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Gear Up Your AI: Fine-Tuning LLMs
July 7, 2023

AI Foundation Models: Choosing the Best Model for Your Use Case

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is evolving at an unprecedented pace, paving the way for transformative advancements across numerous sectors. At the heart of this rapid evolution is an exceptional class of AI foundation models. These models, akin to master linguists, have the capability to understand and generate human-like text based on the input they receive. They are the bedrock, the fundamental architecture upon which many AI applications are constructed and fine-tuned.

With the vast array of foundation models available, selecting the ideal one to fit your unique requirements can be an intricate endeavor.

Yet, with the vast array of AI foundation models available, selecting the ideal one to fit your unique requirements can be an intricate endeavor. It's not a one-size-fits-all situation – different tasks demand different AI foundation models. As such, an informed decision is crucial to ensure optimal outcomes. But how can you navigate this labyrinth of models and make the right choice?

In this blog, we'll pull back the curtain on these sophisticated models. We'll delve deep into their workings, their strengths, their limitations, and most importantly, the critical factors that should guide your selection process. We'll explore key considerations like the model's complexity and size, training data and computational resources, the specific use case it excels in, the ease of implementation, and the ethical and societal implications of deploying these models.

By the end of this blog, our aim is to equip you with the knowledge and understanding required to make an informed decision on the best AI foundation model for your specific needs. So, whether you're developing a chatbot, creating a text generation application, or innovating a new AI-powered solution, you'll have a clearer vision of the path ahead.

Think of foundation models as the multi-talented athletes of the AI world. They can adapt to a variety of tasks without needing a lot of special training.

Think of AI foundation models as the multi-talented athletes of the AI world. They can adapt to a variety of tasks without needing a lot of special training. Some shining stars in this arena include GPT-3, GPT-4, ChatGPT, Cohere, AI21, and Anthropic Claude.

For example, consider ChatGPT. It can help with diverse tasks, such as drafting emails, writing code and answering questions. It interacts in a conversational way; the dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

The Power of Self-Supervised Learning

Self-supervised learning is a bit like learning to cook by taste-testing. Without using explicit recipes (or 'labels' in machine learning), the model learns to understand data by spotting patterns and associations within it. This is different from supervised learning, where the model is trained on a dataset with explicit labels – in other words, where each piece of data has a corresponding output that the model is supposed to predict. On the contrary, self-supervised learning does not rely on these labels. Instead, it draws insights from the input data itself, uncovering patterns and relationships that may not be immediately apparent or are not specifically indicated by a label. This gives self-supervised learning its power and versatility.

Continuing the cooking analogy, a self-taught chef learns by exploring various ingredients, cooking techniques, and by experimenting with different flavor combinations. They don't necessarily follow explicit recipes but instead leverage their understanding of the ingredients and techniques to create dishes. They can taste and adjust, taste and adjust, until they've achieved the flavor profile they're aiming for. They learn the underlying principles of cooking - how flavors work together, how heat changes food, and what spices to use.

Self-supervised learning models like GPT-3 learn by exploring vast amounts of data. They are not given explicit "recipes" or labels, but instead are allowed to examine the "ingredients" - in this case, tokens or words in text data - and understand their associations and contextual relationships.

Similarly, self-supervised learning models like GPT-3 learn by exploring vast amounts of data. They are not given explicit "recipes" or labels, but instead are allowed to examine the "ingredients" - in this case, tokens or words in text data - and understand their associations and contextual relationships. They learn the structure of sentences, the meaning of words in different contexts, and the typical ways that ideas are expressed in human language. They can then generate text that follows these patterns, effectively "cooking up" human-like text based on the "taste-testing" they've done during training.

This method allows self-supervised models to be incredibly versatile. Just like a self-taught chef can create a wide range of dishes based on their understanding of ingredients and cooking techniques, GPT-3 can generate a wide range of text, from writing essays and articles, to answering questions, translating languages, and even writing poetry. This versatility has led to an explosion of applications in natural language processing and beyond.

Moreover, because self-supervised learning models learn from unlabeled data, they can take advantage of the vast amounts of such data available on the internet. This ability to learn from so much data is another key aspect of their power.

Pre-trained vs. Instruct Trained AI Foundation Models 

A pre-trained model is like an assistant, excellent at predicting and completing your sentences, much like an autocomplete function on your smartphone.

Let's think about AI foundation models as two different types of assistants. A pre-trained model is like an assistant, excellent at predicting and completing your sentences, much like an autocomplete function on your smartphone. When you're drafting an email or writing a report, it's quite useful as it draws on its broad learning to guess the next word you might need.

However, this type of assistant can sometimes get carried away with their predictive ability, straying from the specific task you've set. Imagine asking this assistant to find you a vegan dessert recipe. They might provide you with a fascinating history of veganism or describe the health benefits of a vegan diet, instead of focusing on your actual request: a vegan dessert recipe.

An instruct trained model behaves like an obedient assistant. These models are trained to follow instructions closely, making them ideal for carrying out specific tasks.

On the other hand, an instruct trained model behaves like an obedient assistant. These models are trained to follow instructions closely, making them ideal for carrying out specific tasks. For example, when asked for a vegan dessert recipe, they are more likely to respond directly to the task at hand, providing a straightforward answer (and a delicious recipe).

The "instruct" in InstructGPT refers to a specific type of fine-tuning used to train the model to follow instructions in a prompt and provide detailed responses. This makes it more suitable for tasks that require understanding and following explicit instructions in the input.

The main difference between these models lies in the training data and the specific fine-tuning procedures they undergo:

  1. The base GPT is trained on a diverse range of internet text. But, importantly, it doesn't know specifics about which documents were in its training set or any specifics of the data sources.

  2. ChatGPT is further fine-tuned on a dataset that contains a mixture of licensed data, data created by human trainers, and publicly available data. These datasets might involve dialogues, conversational data, or prompts and responses that train the model to engage in a conversational manner.

  3. InstructGPT is fine-tuned in a way that it's not just about producing language, but also following instructions in the prompt and providing responses that satisfy those instructions. The training process involves both reinforcement learning from human feedback and supervised fine-tuning.

So, while GPT is a general-purpose language model, ChatGPT and InstructGPT are specialized versions of it, tailored for specific types of interactions: conversation and following instructions, respectively.

So, while GPT is a general-purpose language model, ChatGPT and InstructGPT are specialized versions of it, tailored for specific types of interactions: conversation and following instructions, respectively.

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An example from OpenAI’s website. While the GPT-3 model will simply generate text that is similar to the prompt, in this case generating related questions, the Instruct model will actually answer the question.

The 'Curriculum Training' of Foundation Models

Similar to a student progressing through school, AI foundation models also follow a 'curriculum.' They start with a broad education (pre-training on a diverse range of text), get more specialized training and get better at following instructions (supervised instruction training), then benefit from practical coaching (reinforcement learning through human feedback). Lastly, they get a sort of 'PhD' by specializing further (fine-tuning on custom data). 

Choosing the Right Foundation Model: Delving Deeper into Key Considerations

Selecting the right AI foundation model for your machine learning tasks can often feel like a complex puzzle, where numerous factors must harmoniously align to give you the best results. Like creating an exquisite gourmet dish, each ingredient or consideration - be it cost, latency, performance, privacy, or the type of training - has a unique role to play. Choosing the right balance of these components allows you to effectively address your specific AI needs.

Cost: Balancing Quality with Affordability

Once your MVP is validated and you have a clear understanding of your specific requirements, you may find it more cost-effective to transition to a smaller model.

When it comes to machine learning models, size often goes hand in hand with cost. Larger models, renowned for their comprehensive capabilities and powerful performance, are typically more expensive not only to train but also to maintain and utilize. They can act as a robust springboard for getting initial insights or for validating your minimum viable product (MVP). However, it's also important to consider the financial implications of using larger models, especially in the long run. Once your MVP is validated and you have a clear understanding of your specific requirements, you may find it more cost-effective to transition to a smaller model. These smaller models, while perhaps not as comprehensive in their abilities, can be more tailored to your specific needs, providing an excellent balance between cost and functionality.

Latency: Trading Between Speed and Detail

In the realm of AI and machine learning, latency refers to the response speed of a model - essentially, how quickly it can process input and provide output. Larger, more complex models can be likened to a detailed artist: they take their time to create an intricate, detailed masterpiece. However, their slow and meticulous process might not be suitable for applications that require real-time or near-instantaneous responses. In these cases, it might be beneficial to leverage model distillation techniques, where the knowledge and abilities of larger, more complex models are 'distilled' into smaller, faster ones. This way, you can benefit from the depth of larger models while also maintaining the speed required for your specific applications.

Performance: The Right Tool for the Job

If your task is highly specific and niche, such as identifying different species of birds from images, a smaller, specialized model that's been fine-tuned for this task might be the most effective choice.

Choosing an AI foundation model and ensuring performance in machine learning is all about finding the best fit for your specific task. If your task is highly specific and niche, such as identifying different species of birds from images, a smaller, specialized model that's been fine-tuned for this task might be the most effective choice. However, if your requirements are broader and more varied - for instance, if you're building a versatile AI assistant that needs to summarize text, translate languages, answer diverse questions, and more - a foundation model could be your ideal solution. AI foundation models, owing to their wide-ranging training, can handle a variety of tasks and excel at generalization, making them a valuable choice for multifaceted applications.

Privacy: A Paramount Consideration

When working with sensitive or private data, privacy considerations take center stage. Some models, especially those that are closed-source, often require sending data to their servers via APIs for processing. This can raise potential privacy and data security concerns, particularly when handling confidential information. If privacy is a key requirement for your application, you might want to consider alternatives such as open-source models, which allow for local data processing. Another option might be to train your own smaller, specialized model that can operate on your private data locally. This approach could be likened to keeping your secret recipes in your home kitchen rather than sending them to a restaurant to be prepared.

Instruct vs Pre-trained: A Case-Based Decision

The choice between pre-trained and instruct-trained models is largely dependent on the nature of your task and the level of control or freedom you want your model to have.

The choice between a pre-trained and instruct-trained model hinges largely on your specific use case and requirements. Pre-trained models, having been trained on a wide array of data, offer powerful predictive capabilities and can provide valuable insights for a wide range of tasks. However, if your task involves closely following specific instructions or guidelines, an instruct-trained model might be a more suitable choice. These models are specially trained to understand and adhere to given instructions, providing more controlled and precise outputs. Thus, the choice between pre-trained and instruct-trained models is largely dependent on the nature of your task and the level of control or freedom you want your model to have.

Current Research and State-of-the-art (SOTA) Models

Keeping an eye on current research and trends in machine learning can also be beneficial. Often, the state-of-the-art models in a particular domain (e.g., transformer models for NLP tasks) provide the best performance. Clarifai is constantly updating our collection of models to add the latest and greatest for you to try.

A Final Analogy

Embarking on the journey and choosing between AI foundation models for your specific use case may seem like a daunting endeavor at first. However, when armed with the right knowledge and considerations, you can navigate the vast landscape of AI with confidence and clarity.

Consider the process akin to charting a map for a grand voyage. To plot your course, you need to understand your starting point and your destination. Here, these translate to a clear understanding of your task requirements, your available resources, and the desired outcome of your project.

The 'cost' factor is comparable to your travel budget; it defines the affordability of the model. Larger, more comprehensive models may provide an extensive range of capabilities but might also require significant resources to train, maintain, and utilize.

'Latency', akin to the time it takes to travel, is another critical point of consideration. Depending on the nature of your application, you may need a model that delivers quick responses, necessitating the choice of a model that strikes a balance between complexity and speed.

'Performance' equates to how well the model can carry out the task. Just as you'd choose the best mode of transportation for your journey, select a model that excels at your specific task - be it a niche, specialized application or a broad, multifaceted one.

Privacy is like choosing a secure and safe route for your journey. If you're handling sensitive data, you need to ensure that your chosen model can process and handle this data securely, respecting all necessary privacy considerations.

Keeping an eye on the current state-of-the-art (SOTA) models is like staying informed about the latest, most efficient routes and modes of transport. These models, built on the forefront of AI research, often provide the best performance and could guide your choice of model.

Keeping an eye on the current state-of-the-art (SOTA) models is like staying informed about the latest, most efficient routes and modes of transport. These models, built on the forefront of AI research, often provide the best performance and could guide your choice of model.

Remember, the world of AI and machine learning is vast and varied. There is no single 'right' model that fits all scenarios. The optimal choice is the one that aligns best with your needs, resources, and constraints. It's about finding the model that can best take you from your starting point to your destination, navigating any obstacles that arise along the way.

In conclusion, choosing the right AI foundation model is a nuanced process guided by a range of considerations. However, with careful analysis and an understanding of your requirements, it's a task that can be navigated successfully, paving the way for powerful, effective AI solutions.