Illustrating RLHF

last updated: Oct 20, 2023

Language models have shown impressive capabilities in the past few years by generating diverse and compelling text from human input prompts. However, what makes a "good" text is inherently hard to define as it is subjective and context dependent. There are many applications such as writing stories where you want creativity, pieces of informative text which should be truthful, or code snippets that we want to be executable.

Writing a loss function to capture these attributes seems intractable and most language models are still trained with a simple next token prediction loss (e.g. cross entropy). To compensate for the shortcomings of the loss itself people define metrics that are designed to better capture human preferences such as BLEU or ROUGE. While being better suited than the loss function itself at measuring performance these metrics simply compare generated text to references with simple rules and are thus also limited. Wouldn't it be great if we use human feedback for generated text as a measure of performance or go even one step further and use that feedback as a loss to optimize the model? That's the idea of Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF); use methods from reinforcement learning to directly optimize a language model with human feedback. RLHF has enabled language models to begin to align a model trained on a general corpus of text data to that of complex human values.

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