Large language models (LLMs) have become a prominent force in the field of artificial intelligence, revolutionizing the way we interact with and generate text. The advent of large language models can be traced back to the introduction of deep neural networks, particularly the Transformer architecture in 2017.
This innovation paved the way for the evolution from conventional language models to large language models (LLMs). LLMs are designed to handle a multitude of text-related tasks, including text generation, code generation, summarization, translation, and speech-to-text applications. However, it’s important to acknowledge that LLMs are not without their limitations.
One notable drawback is the quality of generated text, which often falls short of human standards, sometimes even producing comically nonsensical or erroneous content. LLMs are also known for generating “hallucinations,” inventing facts that may seem plausible to those unaware of their inaccuracies. Additionally, language translations generated by LLMs are rarely 100% accurate without human review, and code generated by these models may contain bugs or be non-functional. While efforts are made to prevent LLMs from making controversial statements or promoting illegal activities, malicious prompts can sometimes breach these safeguards.
Training LLMs requires a massive corpus of text data. Some of the datasets used include the 1B Word Benchmark, Wikipedia, the Toronto Books Corpus, Common Crawl, and public open-source GitHub repositories. However, large text datasets raise concerns about copyright infringement, with multiple lawsuits currently addressing this issue. Efforts are underway to address these concerns, as exemplified by datasets like the Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus (C4), an 800GB dataset derived from Common Crawl, which has undergone rigorous cleaning.
LLMs distinguish themselves from traditional language models through their use of deep learning neural networks and the need for millions or even billions of parameters (weights) in their neural networks. As the field has advanced, LLMs have grown in size, with models like GPT-3 boasting a staggering 175 billion parameters. However, the increase in parameters comes with trade-offs, as larger models require more memory and operate more slowly. Notably, smaller LLMs have also emerged in 2023, providing options for different computational resources.
A history of text generation models
Text generation models have a rich history, dating back to Andrey Markov’s work in 1913, which applied mathematics to poetry and introduced the concept of Markov chains for character-level predictions. Claude Shannon extended this work in 1948, and later, Fred Jelinek and Robert Mercer applied statistical language models to real-time speech recognition.
In the 21st century, neural networks, particularly feed-forward auto-regressive neural network models, replaced traditional statistical models. These neural models improved word prediction accuracy over previous methods by significant margins, eventually evolving into what we now refer to as large language models.
Modern language models serve diverse purposes, including text generation, classification, question-answering, sentiment analysis, entity recognition, speech and handwriting recognition, and more. Customization for specific tasks, known as fine-tuning, is achieved through supplemental training sets.
Intermediate tasks within language models involve various processes such as sentence segmentation, word tokenization, stemming, lemmatizing, part-of-speech tagging, stopword identification, named-entity recognition, text classification, chunking, and coreference resolution. These tasks contribute to the versatility of language models and their applicability in a wide range of natural language understanding tasks.
Large language models, as mentioned earlier, stand apart from traditional models due to their deep learning neural networks, extensive training data, and massive parameter counts. Training an LLM involves optimizing these parameters to minimize errors in the designated task, often through self-supervised learning, such as predicting the next word in a text corpus.
The most popular LLMs
The recent surge in LLM development can be attributed to the groundbreaking 2017 paper, “Attention is All You Need,” which introduced the Transformer architecture. Since then, numerous LLMs have emerged, each pushing the boundaries of size and performance.
Large language models have evolved significantly, reshaping the landscape of AI-driven text generation and understanding. While their capabilities are awe-inspiring, their limitations and ethical concerns must not be overlooked. As the field progresses, striking a balance between model size, environmental impact, and data curation becomes increasingly crucial for the responsible development and deployment of large language models in the future.