Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIG-bench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 442 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI's GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit "breakthrough" behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.
The field of explainable AI has recently seen an explosion in the number of explanation methods for highly non-linear deep neural networks. The extent to which such methods -- that are often proposed and tested in the domain of computer vision -- are appropriate to address the explainability challenges in NLP is yet relatively unexplored. In this work, we consider Contextual Decomposition (CD) -- a Shapley-based input feature attribution method that has been shown to work well for recurrent NLP models -- and we test the extent to which it is useful for models that contain attention operations. To this end, we extend CD to cover the operations necessary for attention-based models. We then compare how long distance subject-verb relationships are processed by models with and without attention, considering a number of different syntactic structures in two different languages: English and Dutch. Our experiments confirm that CD can successfully be applied for attention-based models as well, providing an alternative Shapley-based attribution method for modern neural networks. In particular, using CD, we show that the English and Dutch models demonstrate similar processing behaviour, but that under the hood there are consistent differences between our attention and non-attention models.