Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content

Oral Session

Oral 6A LLMs

Hall C2 (level 1 gate 9 south of food court)
Thu 14 Dec 1:20 p.m. PST — 2:20 p.m. PST


Thu 14 Dec. 13:20 - 13:35 PST

Are Emergent Abilities of Large Language Models a Mirage?

Rylan Schaeffer · Brando Miranda · Sanmi Koyejo

Recent work claims that large language models display \textit{emergent abilities}, abilities not present in smaller-scale models that are present in larger-scale models.What makes emergent abilities intriguing is two-fold: their \textit{sharpness}, transitioning seemingly instantaneously from not present to present, and their \textit{unpredictability}, appearing at seemingly unforeseeable model scales.Here, we present an alternative explanation for emergent abilities: that for a particular task and model family, when analyzing fixed model outputs, emergent abilities appear due the researcher’s choice of metric rather than due to fundamental changes in model behavior with scale. Specifically, nonlinear or discontinuous metrics produce apparent emergent abilities, whereas linear or continuous metrics produce smooth, continuous, predictable changes in model performance.We present our alternative explanation in a simple mathematical model, then test it in three complementary ways: we (1) make, test and confirm three predictions on the effect of metric choice using the InstructGPT/GPT-3 family on tasks with claimed emergent abilities, (2) make, test and confirm two predictions about metric choices in a meta-analysis of emergent abilities on BIG-Bench; and (3) show how to choose metrics to produce never-before-seen seemingly emergent abilities in multiple vision tasks across diverse deep networks.Via all three analyses, we provide evidence that alleged emergent abilities evaporate with different metrics or with better statistics, and may not be a fundamental property of scaling AI models.

Thu 14 Dec. 13:35 - 13:50 PST

Task Arithmetic in the Tangent Space: Improved Editing of Pre-Trained Models

Guillermo Ortiz-Jimenez · Alessandro Favero · Pascal Frossard

Task arithmetic has recently emerged as a cost-effective and scalable approach to edit pre-trained models directly in weight space: By adding the fine-tuned weights of different tasks, the model's performance can be improved on these tasks, while negating them leads to task forgetting. Yet, our understanding of the effectiveness of task arithmetic and its underlying principles remains limited. We present a comprehensive study of task arithmetic in vision-language models and show that weight disentanglement is the crucial factor that makes it effective. This property arises during pre-training and manifests when distinct directions in weight space govern separate, localized regions in function space associated with the tasks. Notably, we show that fine-tuning models in their tangent space by linearizing them amplifies weight disentanglement. This leads to substantial performance improvements across multiple task arithmetic benchmarks and diverse models. Building on these findings, we provide theoretical and empirical analyses of the neural tangent kernel (NTK) of these models and establish a compelling link between task arithmetic and the spatial localization of the NTK eigenfunctions. Overall, our work uncovers novel insights into the fundamental mechanisms of task arithmetic and offers a more reliable and effective approach to edit pre-trained models through the NTK linearization.

Thu 14 Dec. 13:50 - 14:05 PST

The Clock and the Pizza: Two Stories in Mechanistic Explanation of Neural Networks

Ziqian Zhong · Ziming Liu · Max Tegmark · Jacob Andreas

Do neural networks, trained on well-understood algorithmic tasks, reliably rediscover known algorithms? Several recent studies, on tasks ranging from group operations to in-context linear regression, have suggested that the answer is yes. Using modular addition as a prototypical problem, we show that algorithm discovery in neural networks is sometimes more complex: small changes to model hyperparameters and initializations can induce discovery of qualitatively different algorithms from a fixed training set, and even learning of multiple different solutions in parallel. In modular addition, we specifically show that models learn a known Clock algorithm, a previously undescribed, less intuitive, but comprehensible procedure we term the Pizza algorithm, and a variety of even more complex procedures. Our results show that even simple learning problems can admit a surprising diversity of solutions, motivating the development of new tools for mechanistically characterizing the behavior of neural networks across the algorithmic phase space.

Thu 14 Dec. 14:05 - 14:20 PST

Jailbroken: How Does LLM Safety Training Fail?

Alexander Wei · Nika Haghtalab · Jacob Steinhardt

Large language models trained for safety and harmlessness remain susceptible to adversarial misuse, as evidenced by the prevalence of “jailbreak” attacks on early releases of ChatGPT that elicit undesired behavior. Going beyond recognition of the issue, we investigate why such attacks succeed and how they can be created. We hypothesize two failure modes of safety training: competing objectives and mismatched generalization. Competing objectives arise when a model’s capabilities and safety goals conflict, while mismatched generalization occurs when safety training fails to generalize to a domain for which capabilities exist. We use these failure modes to guide jailbreak design and then evaluate state-of-the-art models, including OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Anthropic’s Claude v1.3, against both existing and newly designed attacks. We find that vulnerabilities persist despite the extensive red-teaming and safety-training efforts behind these models. Notably, new attacks utilizing our failure modes succeed on every prompt in a collection of unsafe requests from the models’ red-teaming evaluation sets and outperform existing ad hoc jailbreaks. Our analysis emphasizes the need for safety-capability parity—that safety mechanisms should be as sophisticated as the underlying model—and argues against the idea that scaling alone can resolve these safety failure modes.