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David D. Baek, Ziming Liu, Max Tegmark

We present GenEFT: an effective theory framework for shedding light on the statics and dynamics of neural network generalization, and illustrate it with graph learning examples. We first investigate the generalization phase transition as data size increases, comparing experimental results with information-theory-based approximations. We find generalization in a Goldilocks zone where the decoder is neither too weak nor too powerful. We then introduce an effective theory for the dynamics of representation learning, where latent-space representations are modeled as interacting particles (repons), and find that it explains our experimentally observed phase transition between generalization and overfitting as encoder and decoder learning rates are scanned. This highlights the power of physics-inspired effective theories for bridging the gap between theoretical predictions and practice in machine learning.

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Eric J. Michaud, Isaac Liao, Vedang Lad, Ziming Liu, Anish Mudide, Chloe Loughridge, Zifan Carl Guo, Tara Rezaei Kheirkhah, Mateja Vukelić, Max Tegmark

We present MIPS, a novel method for program synthesis based on automated mechanistic interpretability of neural networks trained to perform the desired task, auto-distilling the learned algorithm into Python code. We test MIPS on a benchmark of 62 algorithmic tasks that can be learned by an RNN and find it highly complementary to GPT-4: MIPS solves 32 of them, including 13 that are not solved by GPT-4 (which also solves 30). MIPS uses an integer autoencoder to convert the RNN into a finite state machine, then applies Boolean or integer symbolic regression to capture the learned algorithm. As opposed to large language models, this program synthesis technique makes no use of (and is therefore not limited by) human training data such as algorithms and code from GitHub. We discuss opportunities and challenges for scaling up this approach to make machine-learned models more interpretable and trustworthy.

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Jinyeop Song, Ziming Liu, Max Tegmark, Jeff Gore

Neural scaling laws characterize how model performance improves as the model size scales up. Inspired by empirical observations, we introduce a resource model of neural scaling. A task is usually composite hence can be decomposed into many subtasks, which compete for resources (measured by the number of neurons allocated to subtasks). On toy problems, we empirically find that: (1) The loss of a subtask is inversely proportional to its allocated neurons. (2) When multiple subtasks are present in a composite task, the resources acquired by each subtask uniformly grow as models get larger, keeping the ratios of acquired resources constants. We hypothesize these findings to be generally true and build a model to predict neural scaling laws for general composite tasks, which successfully replicates the neural scaling law of Chinchilla models reported in arXiv:2203.15556. We believe that the notion of resource used in this paper will be a useful tool for characterizing and diagnosing neural networks.

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Stephen Casper, Carson Ezell, Charlotte Siegmann, Noam Kolt, Taylor Lynn Curtis, Benjamin Bucknall, Andreas Haupt, Kevin Wei, Jérémy Scheurer, Marius Hobbhahn, Lee Sharkey, Satyapriya Krishna, Marvin Von Hagen, Silas Alberti, Alan Chan, Qinyi Sun, Michael Gerovitch, David Bau, Max Tegmark, David Krueger, Dylan Hadfield-Menell

External audits of AI systems are increasingly recognized as a key mechanism for AI governance. The effectiveness of an audit, however, depends on the degree of system access granted to auditors. Recent audits of state-of-the-art AI systems have primarily relied on black-box access, in which auditors can only query the system and observe its outputs. However, white-box access to the system's inner workings (e.g., weights, activations, gradients) allows an auditor to perform stronger attacks, more thoroughly interpret models, and conduct fine-tuning. Meanwhile, outside-the-box access to its training and deployment information (e.g., methodology, code, documentation, hyperparameters, data, deployment details, findings from internal evaluations) allows for auditors to scrutinize the development process and design more targeted evaluations. In this paper, we examine the limitations of black-box audits and the advantages of white- and outside-the-box audits. We also discuss technical, physical, and legal safeguards for performing these audits with minimal security risks. Given that different forms of access can lead to very different levels of evaluation, we conclude that (1) transparency regarding the access and methods used by auditors is necessary to properly interpret audit results, and (2) white- and outside-the-box access allow for substantially more scrutiny than black-box access alone.

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Isaac Liao, Ziming Liu, Max Tegmark

An essential goal in mechanistic interpretability to decode a network, i.e., to convert a neural network's raw weights to an interpretable algorithm. Given the difficulty of the decoding problem, progress has been made to understand the easier encoding problem, i.e., to convert an interpretable algorithm into network weights. Previous works focus on encoding existing algorithms into networks, which are interpretable by definition. However, focusing on encoding limits the possibility of discovering new algorithms that humans have never stumbled upon, but that are nevertheless interpretable. In this work, we explore the possibility of using hypernetworks to generate interpretable networks whose underlying algorithms are not yet known. The hypernetwork is carefully designed such that it can control network complexity, leading to a diverse family of interpretable algorithms ranked by their complexity. All of them are interpretable in hindsight, although some of them are less intuitive to humans, hence providing new insights regarding how to "think" like a neural network. For the task of computing L1 norms, hypernetworks find three algorithms: (a) the double-sided algorithm, (b) the convexity algorithm, (c) the pudding algorithm, although only the first algorithm was expected by the authors before experiments. We automatically classify these algorithms and analyze how these algorithmic phases develop during training, as well as how they are affected by complexity control. Furthermore, we show that a trained hypernetwork can correctly construct models for input dimensions not seen in training, demonstrating systematic generalization.

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Ziming Liu, Mikail Khona, Ila R. Fiete, Max Tegmark

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) trained on compositional tasks can exhibit functional modularity, in which neurons can be clustered by activity similarity and participation in shared computational subtasks. Unlike brains, these RNNs do not exhibit anatomical modularity, in which functional clustering is correlated with strong recurrent coupling and spatial localization of functional clusters. Contrasting with functional modularity, which can be ephemerally dependent on the input, anatomically modular networks form a robust substrate for solving the same subtasks in the future. To examine whether it is possible to grow brain-like anatomical modularity, we apply a recent machine learning method, brain-inspired modular training (BIMT), to a network being trained to solve a set of compositional cognitive tasks. We find that functional and anatomical clustering emerge together, such that functionally similar neurons also become spatially localized and interconnected. Moreover, compared to standard $L_1$ or no regularization settings, the model exhibits superior performance by optimally balancing task performance and network sparsity. In addition to achieving brain-like organization in RNNs, our findings also suggest that BIMT holds promise for applications in neuromorphic computing and enhancing the interpretability of neural network architectures.

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Samuel Marks, Max Tegmark

Large Language Models (LLMs) have impressive capabilities, but are also prone to outputting falsehoods. Recent work has developed techniques for inferring whether a LLM is telling the truth by training probes on the LLM's internal activations. However, this line of work is controversial, with some authors pointing out failures of these probes to generalize in basic ways, among other conceptual issues. In this work, we curate high-quality datasets of true/false statements and use them to study in detail the structure of LLM representations of truth, drawing on three lines of evidence: 1. Visualizations of LLM true/false statement representations, which reveal clear linear structure. 2. Transfer experiments in which probes trained on one dataset generalize to different datasets. 3. Causal evidence obtained by surgically intervening in a LLM's forward pass, causing it to treat false statements as true and vice versa. Overall, we present evidence that language models linearly represent the truth or falsehood of factual statements. We also introduce a novel technique, mass-mean probing, which generalizes better and is more causally implicated in model outputs than other probing techniques.

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Peter S. Park, Max Tegmark

AI companies are attempting to create AI systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work. Current AI models are already automating away the livelihoods of some artists, actors, and writers. But there is infighting between those who prioritize current harms and future harms. We construct a game-theoretic model of conflict to study the causes and consequences of this disunity. Our model also helps explain why throughout history, stakeholders sharing a common threat have found it advantageous to unite against it, and why the common threat has in turn found it advantageous to divide and conquer. Under realistic parameter assumptions, our model makes several predictions that find preliminary corroboration in the historical-empirical record. First, current victims of AI-driven disempowerment need the future victims to realize that their interests are also under serious and imminent threat, so that future victims are incentivized to support current victims in solidarity. Second, the movement against AI-driven disempowerment can become more united, and thereby more likely to prevail, if members believe that their efforts will be successful as opposed to futile. Finally, the movement can better unite and prevail if its members are less myopic. Myopic members prioritize their future well-being less than their present well-being, and are thus disinclined to solidarily support current victims today at personal cost, even if this is necessary to counter the shared threat of AI-driven disempowerment.

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Ziming Liu, Ziqian Zhong, Max Tegmark

We attribute grokking, the phenomenon where generalization is much delayed after memorization, to compression. To do so, we define linear mapping number (LMN) to measure network complexity, which is a generalized version of linear region number for ReLU networks. LMN can nicely characterize neural network compression before generalization. Although the $L_2$ norm has been a popular choice for characterizing model complexity, we argue in favor of LMN for a number of reasons: (1) LMN can be naturally interpreted as information/computation, while $L_2$ cannot. (2) In the compression phase, LMN has linear relations with test losses, while $L_2$ is correlated with test losses in a complicated nonlinear way. (3) LMN also reveals an intriguing phenomenon of the XOR network switching between two generalization solutions, while $L_2$ does not. Besides explaining grokking, we argue that LMN is a promising candidate as the neural network version of the Kolmogorov complexity since it explicitly considers local or conditioned linear computations aligned with the nature of modern artificial neural networks.

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Ziming Liu, Max Tegmark

Neural scaling laws (NSL) refer to the phenomenon where model performance improves with scale. Sharma & Kaplan analyzed NSL using approximation theory and predict that MSE losses decay as $N^{-\alpha}$, $\alpha=4/d$, where $N$ is the number of model parameters, and $d$ is the intrinsic input dimension. Although their theory works well for some cases (e.g., ReLU networks), we surprisingly find that a simple 1D problem $y=x^2$ manifests a different scaling law ($\alpha=1$) from their predictions ($\alpha=4$). We opened the neural networks and found that the new scaling law originates from lottery ticket ensembling: a wider network on average has more "lottery tickets", which are ensembled to reduce the variance of outputs. We support the ensembling mechanism by mechanistically interpreting single neural networks, as well as studying them statistically. We attribute the $N^{-1}$ scaling law to the "central limit theorem" of lottery tickets. Finally, we discuss its potential implications for large language models and statistical physics-type theories of learning.

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