender is one that inherently takes a myriad of matrix multiplication. This makes sense since graphic processors inherently were design for this. However, for an algorithm like a Random Forest this may not be so important. Also there exist a cost to transfer information to a GPU. Any algorithm that is O(n) should not be computed on a GPU because it takes O(n) to communicate the data. There's a few other issues that GPU present dealing with RAM and Threading, each of which often render making a GPU variant of a project more of a hassle than it's worth.

Furthermore, adding GPU to the sklearn framework inherently adds a hardware dependency and complexity that seems needless for shallow algorithms. Odds are, if you're needing access to your GPU, you are dealing with a neural network, which has it's own unique architecture challenges. I think it makes far more sense to separate deep learning into it's own module (look at how huge tensorflow/pytorch/etc) project are) than force Sklearn to add hardware dependencies for marginal computational gains.


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