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.
The problem of designing NLP solvers for math word problems (MWP) has seen sustained research activity and steady gains in the test accuracy. Since existing solvers achieve high performance on the benchmark datasets for elementary level MWPs containing one-unknown arithmetic word problems, such problems are often considered “solved” with the bulk of research attention moving to more complex MWPs. In this paper, we restrict our attention to English MWPs taught in grades four and lower. We provide strong evidence that the existing MWP solvers rely on shallow heuristics to achieve high performance on the benchmark datasets. To this end, we show that MWP solvers that do not have access to the question asked in the MWP can still solve a large fraction of MWPs. Similarly, models that treat MWPs as bag-of-words can also achieve surprisingly high accuracy. Further, we introduce a challenge dataset, SVAMP, created by applying carefully chosen variations over examples sampled from existing datasets. The best accuracy achieved by state-of-the-art models is substantially lower on SVAMP, thus showing that much remains to be done even for the simplest of the MWPs.
Transformers are being used extensively across several sequence modeling tasks. Significant research effort has been devoted to experimentally probe the inner workings of Transformers. However, our conceptual and theoretical understanding of their power and inherent limitations is still nascent. In particular, the roles of various components in Transformers such as positional encodings, attention heads, residual connections, and feedforward networks, are not clear. In this paper, we take a step towards answering these questions. We analyze the computational power as captured by Turing-completeness. We first provide an alternate and simpler proof to show that vanilla Transformers are Turing-complete and then we prove that Transformers with only positional masking and without any positional encoding are also Turing-complete. We further analyze the necessity of each component for the Turing-completeness of the network; interestingly, we find that a particular type of residual connection is necessary. We demonstrate the practical implications of our results via experiments on machine translation and synthetic tasks.