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Journal Article

Exploring the Limits of Transfer Learning with a Unified Text-to-Text Transformer

01 Jan 2020-Journal of Machine Learning Research-Vol. 21, Iss: 140, pp 1-67

AbstractTransfer learning, where a model is first pre-trained on a data-rich task before being fine-tuned on a downstream task, has emerged as a powerful technique in natural language processing (NLP). The effectiveness of transfer learning has given rise to a diversity of approaches, methodology, and practice. In this paper, we explore the landscape of transfer learning techniques for NLP by introducing a unified framework that converts all text-based language problems into a text-to-text format. Our systematic study compares pre-training objectives, architectures, unlabeled data sets, transfer approaches, and other factors on dozens of language understanding tasks. By combining the insights from our exploration with scale and our new ``Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus'', we achieve state-of-the-art results on many benchmarks covering summarization, question answering, text classification, and more. To facilitate future work on transfer learning for NLP, we release our data set, pre-trained models, and code.

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Posted Content
Abstract: Recent work has demonstrated substantial gains on many NLP tasks and benchmarks by pre-training on a large corpus of text followed by fine-tuning on a specific task. While typically task-agnostic in architecture, this method still requires task-specific fine-tuning datasets of thousands or tens of thousands of examples. By contrast, humans can generally perform a new language task from only a few examples or from simple instructions - something which current NLP systems still largely struggle to do. Here we show that scaling up language models greatly improves task-agnostic, few-shot performance, sometimes even reaching competitiveness with prior state-of-the-art fine-tuning approaches. Specifically, we train GPT-3, an autoregressive language model with 175 billion parameters, 10x more than any previous non-sparse language model, and test its performance in the few-shot setting. For all tasks, GPT-3 is applied without any gradient updates or fine-tuning, with tasks and few-shot demonstrations specified purely via text interaction with the model. GPT-3 achieves strong performance on many NLP datasets, including translation, question-answering, and cloze tasks, as well as several tasks that require on-the-fly reasoning or domain adaptation, such as unscrambling words, using a novel word in a sentence, or performing 3-digit arithmetic. At the same time, we also identify some datasets where GPT-3's few-shot learning still struggles, as well as some datasets where GPT-3 faces methodological issues related to training on large web corpora. Finally, we find that GPT-3 can generate samples of news articles which human evaluators have difficulty distinguishing from articles written by humans. We discuss broader societal impacts of this finding and of GPT-3 in general.

1,837 citations


Proceedings ArticleDOI
01 Jul 2020
TL;DR: It is shown that pretraining multilingual language models at scale leads to significant performance gains for a wide range of cross-lingual transfer tasks, and the possibility of multilingual modeling without sacrificing per-language performance is shown for the first time.
Abstract: This paper shows that pretraining multilingual language models at scale leads to significant performance gains for a wide range of cross-lingual transfer tasks. We train a Transformer-based masked language model on one hundred languages, using more than two terabytes of filtered CommonCrawl data. Our model, dubbed XLM-R, significantly outperforms multilingual BERT (mBERT) on a variety of cross-lingual benchmarks, including +14.6% average accuracy on XNLI, +13% average F1 score on MLQA, and +2.4% F1 score on NER. XLM-R performs particularly well on low-resource languages, improving 15.7% in XNLI accuracy for Swahili and 11.4% for Urdu over previous XLM models. We also present a detailed empirical analysis of the key factors that are required to achieve these gains, including the trade-offs between (1) positive transfer and capacity dilution and (2) the performance of high and low resource languages at scale. Finally, we show, for the first time, the possibility of multilingual modeling without sacrificing per-language performance; XLM-R is very competitive with strong monolingual models on the GLUE and XNLI benchmarks. We will make our code and models publicly available.

1,042 citations


Proceedings ArticleDOI
01 Jul 2020
TL;DR: BART is presented, a denoising autoencoder for pretraining sequence-to-sequence models, which matches the performance of RoBERTa on GLUE and SQuAD, and achieves new state-of-the-art results on a range of abstractive dialogue, question answering, and summarization tasks.
Abstract: We present BART, a denoising autoencoder for pretraining sequence-to-sequence models. BART is trained by (1) corrupting text with an arbitrary noising function, and (2) learning a model to reconstruct the original text. It uses a standard Tranformer-based neural machine translation architecture which, despite its simplicity, can be seen as generalizing BERT (due to the bidirectional encoder), GPT (with the left-to-right decoder), and other recent pretraining schemes. We evaluate a number of noising approaches, finding the best performance by both randomly shuffling the order of sentences and using a novel in-filling scheme, where spans of text are replaced with a single mask token. BART is particularly effective when fine tuned for text generation but also works well for comprehension tasks. It matches the performance of RoBERTa on GLUE and SQuAD, and achieves new state-of-the-art results on a range of abstractive dialogue, question answering, and summarization tasks, with gains of up to 3.5 ROUGE. BART also provides a 1.1 BLEU increase over a back-translation system for machine translation, with only target language pretraining. We also replicate other pretraining schemes within the BART framework, to understand their effect on end-task performance.

745 citations


Posted Content
TL;DR: Following prior work on long-sequence transformers, the Longformer is evaluated on character-level language modeling and achieves state-of-the-art results on text8 and enwik8 and pretrain Longformer and finetune it on a variety of downstream tasks.
Abstract: Transformer-based models are unable to process long sequences due to their self-attention operation, which scales quadratically with the sequence length. To address this limitation, we introduce the Longformer with an attention mechanism that scales linearly with sequence length, making it easy to process documents of thousands of tokens or longer. Longformer's attention mechanism is a drop-in replacement for the standard self-attention and combines a local windowed attention with a task motivated global attention. Following prior work on long-sequence transformers, we evaluate Longformer on character-level language modeling and achieve state-of-the-art results on text8 and enwik8. In contrast to most prior work, we also pretrain Longformer and finetune it on a variety of downstream tasks. Our pretrained Longformer consistently outperforms RoBERTa on long document tasks and sets new state-of-the-art results on WikiHop and TriviaQA. We finally introduce the Longformer-Encoder-Decoder (LED), a Longformer variant for supporting long document generative sequence-to-sequence tasks, and demonstrate its effectiveness on the arXiv summarization dataset.

672 citations


Proceedings ArticleDOI
23 Apr 2020
TL;DR: It is consistently found that multi-phase adaptive pretraining offers large gains in task performance, and it is shown that adapting to a task corpus augmented using simple data selection strategies is an effective alternative, especially when resources for domain-adaptive pretraining might be unavailable.
Abstract: Language models pretrained on text from a wide variety of sources form the foundation of today’s NLP. In light of the success of these broad-coverage models, we investigate whether it is still helpful to tailor a pretrained model to the domain of a target task. We present a study across four domains (biomedical and computer science publications, news, and reviews) and eight classification tasks, showing that a second phase of pretraining in-domain (domain-adaptive pretraining) leads to performance gains, under both high- and low-resource settings. Moreover, adapting to the task’s unlabeled data (task-adaptive pretraining) improves performance even after domain-adaptive pretraining. Finally, we show that adapting to a task corpus augmented using simple data selection strategies is an effective alternative, especially when resources for domain-adaptive pretraining might be unavailable. Overall, we consistently find that multi-phase adaptive pretraining offers large gains in task performance.

670 citations