Humans are capable of strategically deceptive behavior: behaving helpfully in most situations, but then behaving very differently in order to pursue alternative objectives when given the opportunity. If an AI system learned such a deceptive strategy, could we detect it and remove it using current state-of-the-art safety training techniques? To study this question, we construct proof-of-concept examples of deceptive behavior in large language models (LLMs). For example, we train models that write secure code when the prompt states that the year is 2023, but insert exploitable code when the stated year is 2024. We find that such backdoor behavior can be made persistent, so that it is not removed by standard safety training techniques, including supervised fine-tuning, reinforcement learning, and adversarial training (eliciting unsafe behavior and then training to remove it). The backdoor behavior is most persistent in the largest models and in models trained to produce chain-of-thought reasoning about deceiving the training process, with the persistence remaining even when the chain-of-thought is distilled away. Furthermore, rather than removing backdoors, we find that adversarial training can teach models to better recognize their backdoor triggers, effectively hiding the unsafe behavior. Our results suggest that, once a model exhibits deceptive behavior, standard techniques could fail to remove such deception and create a false impression of safety.
Human feedback can prevent overtly harmful utterances in conversational models, but may not automatically mitigate subtle problematic behaviors such as a stated desire for self-preservation or power. Constitutional AI offers an alternative, replacing human feedback with feedback from AI models conditioned only on a list of written principles. We find this approach effectively prevents the expression of such behaviors. The success of simple principles motivates us to ask: can models learn general ethical behaviors from only a single written principle? To test this, we run experiments using a principle roughly stated as "do what's best for humanity". We find that the largest dialogue models can generalize from this short constitution, resulting in harmless assistants with no stated interest in specific motivations like power. A general principle may thus partially avoid the need for a long list of constitutions targeting potentially harmful behaviors. However, more detailed constitutions still improve fine-grained control over specific types of harms. This suggests both general and specific principles have value for steering AI safely.
We test the hypothesis that language models trained with reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) have the capability to "morally self-correct" -- to avoid producing harmful outputs -- if instructed to do so. We find strong evidence in support of this hypothesis across three different experiments, each of which reveal different facets of moral self-correction. We find that the capability for moral self-correction emerges at 22B model parameters, and typically improves with increasing model size and RLHF training. We believe that at this level of scale, language models obtain two capabilities that they can use for moral self-correction: (1) they can follow instructions and (2) they can learn complex normative concepts of harm like stereotyping, bias, and discrimination. As such, they can follow instructions to avoid certain kinds of morally harmful outputs. We believe our results are cause for cautious optimism regarding the ability to train language models to abide by ethical principles.
As language models (LMs) scale, they develop many novel behaviors, good and bad, exacerbating the need to evaluate how they behave. Prior work creates evaluations with crowdwork (which is time-consuming and expensive) or existing data sources (which are not always available). Here, we automatically generate evaluations with LMs. We explore approaches with varying amounts of human effort, from instructing LMs to write yes/no questions to making complex Winogender schemas with multiple stages of LM-based generation and filtering. Crowdworkers rate the examples as highly relevant and agree with 90-100% of labels, sometimes more so than corresponding human-written datasets. We generate 154 datasets and discover new cases of inverse scaling where LMs get worse with size. Larger LMs repeat back a dialog user's preferred answer ("sycophancy") and express greater desire to pursue concerning goals like resource acquisition and goal preservation. We also find some of the first examples of inverse scaling in RL from Human Feedback (RLHF), where more RLHF makes LMs worse. For example, RLHF makes LMs express stronger political views (on gun rights and immigration) and a greater desire to avoid shut down. Overall, LM-written evaluations are high-quality and let us quickly discover many novel LM behaviors.
As AI systems become more capable, we would like to enlist their help to supervise other AIs. We experiment with methods for training a harmless AI assistant through self-improvement, without any human labels identifying harmful outputs. The only human oversight is provided through a list of rules or principles, and so we refer to the method as 'Constitutional AI'. The process involves both a supervised learning and a reinforcement learning phase. In the supervised phase we sample from an initial model, then generate self-critiques and revisions, and then finetune the original model on revised responses. In the RL phase, we sample from the finetuned model, use a model to evaluate which of the two samples is better, and then train a preference model from this dataset of AI preferences. We then train with RL using the preference model as the reward signal, i.e. we use 'RL from AI Feedback' (RLAIF). As a result we are able to train a harmless but non-evasive AI assistant that engages with harmful queries by explaining its objections to them. Both the SL and RL methods can leverage chain-of-thought style reasoning to improve the human-judged performance and transparency of AI decision making. These methods make it possible to control AI behavior more precisely and with far fewer human labels.
Developing safe and useful general-purpose AI systems will require us to make progress on scalable oversight: the problem of supervising systems that potentially outperform us on most skills relevant to the task at hand. Empirical work on this problem is not straightforward, since we do not yet have systems that broadly exceed our abilities. This paper discusses one of the major ways we think about this problem, with a focus on ways it can be studied empirically. We first present an experimental design centered on tasks for which human specialists succeed but unaided humans and current general AI systems fail. We then present a proof-of-concept experiment meant to demonstrate a key feature of this experimental design and show its viability with two question-answering tasks: MMLU and time-limited QuALITY. On these tasks, we find that human participants who interact with an unreliable large-language-model dialog assistant through chat -- a trivial baseline strategy for scalable oversight -- substantially outperform both the model alone and their own unaided performance. These results are an encouraging sign that scalable oversight will be tractable to study with present models and bolster recent findings that large language models can productively assist humans with difficult tasks.
"Induction heads" are attention heads that implement a simple algorithm to complete token sequences like [A][B] ... [A] -> [B]. In this work, we present preliminary and indirect evidence for a hypothesis that induction heads might constitute the mechanism for the majority of all "in-context learning" in large transformer models (i.e. decreasing loss at increasing token indices). We find that induction heads develop at precisely the same point as a sudden sharp increase in in-context learning ability, visible as a bump in the training loss. We present six complementary lines of evidence, arguing that induction heads may be the mechanistic source of general in-context learning in transformer models of any size. For small attention-only models, we present strong, causal evidence; for larger models with MLPs, we present correlational evidence.