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.
In this short consensus paper, we outline risks from upcoming, advanced AI systems. We examine large-scale social harms and malicious uses, as well as an irreversible loss of human control over autonomous AI systems. In light of rapid and continuing AI progress, we propose priorities for AI R&D and governance.
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.
Large language models (LLMs) can "lie", which we define as outputting false statements despite "knowing" the truth in a demonstrable sense. LLMs might "lie", for example, when instructed to output misinformation. Here, we develop a simple lie detector that requires neither access to the LLM's activations (black-box) nor ground-truth knowledge of the fact in question. The detector works by asking a predefined set of unrelated follow-up questions after a suspected lie, and feeding the LLM's yes/no answers into a logistic regression classifier. Despite its simplicity, this lie detector is highly accurate and surprisingly general. When trained on examples from a single setting -- prompting GPT-3.5 to lie about factual questions -- the detector generalises out-of-distribution to (1) other LLM architectures, (2) LLMs fine-tuned to lie, (3) sycophantic lies, and (4) lies emerging in real-life scenarios such as sales. These results indicate that LLMs have distinctive lie-related behavioural patterns, consistent across architectures and contexts, which could enable general-purpose lie detection.
Training on web-scale data can take months. But most computation and time is wasted on redundant and noisy points that are already learnt or not learnable. To accelerate training, we introduce Reducible Holdout Loss Selection (RHO-LOSS), a simple but principled technique which selects approximately those points for training that most reduce the model's generalization loss. As a result, RHO-LOSS mitigates the weaknesses of existing data selection methods: techniques from the optimization literature typically select 'hard' (e.g. high loss) points, but such points are often noisy (not learnable) or less task-relevant. Conversely, curriculum learning prioritizes 'easy' points, but such points need not be trained on once learned. In contrast, RHO-LOSS selects points that are learnable, worth learning, and not yet learnt. RHO-LOSS trains in far fewer steps than prior art, improves accuracy, and speeds up training on a wide range of datasets, hyperparameters, and architectures (MLPs, CNNs, and BERT). On the large web-scraped image dataset Clothing-1M, RHO-LOSS trains in 18x fewer steps and reaches 2% higher final accuracy than uniform data shuffling.
We introduce Goldilocks Selection, a technique for faster model training which selects a sequence of training points that are "just right". We propose an information-theoretic acquisition function -- the reducible validation loss -- and compute it with a small proxy model -- GoldiProx -- to efficiently choose training points that maximize information about a validation set. We show that the "hard" (e.g. high loss) points usually selected in the optimization literature are typically noisy, while the "easy" (e.g. low noise) samples often prioritized for curriculum learning confer less information. Further, points with uncertain labels, typically targeted by active learning, tend to be less relevant to the task. In contrast, Goldilocks Selection chooses points that are "just right" and empirically outperforms the above approaches. Moreover, the selected sequence can transfer to other architectures; practitioners can share and reuse it without the need to recreate it.
* ICML 2021 Workshop on Subset Selection in Machine Learning
We study the problem of learning conditional average treatment effects (CATE) from high-dimensional, observational data with unobserved confounders. Unobserved confounders introduce ignorance -- a level of unidentifiability -- about an individual's response to treatment by inducing bias in CATE estimates. We present a new parametric interval estimator suited for high-dimensional data, that estimates a range of possible CATE values when given a predefined bound on the level of hidden confounding. Further, previous interval estimators do not account for ignorance about the CATE stemming from samples that may be underrepresented in the original study, or samples that violate the overlap assumption. Our novel interval estimator also incorporates model uncertainty so that practitioners can be made aware of out-of-distribution data. We prove that our estimator converges to tight bounds on CATE when there may be unobserved confounding, and assess it using semi-synthetic, high-dimensional datasets.
There remains much uncertainty about the relative effectiveness of different nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) against COVID-19 transmission. Several studies attempt to infer NPI effectiveness with cross-country, data-driven modelling, by linking from NPI implementation dates to the observed timeline of cases and deaths in a country. These models make many assumptions. Previous work sometimes tests the sensitivity to variations in explicit epidemiological model parameters, but rarely analyses the sensitivity to the assumptions that are made by the choice the of model structure (structural sensitivity analysis). Such analysis would ensure that the inferences made are consistent under plausible alternative assumptions. Without it, NPI effectiveness estimates cannot be used to guide policy. We investigate four model structures similar to a recent state-of-the-art Bayesian hierarchical model. We find that the models differ considerably in the robustness of their NPI effectiveness estimates to changes in epidemiological parameters and the data. Considering only the models that have good robustness, we find that results and policy-relevant conclusions are remarkably consistent across the structurally different models. We further investigate the common assumptions that the effect of an NPI is independent of the country, the time, and other active NPIs. We mathematically show how to interpret effectiveness estimates when these assumptions are violated.
Recommending the best course of action for an individual is a major application of individual-level causal effect estimation. This application is often needed in safety-critical domains such as healthcare, where estimating and communicating uncertainty to decision-makers is crucial. We introduce a practical approach for integrating uncertainty estimation into a class of state-of-the-art neural network methods used for individual-level causal estimates. We show that our methods enable us to deal gracefully with situations of "no-overlap", common in high-dimensional data, where standard applications of causal effect approaches fail. Further, our methods allow us to handle covariate shift, where test distribution differs to train distribution, common when systems are deployed in practice. We show that when such a covariate shift occurs, correctly modeling uncertainty can keep us from giving overconfident and potentially harmful recommendations. We demonstrate our methodology with a range of state-of-the-art models. Under both covariate shift and lack of overlap, our uncertainty-equipped methods can alert decisions makers when predictions are not to be trusted while outperforming their uncertainty-oblivious counterparts.