Much of the recent discourse within the NLP research community has been centered around Large Language Models (LLMs), their functionality and potential -- yet not only do we not have a working definition of LLMs, but much of this discourse relies on claims and assumptions that are worth re-examining. This position paper contributes a definition of LLMs, explicates some of the assumptions made regarding their functionality, and outlines the existing evidence for and against them. We conclude with suggestions for research directions and their framing in future work.
Over the past decade, machine learning has revolutionized computers' ability to analyze text through flexible computational models. Due to their structural similarity to written language, transformer-based architectures have also shown promise as tools to make sense of a range of multi-variate sequences from protein-structures, music, electronic health records to weather-forecasts. We can also represent human lives in a way that shares this structural similarity to language. From one perspective, lives are simply sequences of events: People are born, visit the pediatrician, start school, move to a new location, get married, and so on. Here, we exploit this similarity to adapt innovations from natural language processing to examine the evolution and predictability of human lives based on detailed event sequences. We do this by drawing on arguably the most comprehensive registry data in existence, available for an entire nation of more than six million individuals across decades. Our data include information about life-events related to health, education, occupation, income, address, and working hours, recorded with day-to-day resolution. We create embeddings of life-events in a single vector space showing that this embedding space is robust and highly structured. Our models allow us to predict diverse outcomes ranging from early mortality to personality nuances, outperforming state-of-the-art models by a wide margin. Using methods for interpreting deep learning models, we probe the algorithm to understand the factors that enable our predictions. Our framework allows researchers to identify new potential mechanisms that impact life outcomes and associated possibilities for personalized interventions.
As language models grow ever larger, the need for large-scale high-quality text datasets has never been more pressing, especially in multilingual settings. The BigScience workshop, a 1-year international and multidisciplinary initiative, was formed with the goal of researching and training large language models as a values-driven undertaking, putting issues of ethics, harm, and governance in the foreground. This paper documents the data creation and curation efforts undertaken by BigScience to assemble the Responsible Open-science Open-collaboration Text Sources (ROOTS) corpus, a 1.6TB dataset spanning 59 languages that was used to train the 176-billion-parameter BigScience Large Open-science Open-access Multilingual (BLOOM) language model. We further release a large initial subset of the corpus and analyses thereof, and hope to empower large-scale monolingual and multilingual modeling projects with both the data and the processing tools, as well as stimulate research around this large multilingual corpus.
ROOTS is a 1.6TB multilingual text corpus developed for the training of BLOOM, currently the largest language model explicitly accompanied by commensurate data governance efforts. In continuation of these efforts, we present the ROOTS Search Tool: a search engine over the entire ROOTS corpus offering both fuzzy and exact search capabilities. ROOTS is the largest corpus to date that can be investigated this way. The ROOTS Search Tool is open-sourced and available on Hugging Face Spaces. We describe our implementation and the possible use cases of our tool.
Large language models (LLMs) have been shown to be able to perform new tasks based on a few demonstrations or natural language instructions. While these capabilities have led to widespread adoption, most LLMs are developed by resource-rich organizations and are frequently kept from the public. As a step towards democratizing this powerful technology, we present BLOOM, a 176B-parameter open-access language model designed and built thanks to a collaboration of hundreds of researchers. BLOOM is a decoder-only Transformer language model that was trained on the ROOTS corpus, a dataset comprising hundreds of sources in 46 natural and 13 programming languages (59 in total). We find that BLOOM achieves competitive performance on a wide variety of benchmarks, with stronger results after undergoing multitask prompted finetuning. To facilitate future research and applications using LLMs, we publicly release our models and code under the Responsible AI License.
Two of the most fundamental challenges in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) at present are: (a) how to establish whether deep learning-based models score highly on NLU benchmarks for the 'right' reasons; and (b) to understand what those reasons would even be. We investigate the behavior of reading comprehension models with respect to two linguistic 'skills': coreference resolution and comparison. We propose a definition for the reasoning steps expected from a system that would be 'reading slowly', and compare that with the behavior of five models of the BERT family of various sizes, observed through saliency scores and counterfactual explanations. We find that for comparison (but not coreference) the systems based on larger encoders are more likely to rely on the 'right' information, but even they struggle with generalization, suggesting that they still learn specific lexical patterns rather than the general principles of comparison.
Transformer-based language models are known to display anisotropic behavior: the token embeddings are not homogeneously spread in space, but rather accumulate along certain directions. A related recent finding is the outlier phenomenon: the parameters in the final element of Transformer layers that consistently have unusual magnitude in the same dimension across the model, and significantly degrade its performance if disabled. We replicate the evidence for the outlier phenomenon and we link it to the geometry of the embedding space. Our main finding is that in both BERT and RoBERTa the token frequency, known to contribute to anisotropicity, also contributes to the outlier phenomenon. In its turn, the outlier phenomenon contributes to the "vertical" self-attention pattern that enables the model to focus on the special tokens. We also find that, surprisingly, the outlier effect on the model performance varies by layer, and that variance is also related to the correlation between outlier magnitude and encoded token frequency.
Both scientific progress and individual researcher careers depend on the quality of peer review, which in turn depends on paper-reviewer matching. Surprisingly, this problem has been mostly approached as an automated recommendation problem rather than as a matter where different stakeholders (area chairs, reviewers, authors) have accumulated experience worth taking into account. We present the results of the first survey of the NLP community, identifying common issues and perspectives on what factors should be considered by paper-reviewer matching systems. This study contributes actionable recommendations for improving future NLP conferences, and desiderata for interpretable peer review assignments.
Much of recent progress in NLU was shown to be due to models' learning dataset-specific heuristics. We conduct a case study of generalization in NLI (from MNLI to the adversarially constructed HANS dataset) in a range of BERT-based architectures (adapters, Siamese Transformers, HEX debiasing), as well as with subsampling the data and increasing the model size. We report 2 successful and 3 unsuccessful strategies, all providing insights into how Transformer-based models learn to generalize.
* Workshop on Insights from Negative Results (EMNLP 2021)
A key part of the NLP ethics movement is responsible use of data, but exactly what that means or how it can be best achieved remain unclear. This position paper discusses the core legal and ethical principles for collection and sharing of textual data, and the tensions between them. We propose a potential checklist for responsible data (re-)use that could both standardise the peer review of conference submissions, as well as enable a more in-depth view of published research across the community. Our proposal aims to contribute to the development of a consistent standard for data (re-)use, embraced across NLP conferences.