How To Apply Transfer Learning To Large Language Models (LLMs) — Detailed Explanation & Tutorial To Fine Tune A GPT-3 model

by | Mar 28, 2023 | artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing

What is transfer learning for large language models (LLMs)? Their Advantages, disadvantages, different models available and applications in various natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Followed by a detailed explanation of fine-tuning your model with a how-to tutorial for fine-tuning a GPT-3 model.

What is a large language model (LLM)?

A Large Language Model (LLM) is a neural network-based language model trained on large amounts of text data, typically on billions of words or more. LLMs are designed to learn the statistical patterns and structure of language by predicting the next word in a sequence of words.

The most widely known and used LLMs are the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) series, developed by OpenAI, and BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), produced by Google. These models use the Transformer architecture, a type of neural network introduced in the paper “Attention Is All You Need” by Vaswani et al. in 2017.

LLMs can be pre-trained on large text corpora using unsupervised learning methods such as masked language modelling, where the model is trained to predict the missing word in a sentence given the context. After pre-training, LLMs can be fine-tuned on various natural language processing (NLP) tasks such as text classification, question answering, and language translation.

LLMs have impressive performance on various NLP tasks, achieving state-of-the-art GLUE and SuperGLUE benchmark results. In addition, LLMs have also been used for various applications, such as chatbots, text generation, and summarization.

large language models (LLMs) need to be tested on transfer learning tasks

LLMs have impressive performance on various NLP tests.

Transfer learning from large language models (LLMs)

Transfer learning from large language models has become a popular approach in natural language processing (NLP) in recent years. Large language models, such as GPT-3/GPT-4, are pre-trained on massive amounts of data and can be fine-tuned on specific downstream tasks with smaller datasets.

The general idea of transfer learning in NLP is to take advantage of the knowledge learned by the pre-trained model to improve the performance of a new task. This is typically achieved by fine-tuning the pre-trained model on the new task by training additional layers on top of the pre-trained model while keeping the pre-trained weights fixed.

The benefits of transfer learning from large language models are numerous:

  1. It can save time and computational resources as the pre-trained model has already learned a lot of information about the language.
  2. It can improve the performance of the downstream task as the pre-trained model has been trained on a large and diverse dataset.
  3. It can reduce the need for large annotated datasets for each job.

However, it is essential to note that transfer learning from large language models is not a silver bullet solution and may only sometimes result in improved performance. The success of transfer learning depends on various factors, such as the similarity between the pre-training data and the downstream task data, the amount of training data available for the downstream task, and the architecture and hyperparameters of the model.

Advantages of transfer learning from large language models (LLMs)

  • Reduced Training Time: LLMs have already been trained on vast amounts of data, allowing them to learn general language features, such as syntax and semantics. As a result, transfer learning from LLMs can significantly reduce the time and resources required to train a new model from scratch.
  • Improved Performance: Transfer learning from LLMs can enhance the performance of a new model, particularly in cases where the training data is limited. LLMs can provide a strong foundation of knowledge that can be fine-tuned to the specific task at hand.
  • Generalizability: LLMs are trained on a wide range of language-related tasks, allowing them to learn general features of language that can be applied to various natural language processing tasks. This can improve the generalizability of a new model, mainly when working with new or unseen data.

Disadvantages of transfer learning from large language models (LLMs)

  • Limited Flexibility: LLMs are pre-trained on large amounts of data, which can limit their flexibility in adapting to new or specialized domains. This can result in a decrease in performance when working with domain-specific data.
  • Biases: LLMs are trained on large amounts of data, which can contain biases and inaccuracies that can be transferred to a new model. This can lead to a lack of fairness and accuracy when working with specific data types, mainly with underrepresented groups.
  • Data Privacy Concerns: LLMs require vast amounts of data to be trained, which can raise privacy concerns, particularly when working with sensitive or personal data. There may also be ethical concerns related to using pre-trained models trained on data that may have been obtained unethically or without informed consent.

What applications can benefit from transfer learning for large language models?

Transfer learning with Large Language Models (LLMs) can be applied to a wide range of natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Here are some applications that can benefit from transfer learning with LLMs:

  1. Language Translation: Transfer learning with LLMs can improve the performance of machine translation systems by providing a solid foundation of knowledge about language syntax and semantics. This can help improve the accuracy and fluency of translations.
  2. Sentiment Analysis: Transfer learning with LLMs can train models to accurately classify text sentiment, such as positive, negative, or neutral. This can be useful for analyzing customer feedback, social media posts, and other text data types.
  3. Named Entity Recognition: Transfer learning with LLMs can improve the accuracy of models that identify and classify named entities in text, such as people, organizations, and locations. This can be useful for information extraction and knowledge graph construction.
  4. Question Answering: Transfer learning with LLMs can train models to answer questions accurately based on text data. This can be useful for chatbots, virtual assistants, and other applications that require natural language interaction with users.
  5. Text Summarization: Transfer learning with LLMs can be used to train models that automatically generate summaries of long pieces of text. This can be useful for tasks like news articles and document summarization.
  6. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: Transfer learning with LLMs can be used to train chatbots and virtual assistants to understand and respond to natural language inputs from users. This can be useful for various applications, such as customer service, personal assistants, etc.

These are just a few examples of the many applications that can benefit from transfer learning with LLMs. In general, any NLP task requiring a deep language understanding can benefit from transfer learning with LLMs.

What is “fine-tuning” in transfer learning for large language models?

Fine-tuning in Language Models (LLMs) is further training a pre-trained language model on a specific task or domain using a smaller dataset. Fine-tuning allows the pre-trained model to adapt to a new task or domain by updating the model’s parameters with task-specific data.

Fine-tuning can improve the performance of the pre-trained model on the new task or domain while also saving time and computational resources compared to training a new model from scratch.

In the context of LLMs, fine-tuning involves training additional layers on top of the pre-trained model while keeping the pre-trained weights fixed. Fine-tuning aims to optimize the model’s parameters for the new task or domain while preserving the knowledge learned during pre-training.

Fine-tuning can be done using a small amount of task-specific data, such as a few hundred or thousand examples, often much smaller than the data used during pre-training.

The success of fine-tuning depends on various factors, such as the similarity between the pre-training data and the task-specific data, the amount of training data available for the task, and the architecture and hyperparameters of the model.

How can large language models (LLMs) be used for transfer learning?

Several Large Language Models (LLMs) are available, each with strengths and applications. Here are some examples:

  • GPT-4 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 4) – This is one of the most powerful LLMs currently available, with up to 100 Trillion parameters. It has been used for various natural language processing tasks, including language translation, question-answering, text completion, and more. In addition, its large size and capabilities make it a popular choice for researching and developing new language-based applications.
  • BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) – This LLM is pre-trained on a large corpus of text using a masked language modelling approach. It is effective in various natural language processing tasks, including text classification, named entity recognition, and more. BERT has been widely used for natural language understanding applications, such as search engines, chatbots, and virtual assistants.
  • XLNet (eXtreme Multi-Label Learning Network) – This LLM is designed to address the limitations of traditional pre-training methods by using a permutation-based language modelling approach. It is effective in various natural language processing tasks, including language translation, text classification, and more. In addition, XLNet has been used to research and develop new language-based applications.
  • RoBERTa (Robustly Optimized BERT pre-training approach) – This LLM is an improved version of BERT that incorporates additional pre-training techniques, such as dynamic masking and longer sequences, to improve performance. RoBERTa has been effective in various natural language processing tasks, including text classification, question-answering, and more.
  • T5 (Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer) – This LLM is designed to handle various natural language processing tasks, including language translation, question-answering, text summarization, and more. It is pre-trained using a text-to-text transfer learning approach, which allows it to generate output text from a given input text.

These are just a few examples of the many open-source Large Language Models available today. Each LLM has its strengths and applications, and the choice of which to use will depend on the specific requirements of the task at hand.

How to fine-tune a GTP-3 or GPT-4 model

Customizing GPT-3 or 4 can be done through fine-tuning, which involves further training the pre-trained model on a specific task or domain using a smaller dataset.

Here are some general steps to follow when customizing GPT:

First, define the task: Determine the task you want GPT to perform, such as text classification, language translation, or question-answering.

  1. Gather training data: Collect a small dataset of examples representative of the task you want to perform. The size of the dataset will depend on the complexity of the task and the amount of variation in the data.
  2. Preprocess the data: Prepare the training data by cleaning and formatting it to be compatible with GPT. This may involve tokenization, normalization, and encoding.
  3. Fine-tune the model: Using transfer learning, use the pre-trained GPT model as a starting point and fine-tune it on the training data. This involves training the model on the new task while keeping the pre-trained weights fixed.
  4. Evaluate the model: Test the fine-tuned model on a validation dataset to measure its performance. This will help you determine if additional fine-tuning is necessary.
  5. Deploy the model: Once it has been fine-tuned and evaluated, it can be deployed in your application or service.

It’s important to note that customizing GPT requires significant computational resources and machine learning expertise. Therefore, it might help to get expert advice or use already-built platforms and make it easier to make changes.

Fine-tuning tutorial in Python – transfer learning large language models

Here’s an example code snippet in Python using the Transformers library from Hugging Face to fine-tune GPT-3 on a text classification task:

from transformers import GPT2Tokenizer, GPT2ForSequenceClassification, AdamW
import torch

# Load the pre-trained GPT-3 tokenizer and model
tokenizer = GPT2Tokenizer.from_pretrained('EleutherAI/gpt-neo-1.3B')
model = GPT2ForSequenceClassification.from_pretrained('EleutherAI/gpt-neo-1.3B')

# Define the text classification task and load the training data
task = "sentiment_analysis"
train_data = [
    {"text": "I love this movie!", "label": 1},
    {"text": "This is a terrible book.", "label": 0},
    {"text": "The restaurant was amazing.", "label": 1},
    {"text": "I had a bad experience at the hotel.", "label": 0}
]

# Tokenize the training data and convert it to PyTorch tensors
inputs = tokenizer([x['text'] for x in train_data], padding=True, truncation=True, return_tensors='pt')
labels = torch.tensor([x['label'] for x in train_data])

# Fine-tune the model on the text classification task
optimizer = AdamW(model.parameters(), lr=5e-5)
model.train()
for epoch in range(3):
    outputs = model(**inputs, labels=labels)
    loss = outputs.loss
    loss.backward()
    optimizer.step()
    optimizer.zero_grad()
    print(f"Epoch {epoch+1}, Loss: {loss.item()}")

# Save the fine-tuned model
model.save_pretrained('path/to/fine-tuned/model')

In this example, we first load the pre-trained GPT-3 tokenizer and model using the Transformers library. We then define a text classification task and load some training data. Next, we tokenize the training data using the tokenizer and convert it to PyTorch tensors. We then fine-tune the GPT-3 model on the text classification task using the AdamW optimizer and train for three epochs. Finally, we save the fine-tuned model to disk. We can then use this model to make predictions by loading it as needed.

# Load the fine-tuned model
model = GPT2ForSequenceClassification.from_pretrained('path/to/fine-tuned/model')

# Define some new text examples for prediction
predict_data = [
    "This book was really good!",
    "I had a terrible experience at the restaurant.",
    "The weather is nice today."
]

# Tokenize the new text examples and convert them to PyTorch tensors
predict_inputs = tokenizer(predict_data, padding=True, truncation=True, return_tensors='pt')

# Use the fine-tuned model to make predictions on the new data
model.eval()
with torch.no_grad():
    outputs = model(**predict_inputs)
    logits = outputs.logits
    predictions = torch.argmax(logits, dim=1)

# Print the predictions for the new data
for text, label in zip(predict_data, predictions.tolist()):
    print(f"Text: {text}, Prediction: {label}")

Here, we first load the fine-tuned model from the disk. We then define some new text examples for prediction, tokenize them using the tokenizer, and convert them to PyTorch tensors.

We then use the fine-tuned model to make predictions on the new data using the eval() method and the no_grad() context manager to disable gradient calculations for efficiency. Finally, we print the predicted labels for the new data.

Once you have a model, it’s time to think about the most important disadvantage discussed above: bias.

Combating bias while applying transfer learning to large language models through selective activation

Selective activation is a technique used in Large Language Models (LLMs) to help mitigate the problem of model bias. Model bias occurs when the model assigns different levels of importance to additional input features or words based on their frequency or other factors, leading to undesirable outcomes such as discriminatory or stereotypical predictions.

Selective activation allows the model to selectively attend to certain input features or words during the forward pass while ignoring others. This is achieved by using a binary mask called the selective activation mask, which is applied to the attention scores of the model. The particular activation mask is a tensor of the same shape as the attention scores tensor. In addition, it contains binary values indicating which attention scores should be preserved (set to 1) and which should be suppressed (set to 0).

During training, the selective activation mask is learned along with the model parameters by backpropagating the gradients through the mask. This allows the model to understand which input features or words are essential for the task and suppress those not.

Selective activation has been shown to effectively reduce model bias and improve LLMs’ fairness and interpretability. However, it can also reduce model performance if the wrong input features or words are suppressed. Therefore, careful consideration and evaluation are needed when applying selective activation to LLMs.

Conclusion

Transfer learning from Large Language Models (LLMs) can significantly improve the performance of natural language processing (NLP) tasks.

LLMs have already been trained on vast amounts of data, allowing them to learn general language features, such as syntax and semantics. This can reduce the time and resources required to train a new model from scratch and improve its accuracy and generalizability.

Applications that can benefit from transfer learning with LLMs include language translation, sentiment analysis, named entity recognition, question answering, text summarization, and chatbots and virtual assistants.

However, when using this approach, it is important to consider and address potential disadvantages, such as limited flexibility, biases, and data privacy concerns.

Overall, transfer learning from LLMs holds great promise for advancing the field of NLP and improving the accuracy and effectiveness of natural language processing applications.

About the Author

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten is the founder of Spot Intelligence, a machine learning engineer with over 12 years of experience specialising in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and deep learning innovation. Dedicated to making your projects succeed.

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