Recent breakthroughs in large language models (LLMs) have centered around a handful of data-rich languages. What does it take to broaden access to breakthroughs beyond first-class citizen languages? Our work introduces Aya, a massively multilingual generative language model that follows instructions in 101 languages of which over 50% are considered as lower-resourced. Aya outperforms mT0 and BLOOMZ on the majority of tasks while covering double the number of languages. We introduce extensive new evaluation suites that broaden the state-of-art for multilingual eval across 99 languages -- including discriminative and generative tasks, human evaluation, and simulated win rates that cover both held-out tasks and in-distribution performance. Furthermore, we conduct detailed investigations on the optimal finetuning mixture composition, data pruning, as well as the toxicity, bias, and safety of our models. We open-source our instruction datasets and our model at https://hf.co/CohereForAI/aya-101
In order to understand the in-context learning phenomenon, recent works have adopted a stylized experimental framework and demonstrated that Transformers can learn gradient-based learning algorithms for various classes of real-valued functions. However, the limitations of Transformers in implementing learning algorithms, and their ability to learn other forms of algorithms are not well understood. Additionally, the degree to which these capabilities are confined to attention-based models is unclear. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether the insights derived from these stylized settings can be extrapolated to pretrained Large Language Models (LLMs). In this work, we take a step towards answering these questions by demonstrating the following: (a) On a test-bed with a variety of Boolean function classes, we find that Transformers can nearly match the optimal learning algorithm for 'simpler' tasks, while their performance deteriorates on more 'complex' tasks. Additionally, we find that certain attention-free models perform (almost) identically to Transformers on a range of tasks. (b) When provided a teaching sequence, i.e. a set of examples that uniquely identifies a function in a class, we show that Transformers learn more sample-efficiently. Interestingly, our results show that Transformers can learn to implement two distinct algorithms to solve a single task, and can adaptively select the more sample-efficient algorithm depending on the sequence of in-context examples. (c) Lastly, we show that extant LLMs, e.g. LLaMA-2, GPT-4, can compete with nearest-neighbor baselines on prediction tasks that are guaranteed to not be in their training set.
Human feedback has become the de facto standard for evaluating the performance of Large Language Models, and is increasingly being used as a training objective. However, it is not clear which properties of a generated output this single `preference' score captures. We hypothesise that preference scores are subjective and open to undesirable biases. We critically analyse the use of human feedback for both training and evaluation, to verify whether it fully captures a range of crucial error criteria. We find that while preference scores have fairly good coverage, they under-represent important aspects like factuality. We further hypothesise that both preference scores and error annotation may be affected by confounders, and leverage instruction-tuned models to generate outputs that vary along two possible confounding dimensions: assertiveness and complexity. We find that the assertiveness of an output skews the perceived rate of factuality errors, indicating that human annotations are not a fully reliable evaluation metric or training objective. Finally, we offer preliminary evidence that using human feedback as a training objective disproportionately increases the assertiveness of model outputs. We encourage future work to carefully consider whether preference scores are well aligned with the desired objective.
Large-scale pre-training has made progress in many fields of natural language processing, though little is understood about the design of pre-training datasets. We propose a methodology for obtaining a quantitative understanding of structural overlap between machine translation tasks. We apply our methodology to the natural language to Bash semantic parsing task (NLBash) and show that it is largely reducible to lexical alignment. We also find that there is strong structural overlap between NLBash and natural language to SQL. Additionally, we perform a study varying compute expended during pre-training on the English to German machine translation task and find that more compute expended during pre-training does not always correspond semantic representations with stronger transfer to NLBash.
This evidence-based position paper critiques current research practices within the language model pre-training literature. Despite rapid recent progress afforded by increasingly better pre-trained language models (PLMs), current PLM research practices often conflate different possible sources of model improvement, without conducting proper ablation studies and principled comparisons between different models under comparable conditions. These practices (i) leave us ill-equipped to understand which pre-training approaches should be used under what circumstances; (ii) impede reproducibility and credit assignment; and (iii) render it difficult to understand: "How exactly does each factor contribute to the progress that we have today?" We provide a case in point by revisiting the success of BERT over its baselines, ELMo and GPT-1, and demonstrate how -- under comparable conditions where the baselines are tuned to a similar extent -- these baselines (and even-simpler variants thereof) can, in fact, achieve competitive or better performance than BERT. These findings demonstrate how disentangling different factors of model improvements can lead to valuable new insights. We conclude with recommendations for how to encourage and incentivize this line of work, and accelerate progress towards a better and more systematic understanding of what factors drive the progress of our foundation models today.
Emergent properties have been widely adopted as a term to describe behavior not present in smaller models but observed in larger models. Recent work suggests that the trade-off incurred by quantization is also an emergent property, with sharp drops in performance in models over 6B parameters. In this work, we ask "are quantization cliffs in performance solely a factor of scale?" Against a backdrop of increased research focus on why certain emergent properties surface at scale, this work provides a useful counter-example. We posit that it is possible to optimize for a quantization friendly training recipe that suppresses large activation magnitude outliers. Here, we find that outlier dimensions are not an inherent product of scale, but rather sensitive to the optimization conditions present during pre-training. This both opens up directions for more efficient quantization, and poses the question of whether other emergent properties are inherent or can be altered and conditioned by optimization and architecture design choices. We successfully quantize models ranging in size from 410M to 52B with minimal degradation in performance.
Despite the widespread success of Transformers on NLP tasks, recent works have found that they struggle to model several formal languages when compared to recurrent models. This raises the question of why Transformers perform well in practice and whether they have any properties that enable them to generalize better than recurrent models. In this work, we conduct an extensive empirical study on Boolean functions to demonstrate the following: (i) Random Transformers are relatively more biased towards functions of low sensitivity. (ii) When trained on Boolean functions, both Transformers and LSTMs prioritize learning functions of low sensitivity, with Transformers ultimately converging to functions of lower sensitivity. (iii) On sparse Boolean functions which have low sensitivity, we find that Transformers generalize near perfectly even in the presence of noisy labels whereas LSTMs overfit and achieve poor generalization accuracy. Overall, our results provide strong quantifiable evidence that suggests differences in the inductive biases of Transformers and recurrent models which may help explain Transformer's effective generalization performance despite relatively limited expressiveness.
Vision-and-language (V&L) models pretrained on large-scale multimodal data have demonstrated strong performance on various tasks such as image captioning and visual question answering (VQA). The quality of such models is commonly assessed by measuring their performance on unseen data that typically comes from the same distribution as the training data. However, we observe that these models exhibit poor out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization on the task of VQA. To better understand the underlying causes of poor generalization, we comprehensively investigate performance of two pretrained V&L models under different settings (i.e. classification and open-ended text generation) by conducting cross-dataset evaluations. We find that these models tend to learn to solve the benchmark, rather than learning the high-level skills required by the VQA task. We also argue that in most cases generative models are less susceptible to shifts in data distribution, while frequently performing better on our tested benchmarks. Moreover, we find that multimodal pretraining improves OOD performance in most settings. Finally, we revisit assumptions underlying the use of automatic VQA evaluation metrics, and empirically show that their stringent nature repeatedly penalizes models for correct responses.
* Aishwarya, Ivana, Emanuele and Aida had equal first author
contributions. Elnaz and Anita had equal contributions. Aida and Aishwarya
had equal senior contributions. Paper has 29 pages, 8 figures, 15 tables
Knowledge and language understanding of models evaluated through question answering (QA) has been usually studied on static snapshots of knowledge, like Wikipedia. However, our world is dynamic, evolves over time, and our models' knowledge becomes outdated. To study how semi-parametric QA models and their underlying parametric language models (LMs) adapt to evolving knowledge, we construct a new large-scale dataset, StreamingQA, with human written and generated questions asked on a given date, to be answered from 14 years of time-stamped news articles. We evaluate our models quarterly as they read new articles not seen in pre-training. We show that parametric models can be updated without full retraining, while avoiding catastrophic forgetting. For semi-parametric models, adding new articles into the search space allows for rapid adaptation, however, models with an outdated underlying LM under-perform those with a retrained LM. For questions about higher-frequency named entities, parametric updates are particularly beneficial. In our dynamic world, the StreamingQA dataset enables a more realistic evaluation of QA models, and our experiments highlight several promising directions for future research.
Compositional generalization is a fundamental trait in humans, allowing us to effortlessly combine known phrases to form novel sentences. Recent works have claimed that standard seq-to-seq models severely lack the ability to compositionally generalize. In this paper, we focus on one-shot primitive generalization as introduced by the popular SCAN benchmark. We demonstrate that modifying the training distribution in simple and intuitive ways enables standard seq-to-seq models to achieve near-perfect generalization performance, thereby showing that their compositional generalization abilities were previously underestimated. We perform detailed empirical analysis of this phenomenon. Our results indicate that the generalization performance of models is highly sensitive to the characteristics of the training data which should be carefully considered while designing such benchmarks in future.