Beyond the Imitation Game: Quantifying and extrapolating the capabilities of language models

Transactions on Machine Learning Research

Venue: TMLR
Type: Journal
Large Language Models

Aarohi Srivastava

Yale University

Abhinav Rastogi


Abhishek Rao


Abu Awal Md Shoeb

Rutgers University

Abubakar Abid

Stanford University

Adam Fisch

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Adam R. Brown


Adam Santoro


Aditya Gupta


Adrià Garriga-Alonso

University of Cambridge

Agnieszka Kluska

University of Amsterdam

Sophie Hao

Yale University

438 other authors


May 11, 2023

Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIGbench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 450 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI’s GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit “breakthrough” behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.