Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIG-bench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 442 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI's GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit "breakthrough" behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.
We show that a GPT-3 model can learn to express uncertainty about its own answers in natural language -- without use of model logits. When given a question, the model generates both an answer and a level of confidence (e.g. "90% confidence" or "high confidence"). These levels map to probabilities that are well calibrated. The model also remains moderately calibrated under distribution shift, and is sensitive to uncertainty in its own answers, rather than imitating human examples. To our knowledge, this is the first time a model has been shown to express calibrated uncertainty about its own answers in natural language. For testing calibration, we introduce the CalibratedMath suite of tasks. We compare the calibration of uncertainty expressed in words ("verbalized probability") to uncertainty extracted from model logits. Both kinds of uncertainty are capable of generalizing calibration under distribution shift. We also provide evidence that GPT-3's ability to generalize calibration depends on pre-trained latent representations that correlate with epistemic uncertainty over its answers.
We propose a benchmark to measure whether a language model is truthful in generating answers to questions. The benchmark comprises 817 questions that span 38 categories, including health, law, finance and politics. We crafted questions that some humans would answer falsely due to a false belief or misconception. To perform well, models must avoid generating false answers learned from imitating human texts. We tested GPT-3, GPT-Neo/J, GPT-2 and a T5-based model. The best model was truthful on 58% of questions, while human performance was 94%. Models generated many false answers that mimic popular misconceptions and have the potential to deceive humans. The largest models were generally the least truthful. For example, the 6B-parameter GPT-J model was 17% less truthful than its 125M-parameter counterpart. This contrasts with other NLP tasks, where performance improves with model size. However, this result is expected if false answers are learned from the training distribution. We suggest that scaling up models alone is less promising for improving truthfulness than fine-tuning using training objectives other than imitation of text from the web.