The explosive growth of language models and their applications have led to an increased demand for efficient and scalable methods. In this paper, we introduce Flan-MoE, a set of Instruction-Finetuned Sparse Mixture-of-Expert (MoE) models. We show that naively finetuning MoE models on a task-specific dataset (in other words, no instruction-finetuning) often yield worse performance compared to dense models of the same computational complexity. However, our Flan-MoE outperforms dense models under multiple experiment settings: instruction-finetuning only and instruction-finetuning followed by task-specific finetuning. This shows that instruction-finetuning is an essential stage for MoE models. Specifically, our largest model, Flan-MoE-32B, surpasses the performance of Flan-PaLM-62B on four benchmarks, while utilizing only one-third of the FLOPs. The success of Flan-MoE encourages rethinking the design of large-scale, high-performance language models, under the setting of task-agnostic learning.
Finetuning language models on a collection of datasets phrased as instructions has been shown to improve model performance and generalization to unseen tasks. In this paper we explore instruction finetuning with a particular focus on (1) scaling the number of tasks, (2) scaling the model size, and (3) finetuning on chain-of-thought data. We find that instruction finetuning with the above aspects dramatically improves performance on a variety of model classes (PaLM, T5, U-PaLM), prompting setups (zero-shot, few-shot, CoT), and evaluation benchmarks (MMLU, BBH, TyDiQA, MGSM, open-ended generation). For instance, Flan-PaLM 540B instruction-finetuned on 1.8K tasks outperforms PALM 540B by a large margin (+9.4% on average). Flan-PaLM 540B achieves state-of-the-art performance on several benchmarks, such as 75.2% on five-shot MMLU. We also publicly release Flan-T5 checkpoints, which achieve strong few-shot performance even compared to much larger models, such as PaLM 62B. Overall, instruction finetuning is a general method for improving the performance and usability of pretrained language models.
Sparse expert models are a thirty-year old concept re-emerging as a popular architecture in deep learning. This class of architecture encompasses Mixture-of-Experts, Switch Transformers, Routing Networks, BASE layers, and others, all with the unifying idea that each example is acted on by a subset of the parameters. By doing so, the degree of sparsity decouples the parameter count from the compute per example allowing for extremely large, but efficient models. The resulting models have demonstrated significant improvements across diverse domains such as natural language processing, computer vision, and speech recognition. We review the concept of sparse expert models, provide a basic description of the common algorithms, contextualize the advances in the deep learning era, and conclude by highlighting areas for future work.
There have been a lot of interest in the scaling properties of Transformer models. However, not much has been done on the front of investigating the effect of scaling properties of different inductive biases and model architectures. Do model architectures scale differently? If so, how does inductive bias affect scaling behaviour? How does this influence upstream (pretraining) and downstream (transfer)? This paper conducts a systematic study of scaling behaviour of ten diverse model architectures such as Transformers, Switch Transformers, Universal Transformers, Dynamic convolutions, Performers, and recently proposed MLP-Mixers. Via extensive experiments, we show that (1) architecture is an indeed an important consideration when performing scaling and (2) the best performing model can fluctuate at different scales. We believe that the findings outlined in this work has significant implications to how model architectures are currently evaluated in the community.
Scaling up language models has been shown to predictably improve performance and sample efficiency on a wide range of downstream tasks. This paper instead discusses an unpredictable phenomenon that we refer to as emergent abilities of large language models. We consider an ability to be emergent if it is not present in smaller models but is present in larger models. Thus, emergent abilities cannot be predicted simply by extrapolating the performance of smaller models. The existence of such emergence implies that additional scaling could further expand the range of capabilities of language models.
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.
Scale has opened new frontiers in natural language processing -- but at a high cost. In response, Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) and Switch Transformers have been proposed as an energy efficient path to even larger and more capable language models. But advancing the state-of-the-art across a broad set of natural language tasks has been hindered by training instabilities and uncertain quality during fine-tuning. Our work focuses on these issues and acts as a design guide. We conclude by scaling a sparse model to 269B parameters, with a computational cost comparable to a 32B dense encoder-decoder Transformer (Stable and Transferable Mixture-of-Experts or ST-MoE-32B). For the first time, a sparse model achieves state-of-the-art performance in transfer learning, across a diverse set of tasks including reasoning (SuperGLUE, ARC Easy, ARC Challenge), summarization (XSum, CNN-DM), closed book question answering (WebQA, Natural Questions), and adversarially constructed tasks (Winogrande, ANLI R3).
Research on exploration in reinforcement learning, as applied to Atari 2600 game-playing, has emphasized tackling difficult exploration problems such as Montezuma's Revenge (Bellemare et al., 2016). Recently, bonus-based exploration methods, which explore by augmenting the environment reward, have reached above-human average performance on such domains. In this paper we reassess popular bonus-based exploration methods within a common evaluation framework. We combine Rainbow (Hessel et al., 2018) with different exploration bonuses and evaluate its performance on Montezuma's Revenge, Bellemare et al.'s set of hard of exploration games with sparse rewards, and the whole Atari 2600 suite. We find that while exploration bonuses lead to higher score on Montezuma's Revenge they do not provide meaningful gains over the simpler $\epsilon$-greedy scheme. In fact, we find that methods that perform best on that game often underperform $\epsilon$-greedy on easy exploration Atari 2600 games. We find that our conclusions remain valid even when hyperparameters are tuned for these easy-exploration games. Finally, we find that none of the methods surveyed benefit from additional training samples (1 billion frames, versus Rainbow's 200 million) on Bellemare et al.'s hard exploration games. Our results suggest that recent gains in Montezuma's Revenge may be better attributed to architecture change, rather than better exploration schemes; and that the real pace of progress in exploration research for Atari 2600 games may have been obfuscated by good results on a single domain.
* Published as a conference paper at ICLR 2020 * Full version of arXiv:1908.02388
There remain many open questions pertaining to the scaling behaviour of Transformer architectures. These scaling decisions and findings can be critical, as training runs often come with an associated computational cost which have both financial and/or environmental impact. The goal of this paper is to present scaling insights from pretraining and finetuning Transformers. While Kaplan et al. presents a comprehensive study of the scaling behaviour of Transformer language models, the scope is only on the upstream (pretraining) loss. Therefore, it is still unclear if these set of findings transfer to downstream task within the context of the pretrain-finetune paradigm. The key findings of this paper are as follows: (1) we show that aside from only the model size, model shape matters for downstream fine-tuning, (2) scaling protocols operate differently at different compute regions, (3) widely adopted T5-base and T5-large sizes are Pareto-inefficient. To this end, we present improved scaling protocols whereby our redesigned models achieve similar downstream fine-tuning quality while having 50\% fewer parameters and training 40\% faster compared to the widely adopted T5-base model. We publicly release over 100 pretrained checkpoints of different T5 configurations to facilitate future research and analysis.