Tag Archives: Natural Language Understanding

Contextual Rephrasing in Google Assistant

When people converse with one another, context and references play a critical role in driving their conversation more efficiently. For instance, if one asks the question “Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?” and, after receiving an answer, asks “Where was he born?”, it is clear that ‘he’ is referring to William Shakespeare without the need to explicitly mention him. Or if someone mentions “python” in a sentence, one can use the context from the conversation to determine whether they are referring to a type of snake or a computer language. If a virtual assistant cannot robustly handle context and references, users would be required to adapt to the limitation of the technology by repeating previously shared contextual information in their follow-up queries to ensure that the assistant understands their requests and can provide relevant answers.

In this post, we present a technology currently deployed on Google Assistant that allows users to speak in a natural manner when referencing context that was defined in previous queries and answers. The technology, based on the latest machine learning (ML) advances, rephrases a user’s follow-up query to explicitly mention the missing contextual information, thus enabling it to be answered as a stand-alone query. While Assistant considers many types of context for interpreting the user input, in this post we are focusing on short-term conversation history.

Context Handling by Rephrasing
One of the approaches taken by Assistant to understand contextual queries is to detect if an input utterance is referring to previous context and then rephrase it internally to explicitly include the missing information. Following on from the previous example in which the user asked who wrote Romeo and Juliet, one may ask follow-up questions like “When?”. Assistant recognizes that this question is referring to both the subject (Romeo and Juliet) and answer from the previous query (William Shakespeare) and can rephrase “When?” to “When did William Shakespeare write Romeo and Juliet?”

While there are other ways to handle context, for instance, by applying rules directly to symbolic representations of the meaning of queries, like intents and arguments, the advantage of the rephrasing approach is that it operates horizontally at the string level across any query answering, parsing, or action fulfillment module.

Conversation on a smart display device, where Assistant understands multiple contextual follow-up queries, allowing the user to have a more natural conversation. The phrases appearing at the bottom of the display are suggestions for follow-up questions that the user can select. However, the user can still ask different questions.

A Wide Variety of Contextual Queries
The natural language processing field, traditionally, has not put much emphasis on a general approach to context, focusing on the understanding of stand-alone queries that are fully specified. Accurately incorporating context is a challenging problem, especially when considering the large variety of contextual query types. The table below contains example conversations that illustrate query variability and some of the many contextual challenges that Assistant’s rephrasing method can resolve (e.g., differentiating between referential and non-referential cases or identifying what context a query is referencing). We demonstrate how Assistant is now able to rephrase follow-up queries, adding contextual information before providing an answer.

System Architecture
At a high level, the rephrasing system generates rephrasing candidates by using different types of candidate generators. Each rephrasing candidate is then scored based on a number of signals, and the one with the highest score is selected.

High level architecture of Google Assistant contextual rephraser.

Candidate Generation
To generate rephrasing candidates we use a hybrid approach that applies different techniques, which we classify into three categories:

  1. Generators based on the analysis of the linguistic structure of the queries use grammatical and morphological rules to perform specific operations — for instance, the replacement of pronouns or other types of referential phrases with antecedents from the context.
  2. Generators based on query statistics combine key terms from the current query and its context to create candidates that match popular queries from historical data or common query patterns.
  3. Generators based on Transformer technologies, such as MUM, learn to generate sequences of words according to a number of training samples. LaserTagger and FELIX are technologies suitable for tasks with high overlap between the input and output texts, are very fast at inference time, and are not vulnerable to hallucination (i.e., generating text that is not related to the input texts). Once presented with a query and its context, they can generate a sequence of text edits to transform the input queries into a rephrasing candidate by indicating which portions of the context should be preserved and which words should be modified.

Candidate Scoring
We extract a number of signals for each rephrasing candidate and use an ML model to select the most promising candidate. Some of the signals depend only on the current query and its context. For example, is the topic of the current query similar to the topic of the previous query? Or, is the current query a good stand-alone query or does it look incomplete? Other signals depend on the candidate itself: How much of the information of the context does the candidate preserve? Is the candidate well-formed from a linguistic point of view? Etc.

Recently, new signals generated by BERT and MUM models have significantly improved the performance of the ranker, fixing about one-third of the recall headroom while minimizing false positives on query sequences that are not contextual (and therefore do not require a rephrasing).

Example conversation on a phone where Assistant understands a sequence of contextual queries.

The solution described here attempts to resolve contextual queries by rephrasing them in order to make them fully answerable in a stand-alone manner, i.e., without having to relate to other information during the fulfillment phase. The benefit of this approach is that it is agnostic to the mechanisms that would fulfill the query, thus making it usable as a horizontal layer to be deployed before any further processing.

Given the variety of contexts naturally used in human languages, we adopted a hybrid approach that combines linguistic rules, large amounts of historic data through logs, and ML models based on state-of-the-art Transformer approaches. By generating a number of rephrasing candidates for each query and its context, and then scoring and ranking them using a variety of signals, Assistant can rephrase and thus correctly interpret most contextual queries. As Assistant can handle most types of linguistic references, we are empowering users to have more natural conversations. To make such multi-turn conversations even less cumbersome, Assistant users can turn on Continued Conversation mode to enable asking follow-up queries without the need to repeat "Hey Google" between each query. We are also using this technology in other virtual assistant settings, for instance, interpreting context from something shown on a screen or playing on a speaker.

This post reflects the combined work of Aliaksei Severyn, André Farias, Cheng-Chun Lee, Florian Thöle, Gabriel Carvajal, Gyorgy Gyepesi, Julien Cretin, Liana Marinescu, Martin Bölle, Patrick Siegler, Sebastian Krause, Victor Ähdel, Victoria Fossum, Vincent Zhao. We also thank Amar Subramanya, Dave Orr, Yury Pinsky for helpful discussions and support.

Source: Google AI Blog

Locked-image Tuning: Adding Language Understanding to Image Models

The ability to classify images into categories has been transformed by deep learning. It has also been significantly accelerated by transfer learning, whereby models are first pre-trained on large datasets, like ImageNet, to learn visual representations that are then transferred via fine-tuning to a new task with less data (e.g., classifying animals). Previous works such as BiT and ViT employed these methods to achieve state-of-the-art performance on a wide range of classification tasks, such as the VTAB benchmark.

However, fine-tuning has some downsides: though pre-training is done only once, fine-tuning is necessary on every new dataset for which task-specific data is needed. Multimodal contrastive learning is an alternative, recently popularized paradigm (e.g., CLIP, ALIGN) that overcomes these issues by instead learning how to match free-form text with images. These models can then solve new tasks by reformulating them as image-text matching problems, without extra data (referred to as “zero-shot” learning). Contrastive learning is flexible and easy to adapt to new tasks, but has its own limitations, namely the need for a lot of paired image-text data and weaker performance than transfer learning approaches.

With those limitations in mind, we propose “LiT: Zero-Shot Transfer with Locked-image Text Tuning”, to appear at CVPR 2022. LiT models learn to match text to an already pre-trained image encoder. This simple yet effective setup provides the best of both worlds: strong image representations from pre-training, plus flexible zero-shot transfer to new tasks via contrastive learning. LiT achieves state-of-the-art zero-shot classification accuracy, significantly closing the gap between the two styles of learning. We think the best way to understand is to try it yourself, so we’ve included a demo of LiT models at the end of this post.

Fine-tuning (left) requires task-specific data and training to adapt a pre-trained model to a new task. An LiT model (right) can be used with any task, without further data or adaptation.

Contrastive Learning on Image-Text Data
Contrastive learning models learn representations from “positive” and “negative” examples, such that representations for "positive" examples are similar to each other but different from "negative" examples.

Multimodal contrastive learning applies this to pairs of images and associated texts. An image encoder computes representations from images, and a text encoder does the same for texts. Each image representation is encouraged to be close to the representation of its associated text (“positive”), but distinct from the representation of other texts ("negatives") in the data, and vice versa. This has typically been done with randomly initialized models (“from scratch”), meaning the encoders have to simultaneously learn representations and how to match them.

Multimodal contrastive learning trains models to produce similar representations for closely matched images and texts.

This training can be done on noisy, loosely aligned pairs of image and text, which naturally occur on the web. This circumvents the need for manual labeling, and makes data scaling easy. Furthermore, the model learns much richer visual concepts — it’s not constrained to what’s defined in the classification label space. Instead of classifying an image as “coffee”, it can understand whether it’s "a small espresso in a white mug” or “a large latte in a red flask”.

Once trained, a model that aligns image and text can be used in many ways. For zero-shot classification, we compare image representations to text representations of the class names. For example, a “wombat vs jaguar” classifier can be built by computing the representations of the texts “jaguar” and “wombat”, and classifying an image as a jaguar if its representation better matches the former. This approach scales to thousands of classes and makes it very easy to solve classification tasks without the extra data necessary for fine-tuning. Another application of contrastive models is image search (a.k.a. image-text retrieval), by finding the image whose representation best matches that of a given text, or vice versa.

The Best of Both Worlds with Locked-image Tuning
As mentioned earlier, transfer learning achieves state-of-the-art accuracy, but requires per-task labels, datasets, and training. On the other hand, contrastive models are flexible, scalable, and easily adaptable to new tasks, but fall short in performance. To compare, at the time of writing, the state of the art on ImageNet classification using transfer learning is 90.94%, but the best contrastive zero-shot models achieve 76.4%.

LiT tuning bridges this gap: we contrastively train a text model to compute representations well aligned with the powerful ones available from a pre-trained image encoder. Importantly, for this to work well, the image encoder should be “locked“, that is: it should not be updated during training. This may be unintuitive since one usually expects the additional information from further training to increase performance, but we find that locking the image encoder consistently leads to better results.

LiT-tuning contrastively trains a text encoder to match a pre-trained image encoder. The text encoder learns to compute representations that align to those from the image encoder.

This can be considered an alternative to the classic fine-tuning stage, where the image encoder is separately adapted to every new classification task; instead we have one stage of LiT-tuning, after which the model can classify any data. LiT-tuned models achieve 84.5% zero-shot accuracy on ImageNet classification, showing significant improvements over previous methods that train models from scratch, and halving the performance gap between fine-tuning and contrastive learning.

Left: LiT-tuning significantly closes the gap between the best contrastive models and the best models fine-tuned with labels. Right: Using a pre-trained image encoder is always helpful, but locking it is surprisingly a key part of the recipe to success; unlocked image models (dashed) yield significantly worse performance.

An impressive benefit of contrastive models is increased robustness — they retain high accuracy on datasets that typically fool fine-tuned models, such as ObjectNet and ImageNet-C. Similarly, LiT-tuned models have high performance across various challenging versions of ImageNet, for example achieving a state-of-the-art 81.1% accuracy on ObjectNet.

LiT-tuning has other advantages. While prior contrastive works require large amounts of data and train for a very long time, the LiT approach is much less data hungry. LiT models trained on 24M publicly available image-text pairs rival the zero-shot classification performance of prior models trained on 400M image-text pairs of private data. The locked image encoder also leads to faster training with a smaller memory footprint. On larger datasets, image representations can be pre-computed; not running the image model during training further improves efficiency and also unlocks much larger batch sizes, which increases the number of “negatives” the model sees and is key to high-performance contrastive learning. The method works well with varied forms of image pre-training (e.g., including self-supervised learning), and with many publicly available image models. We hope that these benefits make LiT a great testbed for researchers.

We present Locked-image Tuning (LiT), which contrastively trains a text encoder to match image representations from a powerful pre-trained image encoder. This simple method is data and compute efficient, and substantially improves zero-shot classification performance compared to existing contrastive learning approaches.

Want to try it yourself?

A preview of the demo: use it to match free-form text descriptions to images and build your own zero-shot classifier!

We have prepared a small interactive demo to try some LiT-tuned models. We also provide a Colab with more advanced use cases and larger models, which are a great way to get started.

We would like to thank Xiaohua Zhai, Xiao Wang, Daniel Keysers, Alexander Kolesnikov, and Lucas Beyer who have co-authored the LiT paper and been involved in all aspects of its development, as well as the Brain team in Zürich. We also would like to thank Tom Small for creating the animations used in this blogpost.

Source: Google AI Blog

Federated Learning with Formal Differential Privacy Guarantees

In 2017, Google introduced federated learning (FL), an approach that enables mobile devices to collaboratively train machine learning (ML) models while keeping the raw training data on each user's device, decoupling the ability to do ML from the need to store the data in the cloud. Since its introduction, Google has continued to actively engage in FL research and deployed FL to power many features in Gboard, including next word prediction, emoji suggestion and out-of-vocabulary word discovery. Federated learning is improving the “Hey Google” detection models in Assistant, suggesting replies in Google Messages, predicting text selections, and more.

While FL allows ML without raw data collection, differential privacy (DP) provides a quantifiable measure of data anonymization, and when applied to ML can address concerns about models memorizing sensitive user data. This too has been a top research priority, and has yielded one of the first production uses of DP for analytics with RAPPOR in 2014, our open-source DP library, Pipeline DP, and TensorFlow Privacy.

Through a multi-year, multi-team effort spanning fundamental research and product integration, today we are excited to announce that we have deployed a production ML model using federated learning with a rigorous differential privacy guarantee. For this proof-of-concept deployment, we utilized the DP-FTRL algorithm to train a recurrent neural network to power next-word-prediction for Spanish-language Gboard users. To our knowledge, this is the first production neural network trained directly on user data announced with a formal DP guarantee (technically ρ=0.81 zero-Concentrated-Differential-Privacy, zCDP, discussed in detail below). Further, the federated approach offers complimentary data minimization advantages, and the DP guarantee protects all of the data on each device, not just individual training examples.

Data Minimization and Anonymization in Federated Learning
Along with fundamentals like transparency and consent, the privacy principles of data minimization and anonymization are important in ML applications that involve sensitive data.

Federated learning systems structurally incorporate the principle of data minimization. FL only transmits minimal updates for a specific model training task (focused collection), limits access to data at all stages, processes individuals’ data as early as possible (early aggregation), and discards both collected and processed data as soon as possible (minimal retention).

Another principle that is important for models trained on user data is anonymization, meaning that the final model should not memorize information unique to a particular individual's data, e.g., phone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers. However, FL on its own does not directly tackle this problem.

The mathematical concept of DP allows one to formally quantify this principle of anonymization. Differentially private training algorithms add random noise during training to produce a probability distribution over output models, and ensure that this distribution doesn't change too much given a small change to the training data; ρ-zCDP quantifies how much the distribution could possibly change. We call this example-level DP when adding or removing a single training example changes the output distribution on models in a provably minimal way.

Showing that deep learning with example-level differential privacy was even possible in the simpler setting of centralized training was a major step forward in 2016. Achieved by the DP-SGD algorithm, the key was amplifying the privacy guarantee by leveraging the randomness in sampling training examples ("amplification-via-sampling").

However, when users can contribute multiple examples to the training dataset, example-level DP is not necessarily strong enough to ensure the users’ data isn't memorized. Instead, we have designed algorithms for user-level DP, which requires that the output distribution of models doesn't change even if we add/remove all of the training examples from any one user (or all the examples from any one device in our application). Fortunately, because FL summarizes all of a user's training data as a single model update, federated algorithms are well-suited to offering user-level DP guarantees.

Both limiting the contributions from one user and adding noise can come at the expense of model accuracy, however, so maintaining model quality while also providing strong DP guarantees is a key research focus.

The Challenging Path to Federated Learning with Differential Privacy
In 2018, we introduced the DP-FedAvg algorithm, which extended the DP-SGD approach to the federated setting with user-level DP guarantees, and in 2020 we deployed this algorithm to mobile devices for the first time. This approach ensures the training mechanism is not too sensitive to any one user's data, and empirical privacy auditing techniques rule out some forms of memorization.

However, the amplification-via-samping argument is essential to providing a strong DP guarantee for DP-FedAvg, but in a real-world cross-device FL system ensuring devices are subsampled precisely and uniformly at random from a large population would be complex and hard to verify. One challenge is that devices choose when to connect (or "check in") based on many external factors (e.g., requiring the device is idle, on unmetered WiFi, and charging), and the number of available devices can vary substantially.

Achieving a formal privacy guarantee requires a protocol that does all of the following:

  • Makes progress on training even as the set of devices available varies significantly with time.
  • Maintains privacy guarantees even in the face of unexpected or arbitrary changes in device availability.
  • For efficiency, allows client devices to locally decide whether they will check in to the server in order to participate in training, independent of other devices.

Initial work on privacy amplification via random check-ins highlighted these challenges and introduced a feasible protocol, but it would have required complex changes to our production infrastructure to deploy. Further, as with the amplification-via-sampling analysis of DP-SGD, the privacy amplification possible with random check-ins depends on a large number of devices being available. For example, if only 1000 devices are available for training, and participation of at least 1000 devices is needed in each training step, that requires either 1) including all devices currently available and paying a large privacy cost since there is no randomness in the selection, or 2) pausing the protocol and not making progress until more devices are available.

Achieving Provable Differential Privacy for Federated Learning with DP-FTRL
To address this challenge, the DP-FTRL algorithm is built on two key observations: 1) the convergence of gradient-descent-style algorithms depends primarily not on the accuracy of individual gradients, but the accuracy of cumulative sums of gradients; and 2) we can provide accurate estimates of cumulative sums with a strong DP guarantee by utilizing negatively correlated noise, added by the aggregating server: essentially, adding noise to one gradient and subtracting that same noise from a later gradient. DP-FTRL accomplishes this efficiently using the Tree Aggregation algorithm [1, 2].

The graphic below illustrates how estimating cumulative sums rather than individual gradients can help. We look at how the noise introduced by DP-FTRL and DP-SGD influence model training, compared to the true gradients (without added noise; in black) which step one unit to the right on each iteration. The individual DP-FTRL gradient estimates (blue), based on cumulative sums, have larger mean-squared-error than the individually-noised DP-SGD estimates (orange), but because the DP-FTRL noise is negatively correlated, some of it cancels out from step to step, and the overall learning trajectory stays closer to the true gradient descent steps.

To provide a strong privacy guarantee, we limit the number of times a user contributes an update. Fortunately, sampling-without-replacement is relatively easy to implement in production FL infrastructure: each device can remember locally which models it has contributed to in the past, and choose to not connect to the server for any later rounds for those models.

Production Training Details and Formal DP Statements
For the production DP-FTRL deployment introduced above, each eligible device maintains a local training cache consisting of user keyboard input, and when participating computes an update to the model which makes it more likely to suggest the next word the user actually typed, based on what has been typed so far. We ran DP-FTRL on this data to train a recurrent neural network with ~1.3M parameters. Training ran for 2000 rounds over six days, with 6500 devices participating per round. To allow for the DP guarantee, devices participated in training at most once every 24 hours. Model quality improved over the previous DP-FedAvg trained model, which offered empirically-tested privacy advantages over non-DP models, but lacked a meaningful formal DP guarantee.

The training mechanism we used is available in open-source in TensorFlow Federated and TensorFlow Privacy, and with the parameters used in our production deployment it provides a meaningfully strong privacy guarantee. Our analysis gives ρ=0.81 zCDP at the user level (treating all the data on each device as a different user), where smaller numbers correspond to better privacy in a mathematically precise way. As a comparison, this is stronger than the ρ=2.63 zCDP guarantee chosen by the 2020 US Census.

Next Steps
While we have reached the milestone of deploying a production FL model using a mechanism that provides a meaningfully small zCDP, our research journey continues. We are still far from being able to say this approach is possible (let alone practical) for most ML models or product applications, and other approaches to private ML exist. For example, membership inference tests and other empirical privacy auditing techniques can provide complimentary safeguards against leakage of users’ data. Most importantly, we see training models with user-level DP with even a very large zCDP as a substantial step forward, because it requires training with a DP mechanism that bounds the sensitivity of the model to any one user's data. Further, it smooths the road to later training models with improved privacy guarantees as better algorithms or more data become available. We are excited to continue the journey toward maximizing the value that ML can deliver while minimizing potential privacy costs to those who contribute training data.

The authors would like to thank Alex Ingerman and Om Thakkar for significant impact on the blog post itself, as well as the teams at Google that helped develop these ideas and bring them to practice:

  • Core research team: Galen Andrew, Borja Balle, Peter Kairouz, Daniel Ramage, Shuang Song, Thomas Steinke, Andreas Terzis, Om Thakkar, Zheng Xu
  • FL infrastructure team: Katharine Daly, Stefan Dierauf, Hubert Eichner, Igor Pisarev, Timon Van Overveldt, Chunxiang Zheng
  • Gboard team: Angana Ghosh, Xu Liu, Yuanbo Zhang
  • Speech team: Françoise Beaufays, Mingqing Chen, Rajiv Mathews, Vidush Mukund, Igor Pisarev, Swaroop Ramaswamy, Dan Zivkovic

Source: Google AI Blog

LaMDA: Towards Safe, Grounded, and High-Quality Dialog Models for Everything

Language models are becoming more capable than ever before and are helpful in a variety of tasks — translating one language into another, summarizing a long document into a brief highlight, or answering information-seeking questions. Among these, open-domain dialog, where a model needs to be able to converse about any topic, is probably one of the most difficult, with a wide range of potential applications and open challenges. In addition to producing responses that humans judge as sensible, interesting, and specific to the context, dialog models should adhere to Responsible AI practices, and avoid making factual statements that are not supported by external information sources.

Today we’re excited to share recent advances in our “LaMDA: Language Models for Dialog Applications” project. In this post, we’ll give an overview on how we’re making progress towards safe, grounded, and high-quality dialog applications. LaMDA is built by fine-tuning a family of Transformer-based neural language models specialized for dialog, with up to 137B model parameters, and teaching the models to leverage external knowledge sources.

Objectives & Metrics
Defining objectives and metrics is critical to guide training dialog models. LaMDA has three key objectives — Quality, Safety, and Groundedness — each of which we measure using carefully designed metrics:

Quality: We decompose Quality into three dimensions, Sensibleness, Specificity, and Interestingness (SSI), which are evaluated by human raters. Sensibleness refers to whether the model produces responses that make sense in the dialog context (e.g., no common sense mistakes, no absurd responses, and no contradictions with earlier responses). Specificity is measured by judging whether the system's response is specific to the preceding dialog context, and not a generic response that could apply to most contexts (e.g., “ok” or “I don’t know”). Finally, Interestingness measures whether the model produces responses that are also insightful, unexpected or witty, and are therefore more likely to create better dialog.

Safety: We’re also making progress towards addressing important questions related to the development and deployment of Responsible AI. Our Safety metric is composed of an illustrative set of safety objectives that captures the behavior that the model should exhibit in a dialog. These objectives attempt to constrain the model’s output to avoid any unintended results that create risks of harm for the user, and to avoid reinforcing unfair bias. For example, these objectives train the model to avoid producing outputs that contain violent or gory content, promote slurs or hateful stereotypes towards groups of people, or contain profanity. Our research towards developing a practical Safety metric represents very early work, and there is still a great deal of progress for us to make in this area.

Groundedness: The current generation of language models often generate statements that seem plausible, but actually contradict facts established in known external sources. This motivates our study of groundedness in LaMDA. Groundedness is defined as the percentage of responses with claims about the external world that can be supported by authoritative external sources, as a share of all responses containing claims about the external world. A related metric, Informativeness, is defined as the percentage of responses with information about the external world that can be supported by known sources, as a share of all responses. Therefore, casual responses that do not carry any real world information (e.g., “That’s a great idea”), affect Informativeness but not Groundedness. While grounding LaMDA generated responses in known sources does not in itself guarantee factual accuracy, it allows users or external systems to judge the validity of a response based on the reliability of its source.

LaMDA Pre-Training
With the objectives and metrics defined, we describe LaMDA’s two-stage training: pre-training and fine-tuning. In the pre-training stage, we first created a dataset of 1.56T words — nearly 40 times more words than what were used to train previous dialog models — from public dialog data and other public web documents. After tokenizing the dataset into 2.81T SentencePiece tokens, we pre-train the model using GSPMD to predict every next token in a sentence, given the previous tokens. The pre-trained LaMDA model has also been widely used for natural language processing research across Google, including program synthesis, zero-shot learning, style transfer, as well as in the BIG-bench workshop.

LaMDA Fine-Tuning
In the fine-tuning stage, we train LaMDA to perform a mix of generative tasks to generate natural-language responses to given contexts, and classification tasks on whether a response is safe and high-quality, resulting in a single multi-task model that can do both. The LaMDA generator is trained to predict the next token on a dialog dataset restricted to back-and-forth dialog between two authors, while the LaMDA classifiers are trained to predict the Safety and Quality (SSI) ratings for the response in context using annotated data. During a dialog, the LaMDA generator first generates several candidate responses given the current multi-turn dialog context, and the LaMDA classifiers predict the SSI and Safety scores for every response candidate. Candidate responses with low Safety scores are first filtered out. Remaining candidates are re-ranked by their SSI scores, and the top result is selected as the response. We further filter the training data used for the generation task with LaMDA classifiers to increase the density of high-quality response candidates.

LaMDA generates and then scores a response candidate.
LaMDA handles arbitrary user input in a way that is sensible, specific, and interesting. Only LaMDA’s very first statement “Hello, I’m a friendly...” was hard coded to set the purpose of the dialog.

Factual Grounding
While people are capable of checking their facts by using tools and referencing established knowledge bases, many language models draw their knowledge on their internal model parameters only. To improve the groundedness of LaMDA’s original response, we collect a dataset of dialogs between people and LaMDA, which are annotated with information retrieval queries and the retrieved results where applicable. We then fine-tune LaMDA’s generator and classifier on this dataset to learn to call an external information retrieval system during its interaction with the user to improve the groundedness of its responses. While this is very early work, we’re seeing promising results.

Zero-shot domain adaptation: cherry-picked, but real example of LaMDA pretending to be Mount Everest, by simply setting its initial message to be “Hi I’m Mount Everest. What would you like me to know about me?” Everest LaMDA is shown providing educational and factually correct responses.

In order to quantify progress against our key metrics, we collect responses from the pre-trained model, fine-tuned model, and human raters (i.e., human-generated responses) to multi-turn two-author dialogs, and then ask a different set of human raters a series of questions to evaluate these responses against the Quality, Safety, and Groundedness metrics.

We observe that LaMDA significantly outperforms the pre-trained model in every dimension and across all model sizes. Quality metrics (Sensibleness, Specificity, and Interestingness, in the first column below) generally improve with the number of model parameters, with or without fine-tuning. Safety does not seem to benefit from model scaling alone, but it does improve with fine-tuning. Groundedness improves as model size increases, perhaps because larger models have a greater capacity to memorize uncommon knowledge, but fine-tuning allows the model to access external knowledge sources and effectively shift some of the load of remembering knowledge to an external knowledge source. With fine-tuning, the quality gap to human levels can be narrowed, though the model’s performance remains below human levels in safety and groundedness.

Comparing the pre-trained model (PT), fine-tuned model (LaMDA) and human-rater-generated dialogs (Human) across Sensibleness, Specificity, Interestingness, Safety, Groundedness, and Informativeness. The test sets used to measure Safety and Groundedness were designed to be especially difficult.

Future Research & Challenges
LaMDA’s level of Sensibleness, Specificity and Interestingness unlocks new avenues for understanding the benefits and risks of open-ended dialog agents. It also presents encouraging evidence that key challenges with neural language models, such as using a safety metric and improving groundedness, can improve with larger models and fine-tuning with more well-labeled data. However, this is very early work, and there are significant limitations. Exploring new ways to improve our Safety metric and LaMDA's groundedness, aligned with our AI Principles, will continue to be our main areas of focus going forward.

We'd to like to thank everyone for contributing to the project and paper, including: Blaise Aguera-Arcas, Javier Alberca, Thushan Amarasiriwardena, Lora Aroyo, Martin Baeuml, Leslie Baker, Rachel Bernstein, Taylor Bos, Maarten Bosma, Jonas Bragagnolo, Alena Butryna, Bill Byrne, Chung-Ching Chang, Zhifeng Chen, Dehao Chen, Heng-Tze Cheng, Ed Chi, Aaron Cohen, Eli Collins, Marian Croak, Claire Cui, Andrew Dai, Dipanjan Das, Daniel De Freitas, Jeff Dean, Rajat Dewan, Mark Diaz, Tulsee Doshi, Yu Du, Toju Duke, Doug Eck, Joe Fenton, Noah Fiedel, Christian Frueh, Harish Ganapathy, Saravanan Ganesh, Amin Ghafouri, Zoubin Ghahramani, Kourosh Gharachorloo, Jamie Hall, Erin Hoffman-John, Sissie Hsiao, Yanping Huang, Ben Hutchinson, Daphne Ippolito, Alicia Jin, Thomas Jurdi, Ashwin Kakarla, Nand Kishore, Maxim Krikun, Karthik Krishnamoorthi, Igor Krivokon, Apoorv Kulshreshtha, Ray Kurzweil, Viktoriya Kuzmina, Vivek Kwatra, Matthew Lamm, Quoc Le, Max Lee, Katherine Lee, Hongrae Lee, Josh Lee, Dmitry Lepikhin, YaGuang Li, Yifeng Lu, David Luan, Daphne Luong, Laichee Man, Jianchang (JC) Mao, Yossi Matias, Kathleen Meier-Hellstern, Marcelo Menegali, Muqthar Mohammad,, Muqthar Mohammad, Alejandra Molina, Erica Moreira, Meredith Ringel Morris, Maysam Moussalem, Jiaqi Mu, Tyler Mullen, Tyler Mullen, Eric Ni, Kristen Olson, Alexander Passos, Fernando Pereira, Slav Petrov, Marc Pickett, Roberto Pieraccini, Christian Plagemann, Sahitya Potluri, Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, Andy Pratt, James Qin, Ravi Rajakumar, Adam Roberts, Will Rusch, Renelito Delos Santos, Noam Shazeer, RJ Skerry-Ryan, Grigori Somin, Johnny Soraker, Pranesh Srinivasan, Amarnag Subramanya, Mustafa Suleyman, Romal Thoppilan, Song Wang, Sheng Wang, Chris Wassman, Yuanzhong Xu, Yuanzhong Xu, Ni Yan, Ben Zevenbergen, Vincent Zhao, Huaixiu Steven Zheng, Denny Zhou, Hao Zhou, Yanqi Zhou, and more.

Source: Google AI Blog

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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