Prior work on language models (LMs) shows that training on a large number of diverse tasks improves few-shot learning (FSL) performance on new tasks. We take this to the extreme, automatically extracting 413,299 tasks from internet tables - orders of magnitude more than the next-largest public datasets. Finetuning on the resulting dataset leads to improved FSL performance on Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks, but not proportionally to dataset scale. In fact, we find that narrow subsets of our dataset sometimes outperform more diverse datasets. For example, finetuning on software documentation from here raises FSL performance by a mean of +7.5% on 52 downstream tasks, which beats training on 40 human-curated NLP datasets (+6.7%). Finetuning on various narrow datasets leads to similar broad improvements across test tasks, suggesting that the gains are not from domain adaptation but adapting to FSL in general. We do not observe clear patterns between the datasets that lead to FSL gains, leaving open questions about why certain data helps with FSL.
Jérémy graduated with an MS in Computer Science from ETH Zurich, and is currently a visiting researcher at New York University. He is working with Ethan Perez, aligning language models to human preferences.
Ethan is a Research Scientist at Anthropic. He completed his Ph.D. in Natural Language Processing at New York University. He was advised by Kyunghyun Cho and Douwe Kiela and funded by NSF and Open Philanthropy. His research focuses on aligning language models with human preferences, e.g., for content that is helpful, honest, and harmless. In particular, he is excited about developing learning algorithms that outdo humans at generating such content, by producing text that is free of social biases, cognitive biases, common misconceptions, and other limitations. Previously, he has spent time at DeepMind, Facebook AI Research, Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, Uber, and Google. He earned a Bachelor’s from Rice University as the Engineering department’s Outstanding Senior. Visit his website to find out more.