Natural Language Processing — Publications

Question Decomposition Improves the Faithfulness of Model-Generated Reasoning

As large language models (LLMs) perform more difficult tasks, it becomes harder to verify the correctness and safety of their behavior. One approach to help with this issue is to prompt LLMs to externalize their reasoning, e.g., by having them generate step-by-step reasoning as they answer a question (Chain-of-Thought; CoT). The reasoning may enable us to check the process that models use to perform tasks. However, this approach relies on the stated reasoning faithfully reflecting the model’s actual reasoning, which is not always the case. To improve over the faithfulness of CoT reasoning, we have models generate reasoning by decomposing questions into subquestions. Decomposition-based methods achieve strong performance on question-answering tasks, sometimes approaching that of CoT while improving the faithfulness of the model’s stated reasoning on several recently-proposed metrics. By forcing the model to answer simpler subquestions in separate contexts, we greatly increase the... [full abstract]

A Radhakrishnan, K Nguyen,, A Chen, C Chen, C Denison, D Hernandez, E Durmus, E Hubinger, J Kernion, K Lukosiute, N Cheng, N Joseph, N Schiefer, O Rausch, S McCandlish, S El Showk, T Lanham, T Maxwell, V Chandrasekaran, Z Hatfield-Dodds, J Kaplan, Jan Brauner, SR Bowman, E Perez
Anthropic pre-print (2023)
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Measuring Faithfulness in Chain-of-Thought Reasoning

Large language models (LLMs) perform better when they produce step-by-step, “Chain-ofThought” (CoT) reasoning before answering a question, but it is unclear if the stated reasoning is a faithful explanation of the model’s actual reasoning (i.e., its process for answering the question). We investigate hypotheses for how CoT reasoning may be unfaithful, by examining how the model predictions change when we intervene on the CoT (e.g., by adding mistakes or paraphrasing it). Models show large variation across tasks in how strongly they condition on the CoT when predicting their answer, sometimes relying heavily on the CoT and other times primarily ignoring it. CoT’s performance boost does not seem to come from CoT’s added test-time compute alone or from information encoded via the particular phrasing of the CoT. As models become larger and more capable, they produce less faithful reasoning on most tasks we study. Overall, our results suggest that CoT can be faithful if the circumsta... [full abstract]

Tamera Lanham, Anna Chen, Ansh Radhakrishnan, Benoit Steiner, Carson Denison, Danny Hernandez, Dustin Li, Esin Durmus, Evan Hubinger, Jackson Kernion, Kamile Lukosiute, Karina Nguyen, Newton Cheng, Nicholas Joseph, Nicholas Schiefer, Oliver Rausch, Robin Larson, Sam McCandlish, Sandipan Kundu, Saurav Kadavath, Shannon Yang, Thomas Henighan, Timothy Maxwell, Timothy Telleen-Lawton, Tristan Hume, Zac Hatfield-Dodds, Jared Kaplan, Jan Brauner, Samuel R. Bowman, Ethan Perez
Anthropic pre-print (2023)
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Semantic Uncertainty; Linguistic Invariances for Uncertainty Estimation in Natural Language Generation

We introduce a method to measure uncertainty in large language models. For tasks like question answering, it is essential to know when we can trust the natural language outputs of foundation models. We show that measuring uncertainty in natural language is challenging because of “semantic equivalence” – different sentences can mean the same thing. To overcome these challenges we introduce semantic entropy – an entropy which incorporates linguistic invariances created by shared meanings. Our method is unsupervised, uses only a single model, and requires no modifications to off-the-shelf language models. In comprehensive ablation studies we show that the semantic entropy is more predictive of model accuracy on question answering data sets than comparable baselines.

Lorenz Kuhn, Yarin Gal, Sebastian Farquhar
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CLAM; Selective Clarification for Ambiguous Questions with Generative Language Models

Users often ask dialogue systems ambiguous questions that require clarification. We show that current language models rarely ask users to clarify ambiguous questions and instead provide incorrect answers. To address this, we introduce CLAM: a framework for getting language models to selectively ask for clarification about ambiguous user questions. In particular, we show that we can prompt language models to detect whether a given question is ambiguous, generate an appropriate clarifying question to ask the user, and give a final answer after receiving clarification. We also show that we can simulate users by providing language models with privileged information. This lets us automatically evaluate multi-turn clarification dialogues. Finally, CLAM significantly improves language models’ accuracy on mixed ambiguous and unambiguous questions relative to SotA.

Lorenz Kuhn, Sebastian Farquhar, Yarin Gal
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Interlocking Backpropagation; Improving depthwise model-parallelism

The number of parameters in state of the art neural networks has drastically increased in recent years. This surge of interest in large scale neural networks has motivated the development of new distributed training strategies enabling such models. One such strategy is model-parallel distributed training. Unfortunately, model-parallelism can suffer from poor resource utilisation, which leads to wasted resources. In this work, we improve upon recent developments in an idealised model-parallel optimisation setting: local learning. Motivated by poor resource utilisation in the global setting and poor task performance in the local setting, we introduce a class of intermediary strategies between local and global learning referred to as interlocking backpropagation. These strategies preserve many of the computeefficiency advantages of local optimisation, while recovering much of the task performance achieved by global optimisation. We assess our strategies on both image classification... [full abstract]

Aidan Gomez, Oscar Key, Kuba Perlin, Stephen Gou, Nick Frosst, Jeff Dean, Yarin Gal
Journal of Machine Learning Research
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Prioritized Training on Points that are Learnable, Worth Learning, and not yet Learnt

Training on web-scale data can take months. But much computation and time is wasted on redundant and noisy points that are already learnt or not learnable. To accelerate training, we introduce Reducible Holdout Loss Selection (RHO-LOSS), a simple but principled technique which selects approximately those points for training that most reduce the model’s generalization loss. As a result, RHO-LOSS mitigates the weaknesses of existing data selection methods: techniques from the optimization literature typically select “hard” (e.g. high loss) points, but such points are often noisy (not learnable) or less task-relevant. Conversely, curriculum learning prioritizes “easy” points, but such points need not be trained on once learned. In contrast, RHO-LOSS selects points that are learnable, worth learning, and not yet learnt. RHO-LOSS trains in far fewer steps than prior art, improves accuracy, and speeds up training on a wide range of datasets, hyperparameters, and architectures (MLPs, C... [full abstract]

Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner, Muhammed Razzak, Mrinank Sharma, Andreas Kirsch, Winnie Xu, Benedikt Höltgen, Aidan Gomez, Adrien Morisot, Sebastian Farquhar, Yarin Gal
ICML, 2022 [Paper]
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Uncertainty Baselines: Benchmarks for Uncertainty & Robustness in Deep Learning

High-quality estimates of uncertainty and robustness are crucial for numerous real-world applications, especially for deep learning which underlies many deployed ML systems. The ability to compare techniques for improving these estimates is therefore very important for research and practice alike. Yet, competitive comparisons of methods are often lacking due to a range of reasons, including: compute availability for extensive tuning, incorporation of sufficiently many baselines, and concrete documentation for reproducibility. In this paper we introduce Uncertainty Baselines: high-quality implementations of standard and state-of-the-art deep learning methods on a variety of tasks. As of this writing, the collection spans 19 methods across 9 tasks, each with at least 5 metrics. Each baseline is a self-contained experiment pipeline with easily reusable and extendable components. Our goal is to provide immediate starting points for experimentation with new methods or applications. A... [full abstract]

Zachary Nado, Neil Band, Mark Collier, Josip Djolonga, Michael W. Dusenberry, Sebastian Farquhar, Angelos Filos, Marton Havasi, Rodolphe Jenatton, Ghassen Jerfel, Jeremiah Liu, Zelda Mariet, Jeremy Nixon, Shreyas Padhy, Jie Ren, Tim G. J. Rudner, Yeming Wen, Florian Wenzel, Kevin Murphy, D. Sculley, Balaji Lakshminarayanan, Jasper Snoek, Yarin Gal, Dustin Tran
NeurIPS Workshop on Bayesian Deep Learning, 2021
[arXiv] [Code] [Blog Post (Google AI)] [BibTex]
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Shifts: A Dataset of Real Distributional Shift Across Multiple Large-Scale Tasks

There has been significant research done on developing methods for improving robustness to distributional shift and uncertainty estimation. In contrast, only limited work has examined developing standard datasets and benchmarks for assessing these approaches. Additionally, most work on uncertainty estimation and robustness has developed new techniques based on small-scale regression or image classification tasks. However, many tasks of practical interest have different modalities, such as tabular data, audio, text, or sensor data, which offer significant challenges involving regression and discrete or continuous structured prediction. Thus, given the current state of the field, a standardized large-scale dataset of tasks across a range of modalities affected by distributional shifts is necessary. This will enable researchers to meaningfully evaluate the plethora of recently developed uncertainty quantification methods, as well as assessment criteria and state-of-the-art baselin... [full abstract]

Andrey Malinin, Neil Band, Alexander Ganshin, German Chesnokov, Yarin Gal, Mark J. F. Gales, Alexey Noskov, Andrey Ploskonosov, Liudmila Prokhorenkova, Ivan Provilkov, Vatsal Raina, Vyas Raina, Denis Roginskiy, Mariya Shmatova, Panagiotis Tigas, Boris Yangel
NeurIPS Datasets and Benchmarks Track, 2021
[arXiv] [BibTex] [Code]
[Competition Website] [Blog Post (OATML)] [Blog Post (Yandex Research)]
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SliceOut: Training Transformers and CNNs faster while using less memory

We demonstrate 10-40% speedups and memory reduction with Wide ResNets, EfficientNets, and Transformer models, with minimal to no loss in accuracy, using SliceOut—a new dropout scheme designed to take advantage of GPU memory layout. By dropping contiguous sets of units at random, our method preserves the regularization properties of dropout while allowing for more efficient low-level implementation, resulting in training speedups through (1) fast memory access and matrix multiplication of smaller tensors, and (2) memory savings by avoiding allocating memory to zero units in weight gradients and activations. Despite its simplicity, our method is highly effective. We demonstrate its efficacy at scale with Wide ResNets & EfficientNets on CIFAR10/100 and ImageNet, as well as Transformers on the LM1B dataset. These speedups and memory savings in training can lead to CO2 emissions reduction of up to 40% for training large models.

Pascal Notin, Aidan Gomez, Joanna Yoo, Yarin Gal
Under review
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Wat heb je gezegd? Detecting Out-of-Distribution Translations with Variational Transformers

We use epistemic uncertainty to detect out-of-training-distribution sentences in Neural Machine Translation. For this, we develop a measure of uncertainty designed specifically for long sequences of discrete random variables, corresponding to the words in the output sentence. This measure is able to convey epistemic uncertainty akin to the Mutual Information (MI), which is used in the case of single discrete random variables such as in classification. Our new measure of uncertainty solves a major intractability in the naive application of existing approaches on long sentences. We train a Transformer model with dropout on the task of GermanEnglish translation using WMT 13 and Europarl, and show that using dropout uncertainty our measure is able to identify when Dutch source sentences, sentences which use the same word types as German, are given to the model instead of German.

Tim Xiao, Aidan Gomez, Yarin Gal
Spotlight talk, Workshop on Bayesian Deep Learning, NeurIPS 2019
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