Pitfalls of Static Language Modelling

Angeliki Lazaridou, Adhiguna Kuncoro, Elena Gribovskaya, Devang Agrawal, Adam Liska, Tayfun Terzi, Mai Gimenez, Cyprien de Masson d'Autume, Sebastian Ruder, Dani Yogatama, Kris Cao, Tomas Kocisky, Susannah Young, Phil Blunsom

Our world is open-ended, non-stationary and constantly evolving; thus what we talk about and how we talk about it changes over time. This inherent dynamic nature of language comes in stark contrast to the current static language modelling paradigm, which constructs training and evaluation sets from overlapping time periods. Despite recent progress, we demonstrate that state-of-the-art Transformer models perform worse in the realistic setup of predicting future utterances from beyond their training period -- a consistent pattern across three datasets from two domains. We find that, while increasing model size alone -- a key driver behind recent progress -- does not provide a solution for the temporal generalization problem, having models that continually update their knowledge with new information can indeed slow down the degradation over time. Hence, given the compilation of ever-larger language modelling training datasets, combined with the growing list of language-model-based NLP applications that require up-to-date knowledge about the world, we argue that now is the right time to rethink our static language modelling evaluation protocol, and develop adaptive language models that can remain up-to-date with respect to our ever-changing and non-stationary world.

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