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Predicting Emergent Abilities with Infinite Resolution Evaluation

Shengding Hu · Xin Liu · Xu Han · Xinrong Zhang · Chaoqun He · Weilin Zhao · Yankai Lin · Ning Ding · Zebin Ou · Guoyang Zeng · Zhiyuan Liu · Maosong Sun

Halle B #288
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Tue 7 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


The scientific scale-up of large language models (LLMs) necessitates a comprehensive understanding of their scaling properties. However, the existing literature on the scaling properties only yields an incomplete answer: optimization loss decreases predictably as the model size increases, in line with established scaling law; yet no scaling law for task has been established and the task performances are far from predictable during scaling. Task performances typically show minor gains on small models until they improve dramatically once models exceed a size threshold, exemplifying the ''emergent abilities''. In this study, we discover that small models, although they exhibit minor performance, demonstrate critical and consistent task performance improvements that are not captured by conventional evaluation strategies due to insufficient measurement resolution. To measure such improvements, we introduce PassUntil, an evaluation strategy with theoretically infinite resolution, through massive sampling in the decoding phase. With PassUntil, we conduct a quantitative investigation into the scaling law of task performance. The investigation contains two parts. Firstly, a strict task scaling law that is not conventionally known to exist, is identified, enhancing the predictability of task performances. Remarkably, we are able to predict the performance of the 2.4B model on code generation with merely 0.05\% deviation before training starts, which is the first systematic attempt to verify predictable scaling proposed by GPT-4's report. Secondly, underpinned by PassUntil, we are able to study emergent abilities quantitatively. We identify a kind of accelerated emergence whose scaling curve cannot be fitted by standard scaling law function and has a increasing speed. We then examine two hypothesis and imply that the ``multiple circuits hypothesis'' might be responsible for the accelerated emergence.

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