Cooking Up a GPT in Python: A Recipe for Success


Ahoy, fellow language model enthusiasts! Today, we embark on a delightful culinary journey, as we whip up a tasty Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) in Python, the technology that has software developers in fear. Fear not, for I shall guide you through this digital feast with humor, flavor, and invaluable insights. So, grab your apron, a pinch of creativity, and let’s get cookin’!

Step 1: Digest the GPT Cookbook

Before diving into our concoction, let’s thoroughly study the recipe. GPT, or the Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is based on the Transformer architecture. This savory creation was introduced by Vaswani et al. in the gourmet paper, “Attention is All You Need” ( The paper is the cookbook that serves as a foundation for our delightful journey into the realm of GPT models.

In essence, Transformers are a class of neural network architectures designed for sequence-to-sequence tasks in natural language processing. They consist of an encoder-decoder structure that leverages self-attention mechanisms to process input sequences efficiently. GPT models, specifically, focus on the decoder part of the architecture and are optimized for generating text.

Now, let’s break down the key ingredients in the GPT recipe:

  • Self-attention: The secret sauce of the Transformer architecture, it enables the model to weigh the importance of tokens in the input sequence relative to each other.
  • Positional encoding: To maintain the sequence order, positional encoding is added to the input embeddings, ensuring the model doesn’t get lost in translation.
  • Layer normalization: A pinch of layer normalization keeps our training stable and the gradients well-behaved.
  • Masked multi-head self-attention: For an extra kick, GPT uses masked attention to prevent the model from peering into the future during training.

By understanding these fundamental components and how they interact, we can better navigate the process of creating a GPT model and confidently move on to the next steps in our culinary adventure.

Step 2: Pick Your Cooking Tools: TensorFlow vs. PyTorch

Select your kitchenware wisely, dear chef! When it comes to GPT, the deep learning frameworks TensorFlow and PyTorch reign supreme. Both boast extensive documentation, a vast array of utensils, and a legion of enthusiastic sous-chefs in their respective communities. Let’s compare these two frameworks and weigh their pros and cons, ensuring you choose the best tools for your culinary masterpiece.

TensorFlow: Created by the Google Brain team, TensorFlow is a powerful and flexible framework that can be used for various machine learning tasks, including GPT.


  1. Mature ecosystem: TensorFlow has been around for a while and has an extensive library of tools, such as TensorBoard for visualization and TensorFlow Serving for deployment.
  2. Scalability: TensorFlow excels at distributing computation across multiple devices and platforms, making it an excellent choice for large-scale projects.
  3. Integration with Google services: TensorFlow seamlessly integrates with Google Cloud Platform and Google’s TPUs, providing an optimized environment for running your models.
  4. Keras integration: TensorFlow includes Keras as its official high-level API, making it easier for newcomers to get started with deep learning.


  1. Steeper learning curve: TensorFlow’s computational graph-based approach can be challenging for beginners and may require more time to master.
  2. Less dynamic computation: While TensorFlow has improved its support for dynamic computation with the introduction of Eager Execution, it is still less flexible than PyTorch in this regard.

PyTorch: Developed by Facebook’s AI Research lab, PyTorch is a popular deep learning framework known for its dynamic computation and ease of use.


  1. Dynamic computation: PyTorch uses dynamic computation graphs, making it easier to experiment and debug models during development.
  2. Easier learning curve: PyTorch’s Pythonic syntax and dynamic nature make it more beginner-friendly and easier to understand.
  3. Strong community support: PyTorch has a rapidly growing community, and many researchers and developers prefer it for its flexibility and ease of use.
  4. TorchScript: PyTorch provides TorchScript, a tool that allows you to convert your models into a more optimized format for deployment.


  1. Less mature ecosystem: While the PyTorch ecosystem is growing rapidly, it is still less mature than TensorFlow’s, which may affect the availability of tools and resources.
  2. Less out-of-the-box scalability: PyTorch’s support for distributed training and deployment is not as streamlined as TensorFlow’s, although it is continuously improving.

With a better understanding of the pros and cons of TensorFlow and PyTorch, you can now choose the deep learning framework that best suits your taste buds and GPT cooking ambitions.

Step 3: Prepare the Ingredients: Text Dataset Preprocessing

A great meal starts with fresh, quality ingredients. For our GPT, we need a diverse, mouth-watering text dataset for pre-training. Like a master chef, you must skillfully preprocess and tokenize the text into subwords or tokens, then season with appropriate masking and labels for our training task (language modeling or masked language modeling). Here’s how to preprocess your text dataset like a pro:

Text Cleaning:

Begin by cleaning the text data to remove unnecessary noise, such as HTML tags, special characters, and excessive whitespace. This will ensure our GPT model feasts on only the most relevant and valuable information.

import re

def clean_text(text):
    text = re.sub(r'<[^>]*>', ' ', text)      # Remove HTML tags
    text = re.sub(r'\s+', ' ', text)          # Replace multiple whitespaces with a single space
    text = text.strip()                       # Remove leading and trailing whitespaces
    return text

with open("raw_data.txt", "r") as f:
    raw_data =

cleaned_data = clean_text(raw_data)

with open("cleaned_data.txt", "w") as f:


Next, we’ll tokenize the cleaned text into subwords or tokens. This process is crucial, as it breaks the text into digestible pieces that the GPT model can consume. We’ll use the Hugging Face Tokenizers library to create a custom tokenizer and train it on our dataset.

from tokenizers import Tokenizer, models, pre_tokenizers, decoders, trainers

# Initialize a tokenizer with a BPE model
tokenizer = Tokenizer(models.BPE())

# Customize the tokenizer's pre-tokenization and decoding processes
tokenizer.pre_tokenizer = pre_tokenizers.ByteLevel(add_prefix_space=True)
tokenizer.decoder = decoders.ByteLevel()

# Train the tokenizer on our cleaned dataset
trainer = trainers.BpeTrainer(vocab_size=30_522, special_tokens=["<|endoftext|>

Step 4: Craft the GPT Masterpiece

Using your chosen deep learning framework, assemble your GPT model with the finesse of a seasoned chef. This delicate dance involves creating the Transformer architecture with self-attention, positional encoding, layer normalization, and other vital components. The Hugging Face Transformers library ( is akin to a secret family recipe, providing pre-built GPT model implementations for your perusal and adaptation.

Step 5: Pre-heat the GPT Oven

In this step, it’s time to prepare and set up the training environment for your GPT model. This involves configuring the necessary hardware and software resources to ensure an efficient and smooth training process. To achieve this, follow these detailed steps:

Choose the appropriate hardware

Training a GPT model can be computationally intensive, so it is crucial to select the right hardware for the task. Opt for a powerful GPU or a TPU (Tensor Processing Unit) to speed up the training process and handle large datasets effectively.

Install required software and libraries

Ensure that you have the necessary software and libraries installed on your system. This includes the appropriate deep learning framework (such as TensorFlow or PyTorch), as well as any additional libraries and packages needed for the specific GPT model you are using (e.g., Hugging Face Transformers).

Configure the training environment

Set up the training environment according to the requirements of your chosen GPT model. This may involve defining hyperparameters (such as learning rate, batch size, and the number of training epochs), selecting an optimizer and loss function, and specifying any data augmentation techniques or regularization methods to be used during training.

Allocate sufficient memory and storage

Make sure that your system has enough memory and storage capacity to handle the dataset and the intermediate outputs generated during the training process. This may require adjusting your system’s memory allocation or using external storage solutions, such as cloud-based services or external hard drives.

Test the training setup

Before starting the actual training process, it is essential to run a few test iterations to ensure that everything is working correctly. This will help identify any issues or bottlenecks in the training pipeline and allow you to address them before investing time and resources into the full-scale training process.

Monitor the training progress

Once you have started training your GPT model, keep an eye on the progress and performance metrics. This will help you identify any potential issues early on, as well as track the model’s improvement over time. If needed, adjust the hyperparameters or other training settings to optimize the model’s performance further.

By following these steps, you can successfully warm up your GPT training environment and lay the groundwork for an efficient and effective model training process.

Step 6: Fine-tune Your Gourmet Creation

Next, we must fine-tune our GPT to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Train your pre-trained GPT model on a specific downstream task, such as sentiment analysis, summarization, or question answering. Add a twist to the architecture to accommodate the task and use a smaller, task-specific dataset for the perfect flavor.

Step 7: The Taste Test

The moment of truth has arrived! Sample your GPT model on a test set or evaluate it with appropriate metrics to ensure it tantalizes the taste buds and performs superbly on the desired task.

As a special treat, I’ve prepared a minimal example using the Hugging Face Transformers library to fine-tune a GPT-2 model. Behold the pièce de résistance:

import torch
from transformers import GPT2Tokenizer, GPT2LMHeadModel, TextDataset, DataCollatorForLanguageModeling
from transformers import Trainer, TrainingArguments

# Load tokenizer and model
tokenizer = GPT2Tokenizer.from_pretrained('gpt2')
model = GPT2LMHeadModel.from_pretrained('gpt2')

# Prepare dataset
train_dataset = TextDataset(tokenizer=tokenizer, file_path="train.txt", block_size=128)
valid_dataset = TextDataset(tokenizer=tokenizer, file_path="valid.txt", block_size=128)

# Data collator
data_collator = DataCollatorForLanguageModeling(tokenizer=tokenizer, mlm=False)

# Set training arguments
training_args = TrainingArguments(

# Create Trainer
trainer = Trainer(

# Train the model

In Conclusion

Creating a GPT model from scratch is a challenging yet rewarding process that can lead to powerful and innovative applications in natural language processing. By following the steps outlined in this blog article – understanding the GPT architecture, selecting the right framework, preparing a high-quality dataset, setting up a well-configured training environment, and monitoring the training progress – you can effectively train a custom GPT model tailored to your specific needs.

As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that patience and perseverance are crucial. Building a GPT model from scratch can be time-consuming, and you may encounter various obstacles along the way. However, with persistence, creativity, and a solid understanding of the underlying concepts, you can overcome these challenges and develop a cutting-edge GPT model that can contribute significantly to the field of natural language processing.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the field of AI and NLP is rapidly evolving, with new techniques and advancements emerging regularly. Stay updated with the latest research and best practices to ensure that your GPT model remains at the forefront of the NLP domain. By doing so, you can harness the full potential of GPT technology and unlock exciting new possibilities in language understanding and generation. Happy GPT building!

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