Jaime Sevilla


Trends in Machine Learning

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Marius Hobbhahn has estimated the number of parameters here. His final estimate is 3.5e6 parameters.

Anson Ho has estimated the training compute (his reasoning at the end of this answer). His final estimate is 7.8e22 FLOPs.

Below I made a visualization of the parameters vs training compute of n=108 important ML system, so you can see how DeepMind's syste (labelled GOAT in the graph) compares to other systems. 

[Final calculation]
(8 TPUs)(4.20e14 FLOP/s)(0.1 utilisation rate)(32 agents)(7.3e6 s/agent) = 7.8e22 FLOPs


- "Each agent is trained using 8 TPUv3s and consumes approximately 50,000 agent steps (observations) per second."
- TPUv3 (half precision): 4.2e14 FLOP/s
- Number of TPUs: 8
- Utilisation rate: 0.1

- Figure 16 shows steps per generation and agent. In total there are 1.5e10 + 4.0e10 + 2.5e10 + 1.1e11 + 2e11 = 3.9e11 steps per agent.
- 3.9e11 / 5e4 = 8e6 s → ~93 days
- 100 million steps is equivalent to 30 minutes of wall-clock time in our setup. (pg 29, fig 27)
- 1e8 steps → 0.5h
- 3.9e11 steps → 1950h → 7.0e6 s → ~82 days
- Both of these seem like overestimates, because:
“Finally, on the largest timescale (days), generational training iteratively improves population performance by bootstrapping off previous generations, whilst also iteratively updating the validation normalised percentile metric itself.” (pg 16)
- Suggests that the above is an overestimate of the number of days needed, else they would have said (months) or (weeks)?
- Final choice (guesstimate): 85 days = 7.3e6 s

[Population size]
- 8 agents? (pg 21) → this is describing the case where they’re not using PBT, so ignore this number
- The original PBT paper uses 32 agents for one task https://arxiv.org/pdf/1711.09846.pdf (in general it uses between 10 and 80)
- (Guesstimate) Average population size: 32

Following up on this: we have updated appendix F of our paper with an analysis of different choices of the threshold that separates large-scale and regular-scale systems. Results are similar independently of the threshold choice.

There's also a lot of research that didn't make your analysis, including work explicitly geared towards smaller models. What exclusion criteria did you use? I feel like if I was to perform the same analysis with a slightly different sample of papers I could come to wildly divergent conclusions.

It is not feasible to do an exhaustive analysis of all milestone models. We necessarily are missing some important ones, either because we are not aware of them, because they did not provide enough information to deduce the training compute or because we haven't gotten to annotate them yet.

Our criteria for inclusion is outlined in appendix A. Essentially it boils down to ML models that have been cited >1000 times, models that have some historical significance and models that have been deployed in an important context (eg something that was deployed as part of Bing search engine would count). For models in the last two years we were more subjective, since there hasn't been enough time for the more relevant work to stand out the test of time.

We also excluded 5 models that have abnormally low compute, see figure 4.

We tried playing around with the selection of papers that was excluded and it didn't significantly change our conclusions, though obviously the dataset is biased in many ways. Appendix G discusses the possible biases that may have crept in. 

Great questions! I think it is reasonable to be suspicious of the large-scale distinction.

I do stand by it - I think the companies discontinuously increased their training budgets around 2016 for some flagship models.[1] If you mix these models with the regular trend, you might believe that the trend was doubling very fast up until 2017 and then slowed down. It is not an entirely unreasonable interpretation, but it explains worse the discontinuous jumps around 2016. Appendix E discusses this in-depth.

The way we selected the large-scale models is half intuition and half convenience. We compare the compute of each model to the log compute of nearby papers (within 2 years), and we call it large scale if its log compute exceeds 0.72 standard deviations of the mean of that sample.

I think there is a reasonable case for including NASv3, Libratus, Megatron-LM, T5-3B, OpenAI Five, Turing NLG, iGPT-XL, GShard (dense), Switch, DALL-E, Pangu-α, ProtT5-XXL and HyperClova on either side of this division.

Arguably we should have been more transparent about the effects of choosing a different threshold - we will try to look more into this in the next update of the paper.


  1. ^

    See appendix F for a surface discussion

Thank you Alex! You make some great points.

It seems like you probably could have gotten certainty about compute for at least a handful of the models studied in question

We thought so too - but in practice it has been surprisingly hard. Profilers are surprisingly buggy. Our colleague Marious looked into this more in depth here.

Maybe we are just going the wrong way about it. If someone here figures out how to directly measure compute in eg a pytorch or TF model it would be a huge boon to us. 

I think two more contemporary techniques are worth considering here: structured sparsity in weights ('blocksparse'), and mixture-of-experts gating ('switch transformer')

Great suggestions! I think those would be a great future caveats to look into.

I'd be curious to hear the authors' expectations of how this research changes in the face of more custom ML hardware.

My naive impression is that our conclusions do not change much. You would just need to plug into the effective performance () in the second formula.

Probably the trickiest part might be figuring out the utilization rate for the custom hardware - though this is a general problem with the second method.

In general I think it'd be good to integrate a bunch of the performance benchmarks that are publicly available (since hardware providers are usually pretty eager to show off stats that make their hardware look good) into calibrations for this method.

I think that would be nice! We started a public spreadsheet with some info on different hardware. This might be of help to someone who wants to dig deeper into the topic!

ASSUMPTION 3: The algorithm is human-legible, but nobody knows how it works yet.


Can you clarify what you mean by this assumption? And how is your argument dependent on it?

Is the point that the "secret sauce" algorithm is something that humans can plausibly come up with by thinking hrd about it? As opposed maybe to a evolution-designed nightmare that humans cannot plausibly design except by brute forcing it? 

I could only skim and the details went over my head, but it seems you intend to do experiments with Bayesian Networks and human operators.

I recently developed and released an open source explainability framework for Bayes nets - dropping it here in the unlikely case it might be useful.

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