How to usefully encode compositional task structure has long been a core challenge in AI. Recent work in chain of thought prompting has shown that for very large neural language models (LMs), explicitly demonstrating the inferential steps involved in a target task may improve performance over end-to-end learning that focuses on the target task alone. However, chain of thought prompting has significant limitations due to its dependency on huge pretrained LMs. In this work, we present compositional fine-tuning (CFT): an approach based on explicitly decomposing a target task into component tasks, and then fine-tuning smaller LMs on a curriculum of such component tasks. We apply CFT to recommendation tasks in two domains, world travel and local dining, as well as a previously studied inferential task (sports understanding). We show that CFT outperforms end-to-end learning even with equal amounts of data, and gets consistently better as more component tasks are modeled via fine-tuning. Compared with chain of thought prompting, CFT performs at least as well using LMs only 7.4% of the size, and is moreover applicable to task domains for which data are not available during pretraining.
The capabilities of today’s natural language processing systems are typically evaluated using large datasets of curated questions and answers. While these are critical benchmarks of progress, they also suffer from weakness due to artificial distributions and incomplete knowledge. Artifacts arising from artificial distributions can overstate language model performance, while incomplete knowledge limits fine-grained analysis. In this work, we introduce a complementary benchmarking approach based on SimPlified Language Activity Traces (SPLAT). SPLATs are corpora of language encodings of activity in some closed domain (we study traces from chess and baseball games in this work). SPLAT datasets use naturally-arising distributions, allow the generation of question-answer pairs at scale, and afford complete knowledge in their closed domains. We show that language models of three different architectures can answer questions about world states using only verb-like encodings of activity. Our approach is extensible to new language models and additional question-answering tasks.
Neural Network Language Models (NNLMs) generate probability distributions by applying a softmax function to a distance metric formed by taking the dot product of a prediction vector with all word vectors in a high-dimensional embedding space. The dot-product distance metric forms part of the inductive bias of NNLMs. Although NNLMs optimize well with this inductive bias, we show that this results in a sub-optimal ordering of the embedding space that structurally impoverishes some words at the expense of others when assigning probability. We present numerical, theoretical and empirical analyses which show that words on the interior of the convex hull in the embedding space have their probability bounded by the probabilities of the words on the hull.