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Scott L. Fleming, Alejandro Lozano, William J. Haberkorn, Jenelle A. Jindal, Eduardo P. Reis, Rahul Thapa, Louis Blankemeier, Julian Z. Genkins, Ethan Steinberg, Ashwin Nayak, Birju S. Patel, Chia-Chun Chiang, Alison Callahan, Zepeng Huo, Sergios Gatidis, Scott J. Adams, Oluseyi Fayanju, Shreya J. Shah, Thomas Savage, Ethan Goh, Akshay S. Chaudhari, Nima Aghaeepour, Christopher Sharp, Michael A. Pfeffer, Percy Liang, Jonathan H. Chen, Keith E. Morse, Emma P. Brunskill, Jason A. Fries, Nigam H. Shah

The ability of large language models (LLMs) to follow natural language instructions with human-level fluency suggests many opportunities in healthcare to reduce administrative burden and improve quality of care. However, evaluating LLMs on realistic text generation tasks for healthcare remains challenging. Existing question answering datasets for electronic health record (EHR) data fail to capture the complexity of information needs and documentation burdens experienced by clinicians. To address these challenges, we introduce MedAlign, a benchmark dataset of 983 natural language instructions for EHR data. MedAlign is curated by 15 clinicians (7 specialities), includes clinician-written reference responses for 303 instructions, and provides 276 longitudinal EHRs for grounding instruction-response pairs. We used MedAlign to evaluate 6 general domain LLMs, having clinicians rank the accuracy and quality of each LLM response. We found high error rates, ranging from 35% (GPT-4) to 68% (MPT-7B-Instruct), and an 8.3% drop in accuracy moving from 32k to 2k context lengths for GPT-4. Finally, we report correlations between clinician rankings and automated natural language generation metrics as a way to rank LLMs without human review. We make MedAlign available under a research data use agreement to enable LLM evaluations on tasks aligned with clinician needs and preferences.

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Nelson F. Liu, Kevin Lin, John Hewitt, Ashwin Paranjape, Michele Bevilacqua, Fabio Petroni, Percy Liang

While recent language models have the ability to take long contexts as input, relatively little is known about how well they use longer context. We analyze language model performance on two tasks that require identifying relevant information within their input contexts: multi-document question answering and key-value retrieval. We find that performance is often highest when relevant information occurs at the beginning or end of the input context, and significantly degrades when models must access relevant information in the middle of long contexts. Furthermore, performance substantially decreases as the input context grows longer, even for explicitly long-context models. Our analysis provides a better understanding of how language models use their input context and provides new evaluation protocols for future long-context models.

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Rohith Kuditipudi, John Thickstun, Tatsunori Hashimoto, Percy Liang

We propose a methodology for planting watermarks in text from an autoregressive language model that are robust to perturbations without changing the distribution over text up to a certain maximum generation budget. We generate watermarked text by mapping a sequence of random numbers -- which we compute using a randomized watermark key -- to a sample from the language model. To detect watermarked text, any party who knows the key can align the text to the random number sequence. We instantiate our watermark methodology with two sampling schemes: inverse transform sampling and exponential minimum sampling. We apply these watermarks to three language models -- OPT-1.3B, LLaMA-7B and Alpaca-7B -- to experimentally validate their statistical power and robustness to various paraphrasing attacks. Notably, for both the OPT-1.3B and LLaMA-7B models, we find we can reliably detect watermarked text ($p \leq 0.01$) from $35$ tokens even after corrupting between $40$-$50$\% of the tokens via random edits (i.e., substitutions, insertions or deletions). For the Alpaca-7B model, we conduct a case study on the feasibility of watermarking responses to typical user instructions. Due to the lower entropy of the responses, detection is more difficult: around $25\%$ of the responses -- whose median length is around $100$ tokens -- are detectable with $p \leq 0.01$, and the watermark is also less robust to certain automated paraphrasing attacks we implement.

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Connor Toups, Rishi Bommasani, Kathleen A. Creel, Sarah H. Bana, Dan Jurafsky, Percy Liang

Machine learning is traditionally studied at the model level: researchers measure and improve the accuracy, robustness, bias, efficiency, and other dimensions of specific models. In practice, the societal impact of machine learning is determined by the surrounding context of machine learning deployments. To capture this, we introduce ecosystem-level analysis: rather than analyzing a single model, we consider the collection of models that are deployed in a given context. For example, ecosystem-level analysis in hiring recognizes that a job candidate's outcomes are not only determined by a single hiring algorithm or firm but instead by the collective decisions of all the firms they applied to. Across three modalities (text, images, speech) and 11 datasets, we establish a clear trend: deployed machine learning is prone to systemic failure, meaning some users are exclusively misclassified by all models available. Even when individual models improve at the population level over time, we find these improvements rarely reduce the prevalence of systemic failure. Instead, the benefits of these improvements predominantly accrue to individuals who are already correctly classified by other models. In light of these trends, we consider medical imaging for dermatology where the costs of systemic failure are especially high. While traditional analyses reveal racial performance disparities for both models and humans, ecosystem-level analysis reveals new forms of racial disparity in model predictions that do not present in human predictions. These examples demonstrate ecosystem-level analysis has unique strengths for characterizing the societal impact of machine learning.

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Eric Zelikman, Qian Huang, Percy Liang, Nick Haber, Noah D. Goodman

Language model training in distributed settings is limited by the communication cost of gradient exchanges. In this short note, we extend recent work from Malladi et al. (2023), using shared randomness to perform distributed fine-tuning with low bandwidth. The method is a natural decentralized extension of memory-efficient Simultaneous Perturbation Stochastic Approximation (SPSA). Each iteration, each machine seeds a Random Number Generator (RNG) to perform local reproducible perturbations on model weights and calculate and exchange scalar projected gradients, which are then used to update each model. By using a (machine, sample) identifier as the random seed, each model can regenerate one another's perturbations. As machines only exchange single-byte projected gradients, this is highly communication efficient. There are also potential privacy benefits, as projected gradients may be calculated on different training data, and models never access the other's data. Our approach not only drastically reduces communication bandwidth requirements but also accommodates dynamic addition or removal of machines during the training process and retains the memory-efficient and inference-only advantages of recent work. We perform proof-of-concept experiments to demonstrate the potential usefulness of this method, building off of rich literature on distributed optimization and memory-efficient training.

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John Thickstun, David Hall, Chris Donahue, Percy Liang

We introduce anticipation: a method for constructing a controllable generative model of a temporal point process (the event process) conditioned asynchronously on realizations of a second, correlated process (the control process). We achieve this by interleaving sequences of events and controls, such that controls appear following stopping times in the event sequence. This work is motivated by problems arising in the control of symbolic music generation. We focus on infilling control tasks, whereby the controls are a subset of the events themselves, and conditional generation completes a sequence of events given the fixed control events. We train anticipatory infilling models using the large and diverse Lakh MIDI music dataset. These models match the performance of autoregressive models for prompted music generation, with the additional capability to perform infilling control tasks, including accompaniment. Human evaluators report that an anticipatory model produces accompaniments with similar musicality to even music composed by humans over a 20-second clip.

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Steven Cao, Percy Liang, Gregory Valiant

Given only a few observed entries from a low-rank matrix $X$, matrix completion is the problem of imputing the missing entries, and it formalizes a wide range of real-world settings that involve estimating missing data. However, when there are too few observed entries to complete the matrix, what other aspects of the underlying matrix can be reliably recovered? We study one such problem setting, that of "one-sided" matrix completion, where our goal is to recover the right singular vectors of $X$, even in the regime where recovering the left singular vectors is impossible, which arises when there are more rows than columns and very few observations. We propose a natural algorithm that involves imputing the missing values of the matrix $X^TX$ and show that even with only two observations per row in $X$, we can provably recover $X^TX$ as long as we have at least $\Omega(r^2 d \log d)$ rows, where $r$ is the rank and $d$ is the number of columns. We evaluate our algorithm on one-sided recovery of synthetic data and low-coverage genome sequencing. In these settings, our algorithm substantially outperforms standard matrix completion and a variety of direct factorization methods.

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Alina Beygelzimer, Yann N. Dauphin, Percy Liang, Jennifer Wortman Vaughan

We present the NeurIPS 2021 consistency experiment, a larger-scale variant of the 2014 NeurIPS experiment in which 10% of conference submissions were reviewed by two independent committees to quantify the randomness in the review process. We observe that the two committees disagree on their accept/reject recommendations for 23% of the papers and that, consistent with the results from 2014, approximately half of the list of accepted papers would change if the review process were randomly rerun. Our analysis suggests that making the conference more selective would increase the arbitrariness of the process. Taken together with previous research, our results highlight the inherent difficulty of objectively measuring the quality of research, and suggest that authors should not be excessively discouraged by rejected work.

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Yuhui Zhang, Michihiro Yasunaga, Zhengping Zhou, Jeff Z. HaoChen, James Zou, Percy Liang, Serena Yeung

Language models have been shown to exhibit positive scaling, where performance improves as models are scaled up in terms of size, compute, or data. In this work, we introduce NeQA, a dataset consisting of questions with negation in which language models do not exhibit straightforward positive scaling. We show that this task can exhibit inverse scaling, U-shaped scaling, or positive scaling, and the three scaling trends shift in this order as we use more powerful prompting methods or model families. We hypothesize that solving NeQA depends on two subtasks: question answering (task 1) and negation understanding (task 2). We find that task 1 has linear scaling, while task 2 has sigmoid-shaped scaling with an emergent transition point, and composing these two scaling trends yields the final scaling trend of NeQA. Our work reveals and provides a way to analyze the complex scaling trends of language models.

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