Forgetful causal masking makes causal language models better zero-shot learners

ICLR 2023(2023)

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Large language models (LLM) trained using the next-token-prediction objective, such as GPT3 and PaLM, have revolutionized natural language processing in recent years by showing impressive zero-shot and few-shot capabilities across a wide range of tasks. In this work, we propose a simple technique that significantly boosts the performance of LLMs without adding computational cost. Our key observation is that, by performing the next token prediction task with randomly selected past tokens masked out, we can improve the quality of the learned representations for downstream language understanding tasks. We hypothesize that randomly masking past tokens prevents over-attending to recent tokens and encourages attention to tokens in the distant past. By randomly masking input tokens in the PaLM model, we show that we can significantly improve PaLM's zero-shot performance on the SuperGLUE benchmark from 55.7 to 59.2. Experimental results show that FCM also improves PaLM's zero- and few-shot performance on a diverse suite of tasks, including commonsense reasoning, natural language inference and cloze completion. Moreover, we show that our technique also helps representation learning, significantly improving PaLM's finetuning results on SuperGLUE.
Language modeling,casual language model,few shot language models
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