Ethics is one of the longest standing intellectual endeavors of humanity. In recent years, the fields of AI and NLP have attempted to address issues of harmful outcomes in machine learning systems that are made to interface with humans. One recent approach in this vein is the construction of NLP morality models that can take in arbitrary text and output a moral judgment about the situation described. In this work, we offer a critique of such NLP methods for automating ethical decision-making. Through an audit of recent work on computational approaches for predicting morality, we examine the broader issues that arise from such efforts. We conclude with a discussion of how machine ethics could usefully proceed in NLP, by focusing on current and near-future uses of technology, in a way that centers around transparency, democratic values, and allows for straightforward accountability.
The Universal Morphology (UniMorph) project is a collaborative effort providing broad-coverage instantiated normalized morphological inflection tables for hundreds of diverse world languages. The project comprises two major thrusts: a language-independent feature schema for rich morphological annotation, and a type-level resource of annotated data in diverse languages realizing that schema. This paper presents the expansions and improvements on several fronts that were made in the last couple of years (since McCarthy et al. (2020)). Collaborative efforts by numerous linguists have added 66 new languages, including 24 endangered languages. We have implemented several improvements to the extraction pipeline to tackle some issues, e.g., missing gender and macrons information. We have amended the schema to use a hierarchical structure that is needed for morphological phenomena like multiple-argument agreement and case stacking, while adding some missing morphological features to make the schema more inclusive.In light of the last UniMorph release, we also augmented the database with morpheme segmentation for 16 languages. Lastly, this new release makes a push towards inclusion of derivational morphology in UniMorph by enriching the data and annotation schema with instances representing derivational processes from MorphyNet.
Dialog modelling faces a difficult trade-off. Models are trained on a large amount of text, yet their responses need to be limited to a desired scope and style of a dialog agent. Because the datasets used to achieve the former contain language that is not compatible with the latter, pre-trained dialog models are fine-tuned on smaller curated datasets. However, the fine-tuning process robs them of the ability to produce diverse responses, eventually reducing them to dull conversation partners. In this paper we investigate if prompting can help with mitigating the above trade-off. Specifically, we experiment with conditioning the prompt on the query, rather than training a single prompt for all queries. By following the intuition that freezing the pre-trained language model will conserve its expressivity, we find that compared to fine-tuning, prompting can achieve a higher BLEU score and substantially improve the diversity and novelty of the responses.
Recombining known primitive concepts into larger novel combinations is a quintessentially human cognitive capability. Whether large neural models in NLP acquire this ability while learning from data is an open question. In this paper, we look at this problem from the perspective of formal languages. We use deterministic finite-state transducers to make an unbounded number of datasets with controllable properties governing compositionality. By randomly sampling over many transducers, we explore which of their properties (number of states, alphabet size, number of transitions etc.) contribute to learnability of a compositional relation by a neural network. In general, we find that the models either learn the relations completely or not at all. The key is transition coverage, setting a soft learnability limit at 400 examples per transition.
In common law, the outcome of a new case is determined mostly by precedent cases, rather than by existing statutes. However, how exactly does the precedent influence the outcome of a new case? Answering this question is crucial for guaranteeing fair and consistent judicial decision-making. We are the first to approach this question computationally by comparing two longstanding jurisprudential views; Halsbury’s, who believes that the arguments of the precedent are the main determinant of the outcome, and Goodhart’s, who believes that what matters most is the precedent’s facts. We base our study on the corpus of legal cases from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which allows us to access not only the case itself, but also cases cited in the judges’ arguments (i.e. the precedent cases). Taking an information-theoretic view, and modelling the question as a case out-come classification task, we find that the precedent’s arguments share 0.38 nats of information with the case’s outcome, whereas precedent’s facts only share 0.18 nats of information (i.e.,58% less); suggesting Halsbury’s view may be more accurate in this specific court. We found however in a qualitative analysis that there are specific statues where Goodhart’s view dominates, and present some evidence these are the ones where the legal concept at hand is less straightforward.
In this work, we systematically investigate how well current models of coherence can capture aspects of text implicated in discourse organisation. We devise two datasets of various linguistic alterations that undermine coherence and test model sensitivity to changes in syntax and semantics. We furthermore probe discourse embedding space and examine the knowledge that is encoded in representations of coherence. We hope this study shall provide further insight into how to frame the task and improve models of coherence assessment further. Finally, we make our datasets publicly available as a resource for researchers to use to test discourse coherence models.
A broad goal in natural language processing (NLP) is to develop a system that has the capacity to process any natural language. Most systems, however, are developed using data from just one language such as English. The SIGMORPHON 2020 shared task on morphological reinflection aims to investigate systems’ ability to generalize across typologically distinct languages, many of which are low resource. Systems were developed using data from 45 languages and just 5 language families, fine-tuned with data from an additional 45 languages and 10 language families (13 in total), and evaluated on all 90 languages. A total of 22 systems (19 neural) from 10 teams were submitted to the task. All four winning systems were neural (two monolingual transformers and two massively multilingual RNN-based models with gated attention). Most teams demonstrate utility of data hallucination and augmentation, ensembles, and multilingual training for low-resource languages. Non-neural learners and manually designed grammars showed competitive and even superior performance on some languages (such as Ingrian, Tajik, Tagalog, Zarma, Lingala), especially with very limited data. Some language families (Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, Turkic) were relatively easy for most systems and achieved over 90% mean accuracy while others were more challenging.
The success of neural networks on a diverse set of NLP tasks has led researchers to question how much these networks actually “know” about natural language. Probes are a natural way of assessing this. When probing, a researcher chooses a linguistic task and trains a supervised model to predict annotations in that linguistic task from the network’s learned representations. If the probe does well, the researcher may conclude that the representations encode knowledge related to the task. A commonly held belief is that using simpler models as probes is better; the logic is that simpler models will identify linguistic structure, but not learn the task itself. We propose an information-theoretic operationalization of probing as estimating mutual information that contradicts this received wisdom: one should always select the highest performing probe one can, even if it is more complex, since it will result in a tighter estimate, and thus reveal more of the linguistic information inherent in the representation. The experimental portion of our paper focuses on empirically estimating the mutual information between a linguistic property and BERT, comparing these estimates to several baselines. We evaluate on a set of ten typologically diverse languages often underrepresented in NLP research—plus English—totalling eleven languages. Our implementation is available in https://github.com/rycolab/info-theoretic-probing.
Measuring what linguistic information is encoded in neural models of language has become popular in NLP. Researchers approach this enterprise by training “probes”—supervised models designed to extract linguistic structure from another model’s output. One such probe is the structural probe (Hewitt and Manning, 2019), designed to quantify the extent to which syntactic information is encoded in contextualised word representations. The structural probe has a novel design, unattested in the parsing literature, the precise benefit of which is not immediately obvious. To explore whether syntactic probes would do better to make use of existing techniques, we compare the structural probe to a more traditional parser with an identical lightweight parameterisation. The parser outperforms structural probe on UUAS in seven of nine analysed languages, often by a substantial amount (e.g. by 11.1 points in English). Under a second less common metric, however, there is the opposite trend—the structural probe outperforms the parser. This begs the question: which metric should we prefer?