Fei Mi


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One Cannot Stand for Everyone! Leveraging Multiple User Simulators to train Task-oriented Dialogue Systems
Yajiao Liu | Xin Jiang | Yichun Yin | Yasheng Wang | Fei Mi | Qun Liu | Xiang Wan | Benyou Wang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

User simulators are agents designed to imitate human users; recent advances have found that Task-oriented Dialogue (ToD) systems optimized toward a user simulator could better satisfy the need of human users. However, this might result in a sub-optimal ToD system if it is tailored to only one ad hoc user simulator, since human users can behave differently. In this paper, we propose a framework called MUST to optimize ToD systems via leveraging Multiple User SimulaTors. The main challenges of implementing MUST fall in 1) how to adaptively determine which user simulator to interact with the ToD system at each optimization step, since the ToD system might be over-fitted to some specific user simulators, and simultaneously under-fitted to some others; 2) how to avoid catastrophic forgetting of the adaption for a simulator that is not selected for several consecutive optimization steps.To tackle these challenges, we formulate MUST as a Multi-armed bandits (MAB) problem and provide a method called MUSTadaptive that balances i) the boosting adaption for adaptive interactions between different user simulators and the ToD system andii) the uniform adaption to avoid the catastrophic forgetting issue.With both automatic evaluations and human evaluations, our experimental results on MultiWOZ show that the dialogue system trained by MUST achieves a better performance than those trained by a single user simulator. It also has a better generalization ability when testing with unseen user simulators.

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MoralDial: A Framework to Train and Evaluate Moral Dialogue Systems via Moral Discussions
Hao Sun | Zhexin Zhang | Fei Mi | Yasheng Wang | Wei Liu | Jianwei Cui | Bin Wang | Qun Liu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Morality in dialogue systems has raised great attention in research recently. A moral dialogue system aligned with users’ values could enhance conversation engagement and user connections. In this paper, we propose a framework, MoralDial to train and evaluate moral dialogue systems. In our framework, we first explore the communication mechanisms of morality and resolve expressed morality into three parts, which indicate the roadmap for building a moral dialogue system. Based on that, we design a simple yet effective method: constructing moral discussions between simulated specific users and the dialogue system. The constructed discussions consist of expressing, explaining, revising, and inferring moral views in dialogue exchanges, which makes conversational models learn morality well in a natural manner. Furthermore, we propose a novel evaluation method under the framework. We evaluate the multiple aspects of morality by judging the relation between dialogue responses and human values in discussions, where the multifaceted nature of morality is particularly considered. Automatic and manual experiments demonstrate that our framework is promising to train and evaluate moral dialogue systems.

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Retrieval-free Knowledge Injection through Multi-Document Traversal for Dialogue Models
Rui Wang | Jianzhu Bao | Fei Mi | Yi Chen | Hongru Wang | Yasheng Wang | Yitong Li | Lifeng Shang | Kam-Fai Wong | Ruifeng Xu
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Dialogue models are often enriched with extensive external knowledge to provide informative responses through a retrieval-augmented pipeline. Nevertheless, retrieval-augmented approaches rely on finely annotated retrieval training data and knowledge-grounded response generation data, making it costly to transfer. To tackle this challenge, this paper proposed a retrieval-free approach, KiDG, by automatically turning knowledge documents into simulated multi-turn dialogues through a Multi-Document Traversal algorithm. The simulated knowledge-intensive dialogues constructed by KiDG in one domain can be easily used to train and enhance pre-trained dialogue models’ knowledge w.r.t. this domain without costly annotation. We conduct extensive experiments comparing retrieval-augmented models and a variety of retrieval-free models. We found that dialogue models enhanced with data simulated with KiDG largely outperform state-of-the-art retrieval-free methods, and it achieves comparable performance compared to retrieval-augmented methods while being better, and cheaper at domain transfer.

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DecompEval: Evaluating Generated Texts as Unsupervised Decomposed Question Answering
Pei Ke | Fei Huang | Fei Mi | Yasheng Wang | Qun Liu | Xiaoyan Zhu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Existing evaluation metrics for natural language generation (NLG) tasks face the challenges on generalization ability and interpretability. Specifically, most of the well-performed metrics are required to train on evaluation datasets of specific NLG tasks and evaluation dimensions, which may cause over-fitting to task-specific datasets. Furthermore, existing metrics only provide an evaluation score for each dimension without revealing the evidence to interpret how this score is obtained. To deal with these challenges, we propose a simple yet effective metric called DecompEval. This metric formulates NLG evaluation as an instruction-style question answering task and utilizes instruction-tuned pre-trained language models (PLMs) without training on evaluation datasets, aiming to enhance the generalization ability. To make the evaluation process more interpretable, we decompose our devised instruction-style question about the quality of generated texts into the subquestions that measure the quality of each sentence. The subquestions with their answers generated by PLMs are then recomposed as evidence to obtain the evaluation result. Experimental results show that DecompEval achieves state-of-the-art performance in untrained metrics for evaluating text summarization and dialogue generation, which also exhibits strong dimension-level / task-level generalization ability and interpretability.

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A Synthetic Data Generation Framework for Grounded Dialogues
Jianzhu Bao | Rui Wang | Yasheng Wang | Aixin Sun | Yitong Li | Fei Mi | Ruifeng Xu
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Training grounded response generation models often requires a large collection of grounded dialogues. However, it is costly to build such dialogues. In this paper, we present a synthetic data generation framework (SynDG) for grounded dialogues. The generation process utilizes large pre-trained language models and freely available knowledge data (e.g., Wikipedia pages, persona profiles, etc.). The key idea of designing SynDG is to consider dialogue flow and coherence in the generation process. Specifically, given knowledge data, we first heuristically determine a dialogue flow, which is a series of knowledge pieces. Then, we employ T5 to incrementally turn the dialogue flow into a dialogue. To ensure coherence of both the dialogue flow and the synthetic dialogue, we design a two-level filtering strategy, at the flow-level and the utterance-level respectively. Experiments on two public benchmarks show that the synthetic grounded dialogue data produced by our framework is able to significantly boost model performance in both full training data and low-resource scenarios.

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Towards Fewer Hallucinations in Knowledge-Grounded Dialogue Generation via Augmentative and Contrastive Knowledge-Dialogue
Bin Sun | Yitong Li | Fei Mi | Fanhu Bie | Yiwei Li | Kan Li
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Existing knowledge-grounded open-domain dialogue generation models often face the hallucination problem, i.e. the dialogue generative model will persist in an inappropriate knowledge and generate responses that inconsistent with the facts. We argue that this problem mainly stems from the polarized optimization objectives and weak knowledge generation ability. To mitigate the hallucination, we take inspiration from human communicating that people will replay euphemistic responses for the unclear or unrecognizable knowledge, and propose an Augmentative and Contrastive Knowledge Dialogue Expansion Framework (ACK-DEF). ACK-DEF constructs the augmentative and contrastive knowledge dialogue samples, which consist of the knowledge of different degrees of errors and the response of manual design, to expand the original training set and smooth the polarized optimization objective that enables models to generate ground-truth with or without gold knowledge. Not only the knowledge, ACK-DEF also provides the tactful responses of manual design corresponding to the incomplete correct knowledge. Experimental results on the Wikipedia of Wizard dataset show that employing the ACK-DEF is effective to alleviate the hallucination problem.

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Improving Factual Consistency for Knowledge-Grounded Dialogue Systems via Knowledge Enhancement and Alignment
Boyang Xue | Weichao Wang | Hongru Wang | Fei Mi | Rui Wang | Yasheng Wang | Lifeng Shang | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu | Kam-Fai Wong
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Pretrained language models (PLMs) based knowledge-grounded dialogue systems are prone to generate responses that are factually inconsistent with the provided knowledge source. In such inconsistent responses, the dialogue models fail to accurately express the external factual knowledge they rely upon. Inspired by previous work which identified that feedforward networks (FFNs) within Transformers are responsible for factual knowledge expressions, we investigate two methods to efficiently improve the factual expression capability of FFNs by knowledge enhancement and alignment respectively. We first propose K-Dial, which explicitly introduces extended FFNs in Transformers to enhance factual knowledge expressions given the specific patterns of knowledge-grounded dialogue inputs. Additionally, we apply the reinforcement learning for factual consistency (RLFC) method to implicitly adjust FFNs’ expressions in responses by aligning with gold knowledge for the factual consistency preference. To comprehensively assess the factual consistency and dialogue quality of responses, we employ extensive automatic measures and human evaluations including sophisticated fine-grained NLI-based metrics. Experimental results on WoW and CMU_DoG datasets demonstrate that our methods efficiently enhance the ability of the FFN module to convey factual knowledge, validating the efficacy of improving factual consistency for knowledge-grounded dialogue systems.

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Large Language Models as Source Planner for Personalized Knowledge-grounded Dialogues
Hongru Wang | Minda Hu | Yang Deng | Rui Wang | Fei Mi | Weichao Wang | Yasheng Wang | Wai-Chung Kwan | Irwin King | Kam-Fai Wong
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Open-domain dialogue system usually requires different sources of knowledge to generate more informative and evidential responses. However, existing knowledge-grounded dialogue systems either focus on a single knowledge source or overlook the dependency between multiple sources of knowledge, which may result in generating inconsistent or even paradoxical responses. To incorporate multiple knowledge sources and dependencies between them, we propose SAFARI, a novel framework that leverages the exceptional capabilities of large language models (LLMs) in planning, understanding, and incorporating under both supervised and unsupervised settings. Specifically, SAFARI decouples the knowledge grounding into multiple sources and response generation, which allows easy extension to various knowledge sources including the possibility of not using any sources. To study the problem, we construct a personalized knowledge-grounded dialogue dataset Knowledge Behind Persona (KBP), which is the first to consider the dependency between persona and implicit knowledge. Experimental results on the KBP dataset demonstrate that the SAFARI framework can effectively produce persona-consistent and knowledge-enhanced responses.

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Cue-CoT: Chain-of-thought Prompting for Responding to In-depth Dialogue Questions with LLMs
Hongru Wang | Rui Wang | Fei Mi | Yang Deng | Zezhong Wang | Bin Liang | Ruifeng Xu | Kam-Fai Wong
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, greatly empower dialogue systems with strong language understanding and generation capabilities. However, most of the previous works prompt the LLMs to directly generate a response based on the dialogue context, overlooking the underlying linguistic cues about the user status exhibited in the context. Such in-depth dialogue scenarios are challenging for existing LLMs to figure out the user’s hidden needs and respond satisfactorily through a single-step inference. To this end, we propose a novel linguistic cue-based chain-of-thoughts (Cue-CoT), which enhances the LLMs inference with an intermediate reasoning step to find cues exhibited in the dialogue, aiming to provide a more personalized and engaging response. To evaluate the approach, we build a benchmark with in-depth dialogue questions, consisting of 6 datasets in both Chinese and English, targeting 3 major linguistic cues during the conversation: personality, emotion, and psychology. We conducted experiments on the proposed benchmark with 5 LLMs under both zero-shot and one-shot settings. Empirical results demonstrate our proposed Cue-CoT method outperforms standard prompting methods in terms of both helpfulness and acceptability on all datasets.

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ReSee: Responding through Seeing Fine-grained Visual Knowledge in Open-domain Dialogue
Haoqin Tu | Yitong Li | Fei Mi | Zhongliang Yang
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Incorporating visual knowledge into text-only dialogue systems has become a potential direction to imitate the way humans think, imagine, and communicate. However, existing multimodal dialogue systems are either confined by the scale and quality of available datasets or the coarse concept of visual knowledge. To address these issues, we provide a new paradigm of constructing multimodal dialogues as well as two datasets extended from text-only dialogues under such paradigm (ReSee-WoW, ReSee-DD). We propose to explicitly split the visual knowledge into finer granularity (“turn-level” and “entity-level”). To further boost the accuracy and diversity of augmented visual information, we retrieve them from the Internet or a large image dataset. To demonstrate the superiority and universality of the provided visual knowledge, we propose a simple but effective framework ReSee to add visual representation into vanilla dialogue models by modality concatenations. We also conduct extensive experiments and ablations w.r.t. different model configurations and visual knowledge settings. Empirical, encouraging results not only demonstrate the effectiveness of introducing visual knowledge at both entity and turn level but also verify the proposed model ReSee outperforms several state-of-the-art methods on automatic and human evaluations. By leveraging text and vision knowledge, ReSee can produce informative responses with real-world visual concepts. Our code is available at https://github.com/ImKeTT/ReSee.


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UniDS: A Unified Dialogue System for Chit-Chat and Task-oriented Dialogues
Xinyan Zhao | Bin He | Yasheng Wang | Yitong Li | Fei Mi | Yajiao Liu | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu | Huanhuan Chen
Proceedings of the Second DialDoc Workshop on Document-grounded Dialogue and Conversational Question Answering

With the advances in deep learning, tremendous progress has been made with chit-chat dialogue systems and task-oriented dialogue systems. However, these two systems are often tackled separately in current methods. To achieve more natural interaction with humans, dialogue systems need to be capable of both chatting and accomplishing tasks. To this end, we propose a unified dialogue system (UniDS) with the two aforementioned skills. In particular, we design a unified dialogue data schema, compatible for both chit-chat and task-oriented dialogues. Besides, we propose a two-stage training method to train UniDS based on the unified dialogue data schema. UniDS does not need to adding extra parameters to existing chit-chat dialogue systems. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed UniDS works comparably well as the state-of-the-art chit-chat dialogue systems and task-oriented dialogue systems. More importantly, UniDS achieves better robustness than pure dialogue systems and satisfactory switch ability between two types of dialogues.

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Pan More Gold from the Sand: Refining Open-domain Dialogue Training with Noisy Self-Retrieval Generation
Yihe Wang | Yitong Li | Yasheng Wang | Fei Mi | Pingyi Zhou | Xin Wang | Jin Liu | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Real human conversation data are complicated, heterogeneous, and noisy, from which building open-domain dialogue systems remains a challenging task. In fact, such dialogue data still contains a wealth of information and knowledge, however, they are not fully explored. In this paper, we show existing open-domain dialogue generation methods that memorize context-response paired data with autoregressive or encode-decode language models underutilize the training data. Different from current approaches, using external knowledge, we explore a retrieval-generation training framework that can take advantage of the heterogeneous and noisy training data by considering them as “evidence”. In particular, we use BERTScore for retrieval, which gives better qualities of the evidence and generation. Experiments over publicly available datasets demonstrate that our method can help models generate better responses, even such training data are usually impressed as low-quality data. Such performance gain is comparable with those improved by enlarging the training set, even better. We also found that the model performance has a positive correlation with the relevance of the retrieved evidence. Moreover, our method performed well on zero-shot experiments, which indicates that our method can be more robust to real-world data.

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Continual Prompt Tuning for Dialog State Tracking
Qi Zhu | Bing Li | Fei Mi | Xiaoyan Zhu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

A desirable dialog system should be able to continually learn new skills without forgetting old ones, and thereby adapt to new domains or tasks in its life cycle. However, continually training a model often leads to a well-known catastrophic forgetting issue. In this paper, we present Continual Prompt Tuning, a parameter-efficient framework that not only avoids forgetting but also enables knowledge transfer between tasks. To avoid forgetting, we only learn and store a few prompt tokens’ embeddings for each task while freezing the backbone pre-trained model. To achieve bi-directional knowledge transfer among tasks, we propose several techniques (continual prompt initialization, query fusion, and memory replay) to transfer knowledge from preceding tasks and a memory-guided technique to transfer knowledge from subsequent tasks. Extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of our proposed method on continual learning for dialog state tracking, compared with state-of-the-art baselines.

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AEG: Argumentative Essay Generation via A Dual-Decoder Model with Content Planning
Jianzhu Bao | Yasheng Wang | Yitong Li | Fei Mi | Ruifeng Xu
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Argument generation is an important but challenging task in computational argumentation. Existing studies have mainly focused on generating individual short arguments, while research on generating long and coherent argumentative essays is still under-explored. In this paper, we propose a new task, Argumentative Essay Generation (AEG).Given a writing prompt, the goal of AEG is to automatically generate an argumentative essay with strong persuasiveness. We construct a large-scale dataset, ArgEssay, for this new task and establish a strong model based on a dual-decoder Transformer architecture. Our proposed model contains two decoders, a planning decoder (PD) and a writing decoder (WD), where PD is used to generate a sequence for essay content planning and WD incorporates the planning information to write an essay. Further, we pre-train this model on a large news dataset to enhance the plan-and-write paradigm. Automatic and human evaluation results show that our model can generate more coherent and persuasive essays with higher diversity and less repetition compared to several baselines.

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COLD: A Benchmark for Chinese Offensive Language Detection
Jiawen Deng | Jingyan Zhou | Hao Sun | Chujie Zheng | Fei Mi | Helen Meng | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Offensive language detection is increasingly crucial for maintaining a civilized social media platform and deploying pre-trained language models. However, this task in Chinese is still under exploration due to the scarcity of reliable datasets. To this end, we propose a benchmark –COLD for Chinese offensive language analysis, including a Chinese Offensive Language Dataset –COLDATASET and a baseline detector –COLDETECTOR which is trained on the dataset. We show that the COLD benchmark contributes to Chinese offensive language detection which is challenging for existing resources. We then deploy the COLDETECTOR and conduct detailed analyses on popular Chinese pre-trained language models. We first analyze the offensiveness of existing generative models and show that these models inevitably expose varying degrees of offensive issues. Furthermore, we investigate the factors that influence the offensive generations, and we find that anti-bias contents and keywords referring to certain groups or revealing negative attitudes trigger offensive outputs easier.

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Compilable Neural Code Generation with Compiler Feedback
Xin Wang | Yasheng Wang | Yao Wan | Fei Mi | Yitong Li | Pingyi Zhou | Jin Liu | Hao Wu | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Automatically generating compilable programs with (or without) natural language descriptions has always been a touchstone problem for computational linguistics and automated software engineering. Existing deep-learning approaches model code generation as text generation, either constrained by grammar structures in decoder, or driven by pre-trained language models on large-scale code corpus (e.g., CodeGPT, PLBART, and CodeT5). However, few of them account for compilability of the generated programs. To improve compilability of the generated programs, this paper proposes COMPCODER, a three-stage pipeline utilizing compiler feedback for compilable code generation, including language model fine-tuning, compilability reinforcement, and compilability discrimination. Comprehensive experiments on two code generation tasks demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed approach, improving the success rate of compilation from 44.18 to 89.18 in code completion on average and from 70.3 to 96.2 in text-to-code generation, respectively, when comparing with the state-of-the-art CodeGPT.

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LMTurk: Few-Shot Learners as Crowdsourcing Workers in a Language-Model-as-a-Service Framework
Mengjie Zhao | Fei Mi | Yasheng Wang | Minglei Li | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu | Hinrich Schuetze
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Vast efforts have been devoted to creating high-performance few-shot learners, i.e., large-scale pretrained language models (PLMs) that perform well with little downstream task training data. Training PLMs has incurred significant cost, but utilizing the few-shot learners is still challenging due to their enormous size. This work focuses on a crucial question: How to make effective use of these few-shot learners? We propose LMTurk, a novel approach that treats few-shotlearners as crowdsourcing workers. The rationale is that crowdsourcing workers are in fact few-shot learners: They are shown a few illustrative examples to learn about a task and then start annotating. LMTurk employs few-shot learners built upon PLMs as workers. We show that the resulting annotations can be utilized to train models that solve the task well and are small enough to be deployable in practical scenarios. Active learning is integrated into LMTurk to reduce the amount of queries made to PLMs, minimizing the computational cost of running PLM inference passes. Altogether, LMTurk is an important step towards making effective use of current PLMs.

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Towards Identifying Social Bias in Dialog Systems: Framework, Dataset, and Benchmark
Jingyan Zhou | Jiawen Deng | Fei Mi | Yitong Li | Yasheng Wang | Minlie Huang | Xin Jiang | Qun Liu | Helen Meng
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Among all the safety concerns that hinder the deployment of open-domain dialog systems (e.g., offensive languages, biases, and toxic behaviors), social bias presents an insidious challenge. Addressing this challenge requires rigorous analyses and normative reasoning. In this paper, we focus our investigation on social bias measurement to facilitate the development of unbiased dialog systems. We first propose a novel Dial-Bias Framework for analyzing the social bias in conversations using a holistic method beyond bias lexicons or dichotomous annotations. Leveraging the proposed framework, we further introduce the CDial-Bias Dataset which is, to the best of our knowledge, the first annotated Chinese social bias dialog dataset. We also establish a fine-grained dialog bias measurement benchmark and conduct in-depth ablation studies to shed light on the utility of the detailed annotations in the proposed dataset. Finally, we evaluate representative Chinese generative models with our classifiers to unveil the presence of social bias in these systems.

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Constructing Highly Inductive Contexts for Dialogue Safety through Controllable Reverse Generation
Zhexin Zhang | Jiale Cheng | Hao Sun | Jiawen Deng | Fei Mi | Yasheng Wang | Lifeng Shang | Minlie Huang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Large pretrained language models can easily produce toxic or biased content, which is prohibitive for practical use. In order to detect such toxic generations, existing methods rely on templates, real-world data extraction, crowdsourcing workers or automatic generation to construct adversarial contexts that are likely to induce toxic generations. However, what type of context is more likely to induce unsafe responses is still under-explored. In this paper, we identify that context toxicity and context category (e.g., profanity, insult, drugs, etc.) are two important factors to cause safety issues in response generation. Hence, we propose a method called reverse generation to construct adversarial contexts conditioned on a given response, with the flexibility to control category, toxicity level and inductivity of the generated contexts. Via reverse generation, we augment the existing BAD dataset and construct a new dataset BAD+ which contains more than 120K diverse and highly inductive contexts in 12 categories. We test three popular pretrained dialogue models (Blender, DialoGPT and Plato2) and find that BAD+ can largely expose their safety problems. Furthermore, we show that BAD+ can greatly enhance the safety of generation, and we reveal the key factors of safety improvement. Our code and dataset is available at https://github.com/thu-coai/Reverse_Generation.

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Modeling Complex Dialogue Mappings via Sentence Semantic Segmentation Guided Conditional Variational Auto-Encoder
Bin Sun | Shaoxiong Feng | Yiwei Li | Weichao Wang | Fei Mi | Yitong Li | Kan Li
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Complex dialogue mappings (CDM), including one-to-many and many-to-one mappings, tend to make dialogue models generate incoherent or dull responses, and modeling these mappings remains a huge challenge for neural dialogue systems. To alleviate these problems, methods like introducing external information, reconstructing the optimization function, and manipulating data samples are proposed, while they primarily focus on avoiding training with CDM, inevitably weakening the model’s ability of understanding CDM in human conversations and limiting further improvements in model performance. This paper proposes a Sentence Semantic Segmentation guided Conditional Variational Auto-Encoder (SegCVAE) method which can model and take advantages of the CDM data. Specifically, to tackle the incoherent problem caused by one-to-many, SegCVAE uses response-related prominent semantics to constrained the latent variable. To mitigate the non-diverse problem brought by many-to-one, SegCVAE segments multiple prominent semantics to enrich the latent variables. Three novel components, Internal Separation, External Guidance, and Semantic Norms, are proposed to achieve SegCVAE. On dialogue generation tasks, both the automatic and human evaluation results show that SegCVAE achieves new state-of-the-art performance.


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Self-training Improves Pre-training for Few-shot Learning in Task-oriented Dialog Systems
Fei Mi | Wanhao Zhou | Lingjing Kong | Fengyu Cai | Minlie Huang | Boi Faltings
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

As the labeling cost for different modules in task-oriented dialog (ToD) systems is expensive, a major challenge is to train different modules with the least amount of labeled data. Recently, large-scale pre-trained language models, have shown promising results for few-shot learning in ToD. In this paper, we devise a self-training approach to utilize the abundant unlabeled dialog data to further improve state-of-the-art pre-trained models in few-shot learning scenarios for ToD systems. Specifically, we propose a self-training approach that iteratively labels the most confident unlabeled data to train a stronger Student model. Moreover, a new text augmentation technique (GradAug) is proposed to better train the Student by replacing non-crucial tokens using a masked language model. We conduct extensive experiments and present analyses on four downstream tasks in ToD, including intent classification, dialog state tracking, dialog act prediction, and response selection. Empirical results demonstrate that the proposed self-training approach consistently improves state-of-the-art pre-trained models (BERT, ToD-BERT) when only a small number of labeled data are available.


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Masking as an Efficient Alternative to Finetuning for Pretrained Language Models
Mengjie Zhao | Tao Lin | Fei Mi | Martin Jaggi | Hinrich Schütze
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

We present an efficient method of utilizing pretrained language models, where we learn selective binary masks for pretrained weights in lieu of modifying them through finetuning. Extensive evaluations of masking BERT, RoBERTa, and DistilBERT on eleven diverse NLP tasks show that our masking scheme yields performance comparable to finetuning, yet has a much smaller memory footprint when several tasks need to be inferred. Intrinsic evaluations show that representations computed by our binary masked language models encode information necessary for solving downstream tasks. Analyzing the loss landscape, we show that masking and finetuning produce models that reside in minima that can be connected by a line segment with nearly constant test accuracy. This confirms that masking can be utilized as an efficient alternative to finetuning.

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Continual Learning for Natural Language Generation in Task-oriented Dialog Systems
Fei Mi | Liangwei Chen | Mengjie Zhao | Minlie Huang | Boi Faltings
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Natural language generation (NLG) is an essential component of task-oriented dialog systems. Despite the recent success of neural approaches for NLG, they are typically developed in an offline manner for particular domains. To better fit real-life applications where new data come in a stream, we study NLG in a “continual learning” setting to expand its knowledge to new domains or functionalities incrementally. The major challenge towards this goal is catastrophic forgetting, meaning that a continually trained model tends to forget the knowledge it has learned before. To this end, we propose a method called ARPER (Adaptively Regularized Prioritized Exemplar Replay) by replaying prioritized historical exemplars, together with an adaptive regularization technique based on Elastic Weight Consolidation. Extensive experiments to continually learn new domains and intents are conducted on MultiWoZ-2.0 to benchmark ARPER with a wide range of techniques. Empirical results demonstrate that ARPER significantly outperforms other methods by effectively mitigating the detrimental catastrophic forgetting issue.