Tag Archives: Natural Language Understanding

Evaluating Syntactic Abilities of Language Models

In recent years, pre-trained language models, such as BERT and GPT-3, have seen widespread use in natural language processing (NLP). By training on large volumes of text, language models acquire broad knowledge about the world, achieving strong performance on various NLP benchmarks. These models, however, are often opaque in that it may not be clear why they perform so well, which limits further hypothesis-driven improvement of the models. Hence, a new line of scientific inquiry has arisen: what linguistic knowledge is contained in these models?

While there are many types of linguistic knowledge that one may want to investigate, a topic that provides a strong basis for analysis is the subject–verb agreement grammar rule in English, which requires that the grammatical number of a verb agree with that of the subject. For example, the sentence “The dogs run.” is grammatical because “dogs” and “run” are both plural, but “The dogs runs.” is ungrammatical because “runs” is a singular verb.

One framework for assessing the linguistic knowledge of a language model is targeted syntactic evaluation (TSE), in which minimally different pairs of sentences, one grammatical and one ungrammatical, are shown to a model, and the model must determine which one is grammatical. TSE can be used to test knowledge of the English subject–verb agreement rule by having the model judge between two versions of the same sentence: one where a particular verb is written in its singular form, and the other in which the verb is written in its plural form.

With the above context, in “Frequency Effects on Syntactic Rule-Learning in Transformers”, published at EMNLP 2021, we investigated how a BERT model’s ability to correctly apply the English subject–verb agreement rule is affected by the number of times the words are seen by the model during pre-training. To test specific conditions, we pre-trained BERT models from scratch using carefully controlled datasets. We found that BERT achieves good performance on subject–verb pairs that do not appear together in the pre-training data, which indicates that it does learn to apply subject–verb agreement. However, the model tends to predict the incorrect form when it is much more frequent than the correct form, indicating that BERT does not treat grammatical agreement as a rule that must be followed. These results help us to better understand the strengths and limitations of pre-trained language models.

Prior Work
Previous work used TSE to measure English subject–verb agreement ability in a BERT model. In this setup, BERT performs a fill-in-the-blank task (e.g., “the dog _ across the park”) by assigning probabilities to both the singular and plural forms of a given verb (e.g., “runs” and “run”). If the model has correctly learned to apply the subject–verb agreement rule, then it should consistently assign higher probabilities to the verb forms that make the sentences grammatically correct.

This previous work evaluated BERT using both natural sentences (drawn from Wikipedia) and nonce sentences, which are artificially constructed to be grammatically valid but semantically nonsensical, such as Noam Chomsky’s famous example “colorless green ideas sleep furiously”. Nonce sentences are useful when testing syntactic abilities because the model cannot just fall back on superficial corpus statistics: for example, while “dogs run” is much more common than “dogs runs”, “dogs publish” and “dogs publishes” will both be very rare, so a model is not likely to have simply memorized the fact that one of them is more likely than the other.

BERT achieves an accuracy of more than 80% on nonce sentences (far better than the random-chance baseline of 50%), which was taken as evidence that the model had learned to apply the subject–verb agreement rule. In our paper, we went beyond this previous work by pre-training BERT models under specific data conditions, allowing us to dig deeper into these results to see how certain patterns in the pre-training data affect performance.

Unseen Subject–Verb Pairs
We first looked at how well the model performs on subject–verb pairs that were seen during pre-training, versus examples in which the subject and verb were never seen together in the same sentence:

BERT’s error rate on natural and nonce evaluation sentences, stratified by whether a particular subject–verb (SV) pair was seen in the same sentence during training or not. BERT’s performance on unseen SV pairs is far better than simple heuristics such as picking the more frequent verb or picking the more frequent SV pair.

BERT’s error rate increases slightly for unseen subject–verb (SV) pairs, for both natural and nonce evaluation sentences, but it is still much better than naïve heuristics, such as picking the verb form that occurred more often in the pre-training data or picking the verb form that occurred more frequently with the subject noun. This tells us that BERT is not just reflecting back the things that it sees during pre-training: making decisions based on more than just raw frequencies and generalizing to novel subject–verb pairs are indications that the model has learned to apply some underlying rule concerning subject–verb agreement.

Frequency of Verbs
Next, we went beyond just seen versus unseen, and examined how the frequency of a word affects BERT’s ability to use it correctly with the subject–verb agreement rule. For this study, we chose a set of 60 verbs, and then created several versions of the pre-training data, each engineered to contain the 60 verbs at a specific frequency, ensuring that the singular and plural forms appeared the same number of times. We then trained BERT models from these different datasets and evaluated them on the subject–verb agreement task:

BERT’s ability to follow the subject–verb agreement rule depends on the frequency of verbs in the training set.

These results indicate that although BERT is able to model the subject–verb agreement rule, it needs to see a verb about 100 times before it can reliably use it with the rule.

Relative Frequency Between Verb Forms
Finally, we wanted to understand how the relative frequencies of the singular and plural forms of a verb affect BERT’s predictions. For example, if one form of the verb (e.g., “combat”) appeared in the pre-training data much more frequently than the other verb form (e.g., “combats”), then BERT might be more likely to assign a high probability to the more frequent form, even when it is grammatically incorrect. To evaluate this, we again used the same 60 verbs, but this time we created manipulated versions of the pre-training data where the frequency ratio between verb forms varied from 1:1 to 100:1. The figure below shows BERT’s performance for these varying levels of frequency imbalance:

As the frequency ratio between verb forms in training data becomes more imbalanced, BERT’s ability to use those verbs grammatically decreases.

These results show that BERT achieves good accuracy at predicting the correct verb form when the two forms are seen the same number of times during pre-training, but the results become worse as the imbalance between the frequencies increases. This implies that even though BERT has learned how to apply subject–verb agreement, it does not necessarily use it as a “rule”, instead preferring to predict high-frequency words regardless of whether they violate the subject–verb agreement constraint.

Conclusions
Using TSE to evaluate the performance of BERT reveals its linguistic abilities on syntactic tasks. Moreover, studying its syntactic ability in relation to how often words appear in the training dataset reveals the ways that BERT handles competing priorities — it knows that subjects and verbs should agree and that high frequency words are more likely, but doesn’t understand that agreement is a rule that must be followed and that the frequency is only a preference. We hope this work provides new insight into how language models reflect properties of the datasets on which they are trained.

Acknowledgements
It was a privilege to collaborate with Tal Linzen and Ellie Pavlick on this project.

Source: Google AI Blog


Predicting Text Selections with Federated Learning

Smart Text Selection, launched in 2017 as part of Android O, is one of Android’s most frequently used features, helping users select, copy, and use text easily and quickly by predicting the desired word or set of words around a user’s tap, and automatically expanding the selection appropriately. Through this feature, selections are automatically expanded, and for selections with defined classification types, e.g., addresses and phone numbers, users are offered an app with which to open the selection, saving users even more time.

Today we describe how we have improved the performance of Smart Text Selection by using federated learning to train the neural network model on user interactions responsibly while preserving user privacy. This work, which is part of Android’s new Private Compute Core secure environment, enabled us to improve the model’s selection accuracy by up to 20% on some types of entities.

Server-Side Proxy Data for Entity Selections
Smart Text Selection, which is the same technology behind Smart Linkify, does not predict arbitrary selections, but focuses on well-defined entities, such as addresses or phone numbers, and tries to predict the selection bounds for those categories. In the absence of multi-word entities, the model is trained to only select a single word in order to minimize the frequency of making multi-word selections in error.

The Smart Text Selection feature was originally trained using proxy data sourced from web pages to which schema.org annotations had been applied. These entities were then embedded in a selection of random text, and the model was trained to select just the entity, without spilling over into the random text surrounding it.

While this approach of training on schema.org-annotations worked, it had several limitations. The data was quite different from text that we expect users see on-device. For example, websites with schema.org annotations typically have entities with more proper formatting than what users might type on their phones. In addition, the text samples in which the entities were embedded for training were random and did not reflect realistic context on-device.

On-Device Feedback Signal for Federated Learning
With this new launch, the model no longer uses proxy data for span prediction, but is instead trained on-device on real interactions using federated learning. This is a training approach for machine learning models in which a central server coordinates model training that is split among many devices, while the raw data used stays on the local device. A standard federated learning training process works as follows: The server starts by initializing the model. Then, an iterative process begins in which (a) devices get sampled, (b) selected devices improve the model using their local data, and (c) then send back only the improved model, not the data used for training. The server then averages the updates it received to create the model that is sent out in the next iteration.

For Smart Text Selection, each time a user taps to select text and corrects the model’s suggestion, Android gets precise feedback for what selection span the model should have predicted. In order to preserve user privacy, the selections are temporarily kept on the device, without being visible server-side, and are then used to improve the model by applying federated learning techniques. This technique has the advantage of training the model on the same kind of data that it sees during inference.

Federated Learning & Privacy
One of the advantages of the federated learning approach is that it enables user privacy, because raw data is not exposed to a server. Instead, the server only receives updated model weights. Still, to protect against various threats, we explored ways to protect the on-device data, securely aggregate gradients, and reduce the risk of model memorization.

The on-device code for training Federated Smart Text Selection models is part of Android’s Private Compute Core secure environment, which makes it particularly well situated to securely handle user data. This is because the training environment in Private Compute Core is isolated from the network and data egress is only allowed when federated and other privacy-preserving techniques are applied. In addition to network isolation, data in Private Compute Core is protected by policies that restrict how it can be used, thus protecting from malicious code that may have found its way onto the device.

To aggregate model updates produced by the on-device training code, we use Secure Aggregation, a cryptographic protocol that allows servers to compute the mean update for federated learning model training without reading the updates provided by individual devices. In addition to being individually protected by Secure Aggregation, the updates are also protected by transport encryption, creating two layers of defense against attackers on the network.

Finally, we looked into model memorization. In principle, it is possible for characteristics of the training data to be encoded in the updates sent to the server, survive the aggregation process, and end up being memorized by the global model. This could make it possible for an attacker to attempt to reconstruct the training data from the model. We used methods from Secret Sharer, an analysis technique that quantifies to what degree a model unintentionally memorizes its training data, to empirically verify that the model was not memorizing sensitive information. Further, we employed data masking techniques to prevent certain kinds of sensitive data from ever being seen by the model

In combination, these techniques help ensure that Federated Smart Text Selection is trained in a way that preserves user privacy.

Achieving Superior Model Quality
Initial attempts to train the model using federated learning were unsuccessful. The loss did not converge and predictions were essentially random. Debugging the training process was difficult, because the training data was on-device and not centrally collected, and so, it could not be examined or verified. In fact, in such a case, it’s not even possible to determine if the data looks as expected, which is often the first step in debugging machine learning pipelines.

To overcome this challenge, we carefully designed high-level metrics that gave us an understanding of how the model behaved during training. Such metrics included the number of training examples, selection accuracy, and recall and precision metrics for each entity type. These metrics are collected during federated training via federated analytics, a similar process as the collection of the model weights. Through these metrics and many analyses, we were able to better understand which aspects of the system worked well and where bugs could exist.

After fixing these bugs and making additional improvements, such as implementing on-device filters for data, using better federated optimization methods and applying more robust gradient aggregators, the model trained nicely.

Results
Using this new federated approach, we were able to significantly improve Smart Text Selection models, with the degree depending on the language being used. Typical improvements ranged between 5% and 7% for multi-word selection accuracy, with no drop in single-word performance. The accuracy of correctly selecting addresses (the most complex type of entity supported) increased by between 8% and 20%, again, depending on the language being used. These improvements lead to millions of additional selections being automatically expanded for users every day.

Internationalization
An additional advantage of this federated learning approach for Smart Text Selection is its ability to scale to additional languages. Server-side training required manual tweaking of the proxy data for each language in order to make it more similar to on-device data. While this only works to some degree, it takes a tremendous amount of effort for each additional language.

The federated learning pipeline, however, trains on user interactions, without the need for such manual adjustments. Once the model achieved good results for English, we applied the same pipeline to Japanese and saw even greater improvements, without needing to tune the system specifically for Japanese selections.

We hope that this new federated approach lets us scale Smart Text Selection to many more languages. Ideally this will also work without manual tuning of the system, making it possible to support even low-resource languages.

Conclusion
We developed a federated way of learning to predict text selections based on user interactions, resulting in much improved Smart Text Selection models deployed to Android users. This approach required the use of federated learning, since it works without collecting user data on the server. Additionally, we used many state-of-the-art privacy approaches, such as Android's new Private Compute Core, Secure Aggregation and the Secret Sharer method. The results show that privacy does not have to be a limiting factor when training models. Instead, we managed to obtain a significantly better model, while ensuring that users' data stays private.

Acknowledgements
Many people contributed to this work. We would like to thank Lukas Zilka, Asela Gunawardana, Silvano Bonacina, Seth Welna, Tony Mak, Chang Li, Abodunrinwa Toki, Sergey Volnov, Matt Sharifi, Abhanshu Sharma, Eugenio Marchiori, Jacek Jurewicz, Nicholas Carlini, Jordan McClead, Sophia Kovaleva, Evelyn Kao, Tom Hume, Alex Ingerman, Brendan McMahan, Fei Zheng, Zachary Charles, Sean Augenstein, Zachary Garrett, Stefan Dierauf, David Petrou, Vishwath Mohan, Hunter King, Emily Glanz, Hubert Eichner, Krzysztof Ostrowski, Jakub Konecny, Shanshan Wu, Janel Thamkul, Elizabeth Kemp, and everyone else involved in the project.

Source: Google AI Blog


GoEmotions: A Dataset for Fine-Grained Emotion Classification

Emotions are a key aspect of social interactions, influencing the way people behave and shaping relationships. This is especially true with language — with only a few words, we're able to express a wide variety of subtle and complex emotions. As such, it’s been a long-term goal among the research community to enable machines to understand context and emotion, which would, in turn, enable a variety of applications, including empathetic chatbots, models to detect harmful online behavior, and improved customer support interactions.

In the past decade, the NLP research community has made available several datasets for language-based emotion classification. The majority of those are constructed manually and cover targeted domains (news headlines, movie subtitles, and even fairy tales) but tend to be relatively small, or focus only on the six basic emotions (anger, surprise, disgust, joy, fear, and sadness) that were proposed in 1992. While these emotion datasets enabled initial explorations into emotion classification, they also highlighted the need for a large-scale dataset over a more extensive set of emotions that could facilitate a broader scope of future potential applications.

In “GoEmotions: A Dataset of Fine-Grained Emotions”, we describe GoEmotions, a human-annotated dataset of 58k Reddit comments extracted from popular English-language subreddits and labeled with 27 emotion categories . As the largest fully annotated English language fine-grained emotion dataset to date, we designed the GoEmotions taxonomy with both psychology and data applicability in mind. In contrast to the basic six emotions, which include only one positive emotion (joy), our taxonomy includes 12 positive, 11 negative, 4 ambiguous emotion categories and 1 “neutral”, making it widely suitable for conversation understanding tasks that require a subtle differentiation between emotion expressions.

We are releasing the GoEmotions dataset along with a detailed tutorial that demonstrates the process of training a neural model architecture (available on TensorFlow Model Garden) using GoEmotions and applying it for the task of suggesting emojis based on conversational text. In the GoEmotions Model Card we explore additional uses for models built with GoEmotions, as well as considerations and limitations for using the data.

This text expresses several emotions at once, including excitement, approval and gratitude.
This text expresses relief, a complex emotion conveying both positive and negative sentiment.
This text conveys remorse, a complex emotion that is expressed frequently but is not captured by simple models of emotion.

Building the Dataset
Our goal was to build a large dataset, focused on conversational data, where emotion is a critical component of the communication. Because the Reddit platform offers a large, publicly available volume of content that includes direct user-to-user conversation, it is a valuable resource for emotion analysis. So, we built GoEmotions using Reddit comments from 2005 (the start of Reddit) to January 2019, sourced from subreddits with at least 10k comments, excluding deleted and non-English comments.

To enable building broadly representative emotion models, we applied data curation measures to ensure the dataset does not reinforce general, nor emotion-specific, language biases. This was particularly important because Reddit has a known demographic bias leaning towards young male users, which is not reflective of a globally diverse population. The platform also introduces a skew towards toxic, offensive language. To address these concerns, we identified harmful comments using predefined terms for offensive/adult and vulgar content, and for identity and religion, which we used for data filtering and masking. We additionally filtered the data to reduce profanity, limit text length, and balance for represented emotions and sentiments. To avoid over-representation of popular subreddits and to ensure the comments also reflect less active subreddits, we also balanced the data among subreddit communities.

We created a taxonomy seeking to jointly maximize three objectives: (1) provide the greatest coverage of the emotions expressed in Reddit data; (2) provide the greatest coverage of types of emotional expressions; and (3) limit the overall number of emotions and their overlap. Such a taxonomy allows data-driven fine-grained emotion understanding, while also addressing potential data sparsity for some emotions.

Establishing the taxonomy was an iterative process to define and refine the emotion label categories. During the data labeling stages, we considered a total of 56 emotion categories. From this sample, we identified and removed emotions that were scarcely selected by raters, had low interrater agreement due to similarity to other emotions, or were difficult to detect from text. We also added emotions that were frequently suggested by raters and were well represented in the data. Finally, we refined emotion category names to maximize interpretability, leading to high interrater agreement, with 94% of examples having at least two raters agreeing on at least 1 emotion label.

The published GoEmotions dataset includes the taxonomy presented below, and was fully collected through a final round of data labeling where both the taxonomy and rating standards were pre-defined and fixed.

GoEmotions taxonomy: Includes 28 emotion categories, including “neutral”.

Data Analysis and Results
Emotions are not distributed uniformly in the GoEmotions dataset. Importantly, the high frequency of positive emotions reinforces our motivation for a more diverse emotion taxonomy than that offered by the canonical six basic emotions.

To validate that our taxonomic choices match the underlying data, we conduct principal preserved component analysis (PPCA), a method used to compare two datasets by extracting linear combinations of emotion judgments that exhibit the highest joint variability across two sets of raters. It therefore helps us uncover dimensions of emotion that have high agreement across raters. PPCA was used before to understand principal dimensions of emotion recognition in video and speech, and we use it here to understand the principal dimensions of emotion in text.

We find that each component is significant (with p-values < 1.5e-6 for all dimensions), indicating that each emotion captures a unique part of the data. This is not trivial, since in previous work on emotion recognition in speech, only 12 out of 30 dimensions of emotion were found to be significant.

We examine the clustering of the defined emotions based on correlations among rater judgments. With this approach, two emotions will cluster together when they are frequently co-selected by raters. We find that emotions that are related in terms of their sentiment (negative, positive and ambiguous) cluster together, despite no predefined notion of sentiment in our taxonomy, indicating the quality and consistency of the ratings. For example, if one rater chose "excitement" as a label for a given comment, it is more likely that another rater would choose a correlated sentiment, such as "joy", rather than, say, "fear". Perhaps surprisingly, all ambiguous emotions clustered together, and they clustered more closely with positive emotions.

Similarly, emotions that are related in terms of their intensity, such as joy and excitement, nervousness and fear, sadness and grief, annoyance and anger, are also closely correlated.

Our paper provides additional analyses and modeling experiments using GoEmotions.

Future Work: Alternatives to Human-Labeling
While GoEmotions offers a large set of human-annotated emotion data, additional emotion datasets exist that use heuristics for automatic weak-labeling. The dominant heuristic uses emotion-related Twitter tags as emotion categories, which allows one to inexpensively generate large datasets. But this approach is limited for multiple reasons: the language used on Twitter is demonstrably different than many other language domains, thus limiting the applicability of the data; tags are human generated, and, when used directly, are prone to duplication, overlap, and other taxonomic inconsistencies; and the specificity of this approach to Twitter limits its applications to other language corpora.

We propose an alternative, and more easily available heuristic in which emojis embedded in user conversation serve as a proxy for emotion categories. This approach can be applied to any language corpora containing a reasonable occurence of emojis, including many that are conversational. Because emojis are more standardized and less sparse than Twitter-tags, they present fewer inconsistencies.

Note that both of the proposed approaches — using Twitter tags and using emojis — are not directly aimed at emotion understanding, but rather at variants of conversational expression. For example, in the conversation below, 🙏 conveys gratitude, 🎂 conveys a celebratory expression, and 🎁 is a literal replacement for ‘present’. Similarly, while many emojis are associated with emotion-related expressions, emotions are subtle and multi-faceted, and in many cases no one emoji can truly capture the full complexity of an emotion. Moreover, emojis capture varying expressions beyond emotions. For these reasons, we consider them as expressions rather than emotions.

This type of data can be valuable for building expressive conversational agents, as well as for suggesting contextual emojis, and is a particularly interesting area of future work.

Conclusion
The GoEmotions dataset provides a large, manually annotated, dataset for fine-grained emotion prediction. Our analysis demonstrates the reliability of the annotations and high coverage of the emotions expressed in Reddit comments. We hope that GoEmotions will be a valuable resource to language-based emotion researchers, and will allow practitioners to build creative emotion-driven applications, addressing a wide range of user emotions.

Acknowledgements
This blog presents research done by Dora Demszky (while interning at Google), Dana Alon (previously Movshovitz-Attias), Jeongwoo Ko, Alan Cowen, Gaurav Nemade, and Sujith Ravi. We thank Peter Young for his infrastructure and open sourcing contributions. We thank Erik Vee, Ravi Kumar, Andrew Tomkins, Patrick Mcgregor, and the Learn2Compress team for support and sponsorship of this research project.

Source: Google AI Blog


Crisscrossed Captions: Semantic Similarity for Images and Text

The past decade has seen remarkable progress on automatic image captioning, a task in which a computer algorithm creates written descriptions for images. Much of the progress has come through the use of modern deep learning methods developed for both computer vision and natural language processing, combined with large scale datasets that pair images with descriptions created by people. In addition to supporting important practical applications, such as providing descriptions of images for visually impaired people, these datasets also enable investigations into important and exciting research questions about grounding language in visual inputs. For example, learning deep representations for a word like “car”, means using both linguistic and visual contexts.

Image captioning datasets that contain pairs of textual descriptions and their corresponding images, such as MS-COCO and Flickr30k, have been widely used to learn aligned image and text representations and to build captioning models. Unfortunately, these datasets have limited cross-modal associations: images are not paired with other images, captions are only paired with other captions of the same image (also called co-captions), there are image-caption pairs that match but are not labeled as a match, and there are no labels that indicate when an image-caption pair does not match. This undermines research into how inter-modality learning (connecting captions to images, for example) impacts intra-modality tasks (connecting captions to captions or images to images). This is important to address, especially because a fair amount of work on learning from images paired with text is motivated by arguments about how visual elements should inform and improve representations of language.

To address this evaluation gap, we present "Crisscrossed Captions: Extended Intramodal and Intermodal Semantic Similarity Judgments for MS-COCO", which was recently presented at EACL 2021. The Crisscrossed Captions (CxC) dataset extends the development and test splits of MS-COCO with semantic similarity ratings for image-text, text-text and image-image pairs. The rating criteria are based on Semantic Textual Similarity, an existing and widely-adopted measure of semantic relatedness between pairs of short texts, which we extend to include judgments about images as well. In all, CxC contains human-derived semantic similarity ratings for 267,095 pairs (derived from 1,335,475 independent judgments), a massive extension in scale and detail to the 50k original binary pairings in MS-COCO’s development and test splits. We have released CxC’s ratings, along with code to merge CxC with existing MS-COCO data. Anyone familiar with MS-COCO can thus easily enhance their experiments with CxC.

Crisscrossed Captions extends the MS-COCO evaluation sets by adding human-derived semantic similarity ratings for existing image-caption pairs and co-captions (solid lines), and it increases rating density by adding human ratings for new image-caption, caption-caption and image-image pairs (dashed lines).*

Creating the CxC Dataset
If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is likely because there are so many details and relationships between objects that are generally depicted in pictures. We can describe the texture of the fur on a dog, name the logo on the frisbee it is chasing, mention the expression on the face of the person who has just thrown the frisbee, or note the vibrant red on a large leaf in a tree above the person’s head, and so on.

The CxC dataset extends the MS-COCO evaluation splits with graded similarity associations within and across modalities. MS-COCO has five captions for each image, split into 410k training, 25k development, and 25k test captions (for 82k, 5k, 5k images, respectively). An ideal extension would rate every pair in the dataset (caption-caption, image-image, and image-caption), but this is infeasible as it would require obtaining human ratings for billions of pairs.

Given that randomly selected pairs of images and captions are likely to be dissimilar, we came up with a way to select items for human rating that would include at least some new pairs with high expected similarity. To reduce the dependence of the chosen pairs on the models used to find them, we introduce an indirect sampling scheme (depicted below) where we encode images and captions using different encoding methods and compute the similarity between pairs of same modality items, resulting in similarity matrices. Images are encoded using Graph-RISE embeddings, while captions are encoded using two methods — Universal Sentence Encoder (USE) and average bag-of-words (BoW) based on GloVe embeddings. Since each MS-COCO example has five co-captions, we average the co-caption encodings to create a single representation per example, ensuring all caption pairs can be mapped to image pairs (more below on how we select intermodality pairs).

Top: Text similarity matrix (each cell corresponds to a similarity score) constructed using averaged co-caption encodings, so each text entry corresponds to a single image, resulting in a 5k x 5k matrix. Two different text encoding methods were used, but only one text similarity matrix has been shown for simplicity. Bottom: Image similarity matrix for each image in the dataset, resulting in a 5k x 5k matrix.

The next step of the indirect sampling scheme is to use the computed similarities of images for a biased sampling of caption pairs for human rating (and vice versa). For example, we select two captions with high computed similarities from the text similarity matrix, then take each of their images, resulting in a new pair of images that are different in appearance but similar in what they depict based on their descriptions. For example, the captions “A dog looking bashfully to the side” and “A black dog lifts its head to the side to enjoy a breeze” would have a reasonably high model similarity, so the corresponding images of the two dogs in the figure below could be selected for image similarity rating. This step can also start with two images with high computed similarities to yield a new pair of captions. We now have indirectly sampled new intramodal pairs — at least some of which are highly similar — for which we obtain human ratings.

Top: Pairs of images are picked based on their computed caption similarity. Bottom: Pairs of captions are picked based on the computed similarity of the images they describe.

Last, we then use these new intramodal pairs and their human ratings to select new intermodal pairs for human rating. We do this by using existing image-caption pairs to link between modalities. For example, if a caption pair example ij was rated by humans as highly similar, we pick the image from example i and caption from example j to obtain a new intermodal pair for human rating. And again, we use the intramodal pairs with the highest rated similarity for sampling because this includes at least some new pairs with high similarity. Finally, we also add human ratings for all existing intermodal pairs and a large sample of co-captions.

The following table shows examples of semantic image similarity (SIS) and semantic image-text similarity (SITS) pairs corresponding to each rating, with 5 being the most similar and 0 being completely dissimilar.

Examples for each human-derived similarity score (left: 5 to 0, 5 being very similar and 0 being completely dissimilar) of image pairs based on SIS (middle) and SITS (right) tasks. Note that these examples are for illustrative purposes and are not themselves in the CxC dataset.

Evaluation
MS-COCO supports three retrieval tasks:

  1. Given an image, find its matching captions out of all other captions in the evaluation set.
  2. Given a caption, find its corresponding image out of all other images in the evaluation set.
  3. Given a caption, find its other co-captions out of all other captions in the evaluation set.

MS-COCO’s pairs are incomplete because captions created for one image at times apply equally well to another, yet these associations are not captured in the dataset. CxC enhances these existing retrieval tasks with new positive pairs, and it also supports a new image-image retrieval task. With its graded similarity judgements, CxC also makes it possible to measure correlations between model and human rankings. Retrieval metrics in general focus only on positive pairs, while CxC’s correlation scores additionally account for the relative ordering of similarity and include low-scoring items (non-matches). Supporting these evaluations on a common set of images and captions makes them more valuable for understanding inter-modal learning compared to disjoint sets of caption-image, caption-caption, and image-image associations.

We ran a series of experiments to show the utility of CxC’s ratings. For this, we constructed three dual encoder (DE) models using BERT-base as the text encoder and EfficientNet-B4 as the image encoder:

  1. A text-text (DE_T2T) model that uses a shared text encoder for both sides.
  2. An image-text model (DE_I2T) that uses the aforementioned text and image encoders, and includes a layer above the text encoder to match the image encoder output.
  3. A multitask model (DE_I2T+T2T) trained on a weighted combination of text-text and image-text tasks.
CxC retrieval results — a comparison of our text-text (T2T), image-text (I2T) and multitask (I2T+T2T) dual encoder models on all the four retrieval tasks.

From the results on the retrieval tasks, we can see that DE_I2T+T2T (yellow bar) performs better than DE_I2T (red bar) on the image-text and text-image retrieval tasks. Thus, adding the intramodal (text-text) training task helped improve the intermodal (image-text, text-image) performance. As for the other two intramodal tasks (text-text and image-image), DE_I2T+T2T shows strong, balanced performance on both of them.

CxC correlation results for the same models shown above.

For the correlation tasks, DE_I2T performs the best on SIS and DE_I2T+T2T is the best overall. The correlation scores also show that DE_I2T performs well only on images: it has the highest SIS but has much worse STS. Adding the text-text loss to DE_I2T training (DE_I2T+T2T) produces more balanced overall performance.

The CxC dataset provides a much more complete set of relationships between and among images and captions than the raw MS-COCO image-caption pairs. The new ratings have been released and further details are in our paper. We hope to encourage the research community to push the state of the art on the tasks introduced by CxC with better models for jointly learning inter- and intra-modal representations.

Acknowledgments
The core team includes Daniel Cer, Yinfei Yang and Austin Waters. We thank Julia Hockenmaier for her inputs on CxC’s formulation, the Google Data Compute Team, especially Ashwin Kakarla and Mohd Majeed for their tooling and annotation support, Yuan Zhang, Eugene Ie for their comments on the initial versions of the paper and Daphne Luong for executive support for the data collection.


  *All the images in the article have been taken from the Open Images dataset under the CC-by 4.0 license. 

Source: Google AI Blog


ToTTo: A Controlled Table-to-Text Generation Dataset

In the last few years, research in natural language generation, used for tasks like text summarization, has made tremendous progress. Yet, despite achieving high levels of fluency, neural systems can still be prone to hallucination (i.e.generating text that is understandable, but not faithful to the source), which can prohibit these systems from being used in many applications that require high degrees of accuracy. Consider an example from the Wikibio dataset, where the neural baseline model tasked with summarizing a Wikipedia infobox entry for Belgian football player Constant Vanden Stock summarizes incorrectly that he is an American figure skater.

While the process of assessing the faithfulness of generated text to the source content can be challenging, it is often easier when the source content is structured (e.g., in tabular format). Moreover, structured data can also test a model’s ability for reasoning and numerical inference. However, existing large scale structured datasets are often noisy (i.e., the reference sentence cannot be fully inferred from the tabular data), making them unreliable for the measurement of hallucination in model development.

In “ToTTo: A Controlled Table-To-Text Generation Dataset”, we present an open domain table-to-text generation dataset created using a novel annotation process (via sentence revision) along with a controlled text generation task that can be used to assess model hallucination. ToTTo (shorthand for “Table-To-Text”) consists of 121,000 training examples, along with 7,500 examples each for development and test. Due to the accuracy of annotations, this dataset is suitable as a challenging benchmark for research in high precision text generation. The dataset and code are open-sourced on our GitHub repo.

Table-to-Text Generation
ToTTo introduces a controlled generation task in which a given Wikipedia table with a set of selected cells is used as the source material for the task of producing a single sentence description that summarizes the cell contents in the context of the table. The example below demonstrates some of the many challenges posed by the task, such as numerical reasoning, a large open-domain vocabulary, and varied table structure.

Example in the ToTTo dataset, where given the source table and set of highlighted cells (left), the goal is to generate a one sentence description, such as the “target sentence” (right). Note that generating the target sentence would require numerical inference (eleven NFL seasons) and understanding of the NFL domain.

Annotation Process
Designing an annotation process to obtain natural but also clean target sentences from tabular data is a significant challenge. Many datasets like Wikibio and RotoWire pair naturally occurring text heuristically with tables, a noisy process that makes it difficult to disentangle whether hallucination is primarily caused by data noise or model shortcomings. On the other hand, one can elicit annotators to write sentence targets from scratch, which are faithful to the table, but the resulting targets often lack variety in terms of structure and style.

In contrast, ToTTo is constructed using a novel data annotation strategy in which annotators revise existing Wikipedia sentences in stages. This results in target sentences that are clean, as well as natural, containing interesting and varied linguistic properties. The data collection and annotation process begins by collecting tables from Wikipedia, where a given table is paired with a summary sentence collected from the supporting page context according to heuristics, such as word overlap between the page text and the table and hyperlinks referencing tabular data. This summary sentence may contain information not supported by the table and may contain pronouns with antecedents found in the table only, not the sentence itself.

The annotator then highlights the cells in the table that support the sentence and deletes phrases in the sentence that are not supported by the table. They also decontextualize the sentence so that it is standalone (e.g., with correct pronoun resolution) and correct grammar, where necessary.

We show that annotators obtain high agreement on the above task: 0.856 Fleiss Kappa for cell highlighting, and 67.0 BLEU for the final target sentence.

Dataset Analysis
We conducted a topic analysis on the ToTTo dataset over 44 categories and found that the Sports and Countries topics, each of which consists of a range of fine-grained topics, e.g., football/olympics for sports and population/buildings for countries, together comprise 56.4% of the dataset. The other 44% is composed of a much more broad set of topics, including Performing Arts, Transportation, and Entertainment.

Furthermore, we conducted a manual analysis of the different types of linguistic phenomena in the dataset over 100 randomly chosen examples. The table below summarizes the fraction of examples that require reference to the page and section titles, as well as some of the linguistic phenomena in the dataset that potentially pose new challenges to current systems.

Linguistic Phenomena Percentage
Require reference to page title 82%
Require reference to section title 19%
Require reference to table description 3%
Reasoning (logical, numerical, temporal etc.) 21%
Comparison across rows/columns/cells 13%
Require background information 12%

Baseline Results
We present some baseline results of three state-of-the-art models from the literature (BERT-to-BERT, Pointer Generator, and the Puduppully 2019 model) on two evaluation metrics, BLEU and PARENT. In addition to reporting the score on the overall test set, we also evaluate each model on a more challenging subset consisting of out-of-domain examples. As the table below shows, the BERT-to-BERT model performs best in terms of both BLEU and PARENT. Moreover, all models achieve considerably lower performance on the challenge set indicating the challenge of out-of-domain generalization.

  BLEU PARENT BLEU PARENT
Model (overall) (overall) (challenge) (challenge)
BERT-to-BERT 43.9 52.6 34.8 46.7
Pointer Generator 41.6 51.6 32.2 45.2
Puduppully et al. 2019 19.2 29.2 13.9 25.8

While automatic metrics can give some indication of performance, they are not currently sufficient for evaluating hallucination in text generation systems. To better understand hallucination, we manually evaluate the top performing baseline, to determine how faithful it is to the content in the source table, under the assumption that discrepancies indicate hallucination. To compute the “Expert” performance, for each example in our multi-reference test set, we held out one reference and asked annotators to compare it with the other references for faithfulness. As the results show, the top performing baseline appears to hallucinate information ~20% of the time.

  Faithfulness Faithfulness
Model (overall) (challenge)
Expert 93.6 91.4
BERT-to-BERT  76.2 74.2

Model Errors and Challenges
In the table below, we present a selection of the observed model errors to highlight some of the more challenging aspects of the ToTTo dataset. We find that state-of-the-art models struggle with hallucination, numerical reasoning, and rare topics, even when using cleaned references (errors in red). The last example shows that even when the model output is correct it is sometimes not as informative as the original reference which contains more reasoning about the table (shown in blue).

Reference Model Prediction
in the 1939 currie cup, western province lost to transvaal by 17–6 in cape town. the first currie cup was played in 1939 in transvaal1 at new- lands, with western province winning 17–6.
a second generation of micro- drive was announced by ibm in 2000 with increased capacities at 512 mb and 1 gb. there were 512 microdrive models in 2000: 1 gigabyte.
the 1956 grand prix motorcy- cle racing season consisted of six grand prix races in five classes: 500cc, 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and sidecars 500cc. the 1956 grand prix motorcycle racing season consisted of eight grand prix races in five classes: 500cc, 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and sidecars 500cc.
in travis kelce’s last collegiate season, he set personal career highs in receptions (45), re- ceiving yards (722), yards per receptions (16.0) and receiving touchdowns (8). travis kelce finished the 2012 season with 45 receptions for 722 yards (16.0 avg.) and eight touchdowns.

Conclusion
In this work, we presented ToTTo, a large, English table-to-text dataset that presents both a controlled generation task and a data annotation process based on iterative sentence revision. We also provided several state-of-the-art baselines, and demonstrated ToTTo could be a useful dataset for modeling research as well as for developing evaluation metrics that can better detect model improvements.

In addition to the proposed task, we hope our dataset can also be helpful for other tasks such as table understanding and sentence revision. ToTTo is available at our GitHub repo.

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank Ming-Wei Chang, Jonathan H. Clark, Kenton Lee, and Jennimaria Palomaki for their insightful discussions and support. Many thanks also to Ashwin Kakarla and his team for help with the annotations.

Source: Google AI Blog


Measuring Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained NLP Models

Natural language processing (NLP) has seen significant progress over the past several years, with pre-trained models like BERT, ALBERT, ELECTRA, and XLNet achieving remarkable accuracy across a variety of tasks. In pre-training, representations are learned from a large text corpus, e.g., Wikipedia, by repeatedly masking out words and trying to predict them (this is called masked language modeling). The resulting representations encode rich information about language and correlations between concepts, such as surgeons and scalpels. There is then a second training stage, fine-tuning, in which the model uses task-specific training data to learn how to use the general pre-trained representations to do a concrete task, like classification. Given the broad adoption of these representations in many NLP tasks, it is crucial to understand the information encoded in them and how any learned correlations affect performance downstream, to ensure the application of these models aligns with our AI Principles.

In “Measuring and Reducing Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained Models” we perform a case study on BERT and its low-memory counterpart ALBERT, looking at correlations related to gender, and formulate a series of best practices for using pre-trained language models. We present experimental results over public model checkpoints and an academic task dataset to illustrate how the best practices apply, providing a foundation for exploring settings beyond the scope of this case study. We will soon release a series of checkpoints, Zari1, which reduce gendered correlations while maintaining state-of-the-art accuracy on standard NLP task metrics.

Measuring Correlations
To understand how correlations in pre-trained representations can affect downstream task performance, we apply a diverse set of evaluation metrics for studying the representation of gender. Here, we’ll discuss results from one of these tests, based on coreference resolution, which is the capability that allows models to understand the correct antecedent to a given pronoun in a sentence. For example, in the sentence that follows, the model should recognize his refers to the nurse, and not to the patient.

The standard academic formulation of the task is the OntoNotes test (Hovy et al., 2006), and we measure how accurate a model is at coreference resolution in a general setting using an F1 score over this data (as in Tenney et al. 2019). Since OntoNotes represents only one data distribution, we also consider the WinoGender benchmark that provides additional, balanced data designed to identify when model associations between gender and profession incorrectly influence coreference resolution. High values of the WinoGender metric (close to one) indicate a model is basing decisions on normative associations between gender and profession (e.g., associating nurse with the female gender and not male). When model decisions have no consistent association between gender and profession, the score is zero, which suggests that decisions are based on some other information, such as sentence structure or semantics.

BERT and ALBERT metrics on OntoNotes (accuracy) and WinoGender (gendered correlations). Low values on the WinoGender metric indicate that a model does not preferentially use gendered correlations in reasoning.

In this study, we see that neither the (Large) BERT or ALBERT public model achieves zero score on the WinoGender examples, despite achieving impressive accuracy on OntoNotes (close to 100%). At least some of this is due to models preferentially using gendered correlations in reasoning. This isn’t completely surprising: there are a range of cues available to understand text and it is possible for a general model to pick up on any or all of these. However, there is reason for caution, as it is undesirable for a model to make predictions primarily based on gendered correlations learned as priors rather than the evidence available in the input.

Best Practices
Given that it is possible for unintended correlations in pre-trained model representations to affect downstream task reasoning, we now ask: what can one do to mitigate any risk this poses when developing new NLP models?

  • It is important to measure for unintended correlations: Model quality may be assessed using accuracy metrics, but these only measure one dimension of performance, especially if the test data is drawn from the same distribution as the training data. For example, the BERT and ALBERT checkpoints have accuracy within 1% of each other, but differ by 26% (relative) in the degree to which they use gendered correlations for coreference resolution. This difference might be important for some tasks; selecting a model with low WinoGender score could be desirable in an application featuring texts about people in professions that may not conform to historical social norms, e.g., male nurses.
  • Be careful even when making seemingly innocuous configuration changes: Neural network model training is controlled by many hyperparameters that are usually selected to maximize some training objective. While configuration choices often seem innocuous, we find they can cause significant changes for gendered correlations, both for better and for worse. For example, dropout regularization is used to reduce overfitting by large models. When we increase the dropout rate used for pre-training BERT and ALBERT, we see a significant reduction in gendered correlations even after fine-tuning. This is promising since a simple configuration change allows us to train models with reduced risk of harm, but it also shows that we should be mindful and evaluate carefully when making any change in model configuration.
    Impact of increasing dropout regularization in BERT and ALBERT.
  • There are opportunities for general mitigations: A further corollary from the perhaps unexpected impact of dropout on gendered correlations is that it opens the possibility to use general-purpose methods for reducing unintended correlations: by increasing dropout in our study, we improve how the models reason about WinoGender examples without manually specifying anything about the task or changing the fine-tuning stage at all. Unfortunately, OntoNotes accuracy does start to decline as the dropout rate increases (which we can see in the BERT results), but we are excited about the potential to mitigate this in pre-training, where changes can lead to model improvements without the need for task-specific updates. We explore counterfactual data augmentation as another mitigation strategy with different tradeoffs in our paper.

What’s Next
We believe these best practices provide a starting point for developing robust NLP systems that perform well across the broadest possible range of linguistic settings and applications. Of course these techniques on their own are not sufficient to capture and remove all potential issues. Any model deployed in a real-world setting should undergo rigorous testing that considers the many ways it will be used, and implement safeguards to ensure alignment with ethical norms, such as Google's AI Principles. We look forward to developments in evaluation frameworks and data that are more expansive and inclusive to cover the many uses of language models and the breadth of people they aim to serve.

Acknowledgements
This is joint work with Xuezhi Wang, Ian Tenney, Ellie Pavlick, Alex Beutel, Jilin Chen, Emily Pitler, and Slav Petrov. We benefited greatly throughout the project from discussions with Fernando Pereira, Ed Chi, Dipanjan Das, Vera Axelrod, Jacob Eisenstein, Tulsee Doshi, and James Wexler.



1 Zari is an Afghan Muppet designed to show that ‘a little girl could do as much as everybody else’.

Source: Google AI Blog


Measuring Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained NLP Models

Natural language processing (NLP) has seen significant progress over the past several years, with pre-trained models like BERT, ALBERT, ELECTRA, and XLNet achieving remarkable accuracy across a variety of tasks. In pre-training, representations are learned from a large text corpus, e.g., Wikipedia, by repeatedly masking out words and trying to predict them (this is called masked language modeling). The resulting representations encode rich information about language and correlations between concepts, such as surgeons and scalpels. There is then a second training stage, fine-tuning, in which the model uses task-specific training data to learn how to use the general pre-trained representations to do a concrete task, like classification. Given the broad adoption of these representations in many NLP tasks, it is crucial to understand the information encoded in them and how any learned correlations affect performance downstream, to ensure the application of these models aligns with our AI Principles.

In “Measuring and Reducing Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained Models” we perform a case study on BERT and its low-memory counterpart ALBERT, looking at correlations related to gender, and formulate a series of best practices for using pre-trained language models. We present experimental results over public model checkpoints and an academic task dataset to illustrate how the best practices apply, providing a foundation for exploring settings beyond the scope of this case study. We will soon release a series of checkpoints, Zari1, which reduce gendered correlations while maintaining state-of-the-art accuracy on standard NLP task metrics.

Measuring Correlations
To understand how correlations in pre-trained representations can affect downstream task performance, we apply a diverse set of evaluation metrics for studying the representation of gender. Here, we’ll discuss results from one of these tests, based on coreference resolution, which is the capability that allows models to understand the correct antecedent to a given pronoun in a sentence. For example, in the sentence that follows, the model should recognize his refers to the nurse, and not to the patient.

The standard academic formulation of the task is the OntoNotes test (Hovy et al., 2006), and we measure how accurate a model is at coreference resolution in a general setting using an F1 score over this data (as in Tenney et al. 2019). Since OntoNotes represents only one data distribution, we also consider the WinoGender benchmark that provides additional, balanced data designed to identify when model associations between gender and profession incorrectly influence coreference resolution. High values of the WinoGender metric (close to one) indicate a model is basing decisions on normative associations between gender and profession (e.g., associating nurse with the female gender and not male). When model decisions have no consistent association between gender and profession, the score is zero, which suggests that decisions are based on some other information, such as sentence structure or semantics.

BERT and ALBERT metrics on OntoNotes (accuracy) and WinoGender (gendered correlations). Low values on the WinoGender metric indicate that a model does not preferentially use gendered correlations in reasoning.

In this study, we see that neither the (Large) BERT or ALBERT public model achieves zero score on the WinoGender examples, despite achieving impressive accuracy on OntoNotes (close to 100%). At least some of this is due to models preferentially using gendered correlations in reasoning. This isn’t completely surprising: there are a range of cues available to understand text and it is possible for a general model to pick up on any or all of these. However, there is reason for caution, as it is undesirable for a model to make predictions primarily based on gendered correlations learned as priors rather than the evidence available in the input.

Best Practices
Given that it is possible for unintended correlations in pre-trained model representations to affect downstream task reasoning, we now ask: what can one do to mitigate any risk this poses when developing new NLP models?

  • It is important to measure for unintended correlations: Model quality may be assessed using accuracy metrics, but these only measure one dimension of performance, especially if the test data is drawn from the same distribution as the training data. For example, the BERT and ALBERT checkpoints have accuracy within 1% of each other, but differ by 26% (relative) in the degree to which they use gendered correlations for coreference resolution. This difference might be important for some tasks; selecting a model with low WinoGender score could be desirable in an application featuring texts about people in professions that may not conform to historical social norms, e.g., male nurses.
  • Be careful even when making seemingly innocuous configuration changes: Neural network model training is controlled by many hyperparameters that are usually selected to maximize some training objective. While configuration choices often seem innocuous, we find they can cause significant changes for gendered correlations, both for better and for worse. For example, dropout regularization is used to reduce overfitting by large models. When we increase the dropout rate used for pre-training BERT and ALBERT, we see a significant reduction in gendered correlations even after fine-tuning. This is promising since a simple configuration change allows us to train models with reduced risk of harm, but it also shows that we should be mindful and evaluate carefully when making any change in model configuration.
    Impact of increasing dropout regularization in BERT and ALBERT.
  • There are opportunities for general mitigations: A further corollary from the perhaps unexpected impact of dropout on gendered correlations is that it opens the possibility to use general-purpose methods for reducing unintended correlations: by increasing dropout in our study, we improve how the models reason about WinoGender examples without manually specifying anything about the task or changing the fine-tuning stage at all. Unfortunately, OntoNotes accuracy does start to decline as the dropout rate increases (which we can see in the BERT results), but we are excited about the potential to mitigate this in pre-training, where changes can lead to model improvements without the need for task-specific updates. We explore counterfactual data augmentation as another mitigation strategy with different tradeoffs in our paper.

What’s Next
We believe these best practices provide a starting point for developing robust NLP systems that perform well across the broadest possible range of linguistic settings and applications. Of course these techniques on their own are not sufficient to capture and remove all potential issues. Any model deployed in a real-world setting should undergo rigorous testing that considers the many ways it will be used, and implement safeguards to ensure alignment with ethical norms, such as Google's AI Principles. We look forward to developments in evaluation frameworks and data that are more expansive and inclusive to cover the many uses of language models and the breadth of people they aim to serve.

Acknowledgements
This is joint work with Xuezhi Wang, Ian Tenney, Ellie Pavlick, Alex Beutel, Jilin Chen, Emily Pitler, and Slav Petrov. We benefited greatly throughout the project from discussions with Fernando Pereira, Ed Chi, Dipanjan Das, Vera Axelrod, Jacob Eisenstein, Tulsee Doshi, and James Wexler.



1 Zari is an Afghan Muppet designed to show that ‘a little girl could do as much as everybody else’.

Source: Google AI Blog


Measuring Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained NLP Models

Natural language processing (NLP) has seen significant progress over the past several years, with pre-trained models like BERT, ALBERT, ELECTRA, and XLNet achieving remarkable accuracy across a variety of tasks. In pre-training, representations are learned from a large text corpus, e.g., Wikipedia, by repeatedly masking out words and trying to predict them (this is called masked language modeling). The resulting representations encode rich information about language and correlations between concepts, such as surgeons and scalpels. There is then a second training stage, fine-tuning, in which the model uses task-specific training data to learn how to use the general pre-trained representations to do a concrete task, like classification. Given the broad adoption of these representations in many NLP tasks, it is crucial to understand the information encoded in them and how any learned correlations affect performance downstream, to ensure the application of these models aligns with our AI Principles.

In “Measuring and Reducing Gendered Correlations in Pre-trained Models” we perform a case study on BERT and its low-memory counterpart ALBERT, looking at correlations related to gender, and formulate a series of best practices for using pre-trained language models. We present experimental results over public model checkpoints and an academic task dataset to illustrate how the best practices apply, providing a foundation for exploring settings beyond the scope of this case study. We will soon release a series of checkpoints, Zari1, which reduce gendered correlations while maintaining state-of-the-art accuracy on standard NLP task metrics.

Measuring Correlations
To understand how correlations in pre-trained representations can affect downstream task performance, we apply a diverse set of evaluation metrics for studying the representation of gender. Here, we’ll discuss results from one of these tests, based on coreference resolution, which is the capability that allows models to understand the correct antecedent to a given pronoun in a sentence. For example, in the sentence that follows, the model should recognize his refers to the nurse, and not to the patient.

The standard academic formulation of the task is the OntoNotes test (Hovy et al., 2006), and we measure how accurate a model is at coreference resolution in a general setting using an F1 score over this data (as in Tenney et al. 2019). Since OntoNotes represents only one data distribution, we also consider the WinoGender benchmark that provides additional, balanced data designed to identify when model associations between gender and profession incorrectly influence coreference resolution. High values of the WinoGender metric (close to one) indicate a model is basing decisions on normative associations between gender and profession (e.g., associating nurse with the female gender and not male). When model decisions have no consistent association between gender and profession, the score is zero, which suggests that decisions are based on some other information, such as sentence structure or semantics.

BERT and ALBERT metrics on OntoNotes (accuracy) and WinoGender (gendered correlations). Low values on the WinoGender metric indicate that a model does not preferentially use gendered correlations in reasoning.

In this study, we see that neither the (Large) BERT or ALBERT public model achieves zero score on the WinoGender examples, despite achieving impressive accuracy on OntoNotes (close to 100%). At least some of this is due to models preferentially using gendered correlations in reasoning. This isn’t completely surprising: there are a range of cues available to understand text and it is possible for a general model to pick up on any or all of these. However, there is reason for caution, as it is undesirable for a model to make predictions primarily based on gendered correlations learned as priors rather than the evidence available in the input.

Best Practices
Given that it is possible for unintended correlations in pre-trained model representations to affect downstream task reasoning, we now ask: what can one do to mitigate any risk this poses when developing new NLP models?

  • It is important to measure for unintended correlations: Model quality may be assessed using accuracy metrics, but these only measure one dimension of performance, especially if the test data is drawn from the same distribution as the training data. For example, the BERT and ALBERT checkpoints have accuracy within 1% of each other, but differ by 26% (relative) in the degree to which they use gendered correlations for coreference resolution. This difference might be important for some tasks; selecting a model with low WinoGender score could be desirable in an application featuring texts about people in professions that may not conform to historical social norms, e.g., male nurses.
  • Be careful even when making seemingly innocuous configuration changes: Neural network model training is controlled by many hyperparameters that are usually selected to maximize some training objective. While configuration choices often seem innocuous, we find they can cause significant changes for gendered correlations, both for better and for worse. For example, dropout regularization is used to reduce overfitting by large models. When we increase the dropout rate used for pre-training BERT and ALBERT, we see a significant reduction in gendered correlations even after fine-tuning. This is promising since a simple configuration change allows us to train models with reduced risk of harm, but it also shows that we should be mindful and evaluate carefully when making any change in model configuration.
    Impact of increasing dropout regularization in BERT and ALBERT.
  • There are opportunities for general mitigations: A further corollary from the perhaps unexpected impact of dropout on gendered correlations is that it opens the possibility to use general-purpose methods for reducing unintended correlations: by increasing dropout in our study, we improve how the models reason about WinoGender examples without manually specifying anything about the task or changing the fine-tuning stage at all. Unfortunately, OntoNotes accuracy does start to decline as the dropout rate increases (which we can see in the BERT results), but we are excited about the potential to mitigate this in pre-training, where changes can lead to model improvements without the need for task-specific updates. We explore counterfactual data augmentation as another mitigation strategy with different tradeoffs in our paper.

What’s Next
We believe these best practices provide a starting point for developing robust NLP systems that perform well across the broadest possible range of linguistic settings and applications. Of course these techniques on their own are not sufficient to capture and remove all potential issues. Any model deployed in a real-world setting should undergo rigorous testing that considers the many ways it will be used, and implement safeguards to ensure alignment with ethical norms, such as Google's AI Principles. We look forward to developments in evaluation frameworks and data that are more expansive and inclusive to cover the many uses of language models and the breadth of people they aim to serve.

Acknowledgements
This is joint work with Xuezhi Wang, Ian Tenney, Ellie Pavlick, Alex Beutel, Jilin Chen, Emily Pitler, and Slav Petrov. We benefited greatly throughout the project from discussions with Fernando Pereira, Ed Chi, Dipanjan Das, Vera Axelrod, Jacob Eisenstein, Tulsee Doshi, and James Wexler.



1 Zari is an Afghan Muppet designed to show that ‘a little girl could do as much as everybody else’.

Source: Google AI Blog


Language-Agnostic BERT Sentence Embedding

A multilingual embedding model is a powerful tool that encodes text from different languages into a shared embedding space, enabling it to be applied to a range of downstream tasks, like text classification, clustering, and others, while also leveraging semantic information for language understanding. Existing approaches for generating such embeddings, like LASER or m~USE, rely on parallel data, mapping a sentence from one language directly to another language in order to encourage consistency between the sentence embeddings. While these existing multilingual approaches yield good overall performance across a number of languages, they often underperform on high-resource languages compared to dedicated bilingual models, which can leverage approaches like translation ranking tasks with translation pairs as training data to obtain more closely aligned representations. Further, due to limited model capacity and the often poor quality of training data for low-resource languages, it can be difficult to extend multilingual models to support a larger number of languages while maintaining good performance.

Illustration of a multilingual embedding space.

Recent efforts to improve language models include the development of masked language model (MLM) pre-training, such as that used by BERT, ALBERT and RoBERTa. This approach has led to exceptional gains across a wide range of languages and a variety of natural language processing tasks since it only requires monolingual text. In addition, MLM pre-training has been extended to the multilingual setting by modifying MLM training to include concatenated translation pairs, known as translation language modeling (TLM), or by simply introducing pre-training data from multiple languages. However, while the internal model representations learned during MLM and TLM training are helpful when fine-tuning on downstream tasks, without a sentence level objective, they do not directly produce sentence embeddings, which are critical for translation tasks.

In “Language-agnostic BERT Sentence Embedding”, we present a multilingual BERT embedding model, called LaBSE, that produces language-agnostic cross-lingual sentence embeddings for 109 languages. The model is trained on 17 billion monolingual sentences and 6 billion bilingual sentence pairs using MLM and TLM pre-training, resulting in a model that is effective even on low-resource languages for which there is no data available during training. Further, the model establishes a new state of the art on multiple parallel text (a.k.a. bitext) retrieval tasks. We have released the pre-trained model to the community through tfhub, which includes modules that can be used as-is or can be fine-tuned using domain-specific data.

The collection of the training data for 109 supported languages

The Model
In previous work, we proposed the use of a translation ranking task to learn a multilingual sentence embedding space. This approach tasks the model with ranking the true translation over a collection of sentences in the target language, given a sentence in the source language. The translation ranking task is trained using a dual encoder architecture with a shared transformer encoder. The resulting bilingual models achieved state-of-the-art performance on multiple parallel text retrieval tasks (including United Nations and BUCC). However, the model suffered when the bi-lingual models were extended to support multiple languages (16 languages, in our test case) due to limitations in model capacity, vocabulary coverage, training data quality and more.

Translation ranking task. Given a sentence in a given source language, the task is to find the true translation over a collection of sentences in the target language.

For LaBSE, we leverage recent advances on language model pre-training, including MLM and TLM, on a BERT-like architecture and follow this with fine-tuning on a translation ranking task. A 12-layer transformer with a 500k token vocabulary pre-trained using MLM and TLM on 109 languages is used to increase the model and vocabulary coverage. The resulting LaBSE model offers extended support to 109 languages in a single model.

The dual encoder architecture, in which the source and target text are encoded using a shared transformer embedding network separately. The translation ranking task is applied, forcing the text that paraphrases each other to have similar representations. The transformer embedding network is initialized from a BERT checkpoint trained on MLM and TLM tasks.

Performance on Cross-lingual Text Retrieval
We evaluate the proposed model using the Tatoeba corpus, a dataset consisting of up to 1,000 English-aligned sentence pairs for 112 languages. For more than 30 of the languages in the dataset, the model has no training data. The model is tasked with finding the nearest neighbor translation for a given sentence, which it calculates using the cosine distance.

To understand the performance of the model for languages at the head or tail of the training data distribution, we divide the set of languages into several groups and compute the average accuracy for each set. The first 14-language group is selected from the languages supported by m~USE, which cover the languages from the head of the distribution (head languages). We also evaluate a second language group composed of 36 languages from the XTREME benchmark. The third 82-language group, selected from the languages covered by the LASER training data, includes many languages from the tail of the distribution (tail languages). Finally, we compute the average accuracy for all languages.

The table below presents the average accuracy achieved by LaBSE, compared to the m~USE and LASER models, for each language group. As expected, all models perform strongly on the 14-language group that covers most head languages. With more languages included, the averaged accuracy for both LASER and LaBSE declines. However, the reduction in accuracy from the LaBSE model with increasing numbers of languages is much less significant, outperforming LASER significantly, particularly when the full distribution of 112 languages is included (83.7% accuracy vs. 65.5%).

Model 14 Langs 36 Langs 82 Langs All Langs
m~USE* 93.9
LASER 95.3 84.4 75.9 65.5
LaBSE 95.3 95.0 87.3 83.7
Average Accuracy (%) on Tatoeba Datasets. The “14 Langs” group consists of languages supported by m~USE; the “36 Langs” group includes languages selected by XTREME; and the “82 Langs” group represents languages covered by the LASER model. The “All Langs” group includes all languages supported by Taoteba.
* The m~USE model comes in two varieties, one built on a convolutional neural network architecture and the other a Transformer-like architecture. Here, we compare only to the Transformer version.

Support to Unsupported Languages
The average performance of all languages included in Tatoeba is very promising. Interestingly, LaBSE even performs relatively well for many of the 30+ Tatoeba languages for which it has no training data (see below). For one third of these languages the LaBSE accuracy is higher than 75% and only 8 have accuracy lower than 25%, indicating very strong transfer performance to languages without training data. Such positive language transfer is only possible due to the massively multilingual nature of LaBSE.

LaBSE accuracy for the subset of Tatoeba languages (represented with ISO 639-1/639-2 codes) for which there was no training data.

Mining Parallel Text from WebLaBSE can be used for mining parallel text (bi-text) from web-scale data. For example, we applied LaBSE to CommonCrawl, a large-scale monolingual corpus, to process 560 million Chinese and 330 million German sentences for the extraction of parallel text. Each Chinese and German sentence pair is encoded using the LaBSE model and then the encoded embedding is used to find a potential translation from a pool of 7.7 billion English sentences pre-processed and encoded by the model. An approximate nearest neighbor search is employed to quickly search through the high-dimensional sentence embeddings. After a simple filtering, the model returns 261M and 104M potential parallel pairs for English-Chinese and English-German, respectively. The trained NMT model using the mined data reaches BLEU scores of 35.7 and 27.2 on the WMT translation tasks (wmt17 for English-to-Chinese and wmt14 for English-to-German). The performance is only a few points away from current state-of-art-models trained on high quality parallel data.

ConclusionWe're excited to share this research, and the model, with the community. The pre-trained model is released at tfhub to support further research on this direction and possible downstream applications. We also believe that what we're showing here is just the beginning, and there are more important research problems to be addressed, such as building better models to support all languages.

AcknowledgementsThe core team includes Wei Wang, Naveen Arivazhagan, Daniel Cer. We would like to thank the Google Research Language team, along with our partners in other Google groups for their feedback and suggestions. Special thanks goes to Sidharth Mudgal, and Jax Law for help with data processing; as well as Jialu Liu, Tianqi Liu, Chen Chen, and Anosh Raj for help on BERT pre-training.

Source: Google AI Blog


Grounding Natural Language Instructions to Mobile UI Actions



Mobile devices offer a myriad of functionalities that can assist in everyday activities. However, many of these functionalities are not easily discoverable or accessible to users, forcing users to look up how to perform a specific task -- how to turn on the traffic mode in Maps or change notification settings in YouTube, for example. While searching the web for detailed instructions for these questions is an option, it is still up to the user to follow these instructions step-by-step and navigate UI details through a small touchscreen, which can be tedious and time consuming, and results in reduced accessibility. What if one could design a computational agent to turn these language instructions into actions and automatically execute them on the user’s behalf?

In “Mapping Natural Language Instructions to Mobile UI Action Sequences”, published at ACL 2020, we present the first step towards addressing the problem of automatic action sequence mapping, creating three new datasets used to train deep learning models that ground natural language instructions to executable mobile UI actions. This work lays the technical foundation for task automation on mobile devices that would alleviate the need to maneuver through UI details, which may be especially valuable for users who are visually or situationally impaired. We have also open-sourced our model code and data pipelines through our GitHub repository, in order to spur further developments among the research community.

Constructing Language Grounding Models
People often provide one another with instructions in order to coordinate joint efforts and accomplish tasks involving complex sequences of actions, for example, following a recipe to bake a cake, or having a friend walk you through setting up a home network. Building computational agents able to help with similar interactions is an important goal that requires true language grounding in the environments in which the actions take place.

The learning task addressed here is to predict a sequence of actions for a mobile platform given a set of instructions, a sequence of screens produced as the system transitions from one screen to another, as well as the set of interactive elements on those screens. Training such a model end-to-end would require paired language-action data, which is difficult to acquire at a large scale.

Instead, we deconstruct the problem into two sequential steps: an action phrase-extraction step and a grounding step.
The workflow of grounding language instructions to executable actions.
The action phrase-extraction step identifies the operation, object and argument descriptions from multi-step instructions using a Transformer model with area attention for representing each description phrase. Area attention allows the model to attend to a group of adjacent words in the instruction (a span) as a whole for decoding a description.
The action phrase extraction model takes a word sequence of a natural language instruction and outputs a sequence of spans (denoted in red boxes) that indicate the phrases describing the operation, the object and the argument of each action in the task.
Next, the grounding step matches the extracted operation and object descriptions with a UI object on the screen. Again, we use a Transformer model, but in this case, it contextually represents UI objects and grounds object descriptions to them.
The grounding model takes the extracted spans as input and grounds them to executable actions, including the object an action is applied to, given the UI screen at each step during execution.
Results
To investigate the feasibility of this task and the effectiveness of our approach, we construct three new datasets to train and evaluate our model. The first dataset includes 187 multi-step English instructions for operating Pixel phones along their corresponding action-screen sequences and enables assessment of full task performance on naturally occurring instructions, which is used for testing end-to-end grounding quality. For action phrase extraction training and evaluation, we obtain English “how-to” instructions that can be found abundantly from the web and annotate phrases that describe each action. To train the grounding model, we synthetically generate 295K single-step commands to UI actions, covering 178K different UI objects across 25K mobile UI screens from a public android UI corpus.

A Transformer with area attention obtains 85.56% accuracy for predicting span sequences that completely match the ground truth. The phrase extractor and grounding model together obtain 89.21% partial and 70.59% complete accuracy for matching ground-truth action sequences on the more challenging task of mapping language instructions to executable actions end-to-end. We also evaluated alternative methods and representations of UI objects, such as using a graph convolutional network (GCN) or a feedforward network, and found those that can represent an object contextually in the screen lead to better grounding accuracy. The new datasets, models and results provide an important first step on the challenging problem of grounding natural language instructions to mobile UI actions.

Conclusion
This research, and language grounding in general, is an important step for translating multi-stage instructions into actions on a graphical user interface. Successful application of task automation to the UI domain has the potential to significantly improve accessibility, where language interfaces might help individuals who are visually impaired perform tasks with interfaces that are predicated on sight. This also matters for situational impairment when one cannot access a device easily while encumbered by tasks at hand.

By deconstructing the problem into action phrase extraction and language grounding, progress on either can improve full task performance and it alleviates the need to have language-action paired datasets, which are difficult to collect at scale. For example, action span extraction is related to both semantic role labeling and extraction of multiple facts from text and could benefit from innovations in span identification and multitask learning. Reinforcement learning that has been applied in previous grounding work may help improve out-of-sample prediction for grounding in UIs and improve direct grounding from hidden state representations. Although our datasets were based on Android UIs, our approach can be applied generally to instruction grounding on other user interface platforms. Lastly, our work provides a technical foundation for investigating user experiences in language-based human computer interaction.

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to my collaborators on this work at Google Research. Xin Zhou and Jiacong He contributed substantially to the data pipelines and the creation of the datasets. Yuan Zhang and Jason Baldridge provided much valuable advice for the project and contributed to the presentation of the work. Gang Li provided generous help for creating open-source datasets. Many thanks to Ashwin Kakarla, Muqthar Mohammad and Mohd Majeed for their help with the annotations.

Source: Google AI Blog