The Engineer’s Interpretability Sequence

Wiki Contributions


Several people seem to be coming to similar conclusions recently (e.g., this recent post). 

I'll add that I have as well and wrote a sequence about it :)

I think this is very exciting, and I'll look forward to seeing how it goes!

Thanks, we will consider adding each of these. We appreciate that you took a look and took the time to help suggest these!

No, I don't think the core advantages of transparency are really unique to RLHF, but in the paper, we list certain things that are specific to RLHF which we think should be disclosed. Thanks.

Sounds right, but the problem seems to be semantic. If understanding is taken to mean a human's comprehension, then I think this is perfectly right. But since the method is mechanistic, it seems difficult nonetheless. 

Thanks -- I agree that this seems like an approach worth doing. I think that at CHAI and/or Redwood there is a little bit of work at least related to this, but don't quote me on that. In general, it seems like if you have a model and then a smaller distilled/otherwise-compressed version of it, there is a lot you can do with them from an alignment perspective. I am not sure how much work has been done in the anomaly detection literature that involves distillation/compression. 

We talked about this over DMs, but I'll post a quick reply for the rest of the world. Thanks for the comment. 

A lot of how this is interpreted depends on what the exact definition of superposition that one uses and whether it applies to entire networks or single layers. But a key thing I want to highlight is that if a layer represents a certain set amount of information about an example, then they layer must have more information per neuron if it's thin than if it's wide. And that is the point I think that the Huang paper helps to make. The fact that deep and thin networks tend to be more robust suggests that representing information more densely w.r.t. neurons in a layer does not make these networks less robust than wide shallow nets. 

Thanks, +1 to the clarification value of this comment. I appreciate it. I did not have the tied weights in mind when writing this. 

Thanks for the comment.

In general I think that having a deep understanding of small-scale mechanisms can pay off in many different and hard-to-predict ways.

This seems completely plausible to me. But I think that it's a little hand-wavy. In general, I perceive the interpretability agendas that don't involve applied work to be this way. Also, few people would argue that basic insights, to the extent that they are truly explanatory, can be valuable. But I think it is at least very non-obvious that it would be differentiably useful for safety. 

there are a huge number of cases in science where solving toy problems has led to theories that help solve real-world problems.

No qualms here. But (1) the point about program synthesis/induction/translation suggests that the toy problems are fundamentally more tractable than real ones. Analogously, imagine saying that having humans write and study simple algorithms for search, modular addition, etc. to be part of an agenda for program synthesis. (2) At some point the toy work should lead to competitive engineering work. think that there has not been a clear trend toward this in the past 6 years with the circuits agenda. 

I can kinda see the intuition here, but could you explain why we shouldn't expect this to generalize?

Thanks for the question. It might generalize. My intended point with the Ramanujan paper is that a subnetwork seeming to do something in isolation does not mean that it does that thing in context. The Ramanujan et al. weren't interpreting networks, they were just training the networks.  So the underlying subnetworks may generalize well, but in this case, this is not interpretability work any more than just gradient-based training of a sparse network is. 

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