Simon Willison’s Weblog

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Saturday, 8th June 2024

Tree.js interactive demo (via) Daniel Greenheck's interactive demo of his procedural tree generator (as in vegetation) built with Three.js. This is really fun to play with - there are 30+ tunable parameters and you can export your tree as a .glb file for import into tools like Blender or Unity. # 9:43 pm

Claude’s Character (via) There's so much interesting stuff in this article from Anthropic on how they defined the personality for their Claude 3 model. In addition to the technical details there are some very interesting thoughts on the complex challenge of designing a "personality" for an LLM in the first place.

Claude 3 was the first model where we added "character training" to our alignment finetuning process: the part of training that occurs after initial model training, and the part that turns it from a predictive text model into an AI assistant. The goal of character training is to make Claude begin to have more nuanced, richer traits like curiosity, open-mindedness, and thoughtfulness.

But what other traits should it have? This is a very difficult set of decisions to make! The most obvious approaches are all flawed in different ways:

Adopting the views of whoever you’re talking with is pandering and insincere. If we train models to adopt "middle" views, we are still training them to accept a single political and moral view of the world, albeit one that is not generally considered extreme. Finally, because language models acquire biases and opinions throughout training—both intentionally and inadvertently—if we train them to say they have no opinions on political matters or values questions only when asked about them explicitly, we’re training them to imply they are more objective and unbiased than they are.

The training process itself is particularly fascinating. The approach they used focuses on synthetic data, and effectively results in the model training itself:

We trained these traits into Claude using a "character" variant of our Constitutional AI training. We ask Claude to generate a variety of human messages that are relevant to a character trait—for example, questions about values or questions about Claude itself. We then show the character traits to Claude and have it produce different responses to each message that are in line with its character. Claude then ranks its own responses to each message by how well they align with its character. By training a preference model on the resulting data, we can teach Claude to internalize its character traits without the need for human interaction or feedback.

There's still a lot of human intervention required, but significantly less than more labour-intensive patterns such as Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF):

Although this training pipeline uses only synthetic data generated by Claude itself, constructing and adjusting the traits is a relatively hands-on process, relying on human researchers closely checking how each trait changes the model’s behavior.

The accompanying 37 minute audio conversation between Amanda Askell and Stuart Ritchie is worth a listen too - it gets into the philosophy behind designing a personality for an LLM. # 9:41 pm

Expanding on how Voice Engine works and our safety research. Voice Engine is OpenAI's text-to-speech (TTS) model. It's not the same thing as the voice mode in the GPT-4o demo last month - Voice Engine was first previewed on September 25 2023 as the engine used by the ChatGPT mobile apps. I also used the API version to build my ospeak CLI tool.

One detail in this new explanation of Voice Engine stood out to me:

In November of 2023, we released a simple TTS API also powered by Voice Engine. We chose another limited release where we worked with professional voice actors to create 15-second audio samples to power each of the six preset voices in the API.

This really surprised me. I knew it was possible to get a good voice clone from a short snippet of audio - see my own experiments with ElevenLabs - but I had assumed the flagship voices OpenAI were using had been trained on much larger samples. Hitting a professional voice actor to produce a 15 second sample is pretty wild!

This becomes a bit more intuitive when you learn how the TTS model works:

The model is not fine-tuned for any specific speaker, there is no model customization involved. Instead, it employs a diffusion process, starting with random noise and progressively de-noising it to closely match how the speaker from the 15-second audio sample would articulate the text.

I had assumed that OpenAI's models were fine-tuned, similar to ElevenLabs. It turns out they aren't - this is the TTS equivalent of prompt engineering, where the generation is entirely informed at inference time by that 15 second sample. Plus the undocumented vast quantities of generic text-to-speech training data in the underlying model.

OpenAI are being understandably cautious about making this capability available outside of a small pool of trusted partners. One of their goals is to encourage the following:

Phasing out voice based authentication as a security measure for accessing bank accounts and other sensitive information

# 5:48 pm

2024 » June

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