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  1. Despite their omnipresence in modern NLP, characterizing the computational power of transformer neural nets remains an interesting open question. We prove that transformers whose arithmetic precision is logarithmic in the number of input tokens (and whose feedforward nets are computable using space linear in their input) can be simulated by constant-depth logspace-uniform threshold circuits. This provides insight on the power of transformers using known results in complexity theory. For example, if L≠P (i.e., not all poly-time problems can be solved using logarithmic space), then transformers cannot even accurately solve linear equalities or check membership in an arbitrary context-free grammar with empty productions. Our result intuitively emerges from the transformer architecture's high parallelizability. We thus speculatively introduce the idea of a fundamental parallelism tradeoff: any model architecture as parallelizable as the transformer will obey limitations similar to it. Since parallelism is key to training models at massive scale, this suggests a potential inherent weakness of the scaling paradigm. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 26, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  3. Question-answering datasets require a broad set of reasoning skills. We show how to use question decompositions to teach language models these broad reasoning skills in a robust fashion. Specifically, we use widely available QDMR representations to programmatically create hard-to-cheat synthetic contexts for real questions in six multi-step reasoning datasets. These contexts are carefully designed to avoid common reasoning shortcuts prevalent in real contexts that prevent models from learning the right skills. This results in a pretraining dataset, named TeaBReaC, containing 525K multi-step questions (with associated formal programs) covering about 900 reasoning patterns. We show that pretraining standard language models (LMs) on TeaBReaC before fine-tuning them on target datasets improves their performance by up to 13 F1 points across 4 multi-step QA datasets, with up to 21 point gain on more complex questions. The resulting models also demonstrate higher robustness, with a 5-8 F1 point improvement on two contrast sets. Furthermore, TeaBReaC pretraining substantially improves model performance and robustness even when starting with numerate LMs pretrained using recent methods (e.g., PReasM, POET). Our work thus shows how to effectively use decomposition-guided contexts to robustly teach multi-step reasoning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 7, 2023
  4. While day-to-day questions come with a variety of answer types, the current question-answering (QA) literature has failed to adequately address the answer diversity of questions. To this end, we present GooAQ, a large-scale dataset with a variety of answer types. This dataset contains over 5 million questions and 3 million answers collected from Google. GooAQ questions are collected semi-automatically from the Google search engine using its autocomplete feature. This results in naturalistic questions of practical interest that are nonetheless short and expressed using simple language. GooAQ answers are mined from Google’s responses to our collected questions, specifically from the answer boxes in the search results. This yields a rich space of answer types, containing both textual answers (short and long) as well as more structured ones such as collections. We benchmark T5 models on GooAQ and observe that: (a) in line with recent work, LM’s strong performance on GooAQ’s short-answer questions heavily benefit from annotated data; however, (b) their quality in generating coherent and accurate responses for questions requiring long responses (such as ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions) is less reliant on observing annotated data and mainly supported by their pre-training. We release GooAQ to facilitate further research on improving QA with diverse response types. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Question Answering (QA) naturally reduces to an entailment problem, namely, verifying whether some text entails the answer to a question. However, for multi-hop QA tasks, which require reasoning with \textit{multiple} sentences, it remains unclear how best to utilize entailment models pre-trained on large scale datasets such as SNLI, which are based on sentence pairs. We introduce Multee, a general architecture that can effectively use entailment models for multi-hop QA tasks. Multee uses (i) a local module that helps locate important sentences, thereby avoiding distracting information, and (ii) a global module that aggregates information by effectively incorporating importance weights. Importantly, we show that both modules can use entailment functions pre-trained on a large scale NLI datasets. We evaluate performance on MultiRC and OpenBookQA, two multihop QA datasets. When using an entailment function pre-trained on NLI datasets, Multee outperforms QA models trained only on the target QA datasets and the OpenAI transformer models. 
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