Master Prompt Engineering: LLM Embedding and Fine-tuning

In this lesson, we cover fine-tuning for structured output & semantic embeddings for knowledge retrieval. Unleash AI's full potential! 🧠

Master Prompt Engineering: LLM Embedding and Fine-tuning

Fine-tuning and embedding LLMs (GPT-3/3.5/4) have become a popular topic of discussion as people seek to leverage the power of this advanced language model for various applications, such as question-answering (QA) and information retrieval.

While both semantic embeddings and fine-tuning are techniques employed to adapt LLMs to specific tasks, they serve different purposes and offer unique benefits.

We will explore these two concepts together as they are related and there is often much confusion about which to use and when.

Core Concepts

LLM Transfer Learning

Transfer learning is a machine learning technique that allows a model to apply the knowledge it gained from one task to a different but related task. This approach can save a significant amount of time and computational resources compared to training a model from scratch. Transfer learning was originally developed for image recognition tasks but has since been applied to natural language processing (NLP) tasks as well.

In the context of LLMs (GPT-3/3,5/4), transfer learning occurs when the model uses its pre-existing knowledge of language, patterns, and structures to adapt to a specific application or domain.

Transfer learning involves fine-tuning the model for a specific task. However, it's important to note that the fine-tuning process focuses on teaching the model new tasks or patterns rather than new information. This means that fine-tuning is not the ideal solution for tasks that require the storage and retrieval of additional knowledge, such as QA.

Fine-Tuning: Enhancing Model Responses

Fine-tuning is a technique employed to refine the performance of pre-trained models, such as chatbots.

By providing examples and adjusting the model's parameters, fine-tuning enables the model to generate more accurate and contextually relevant responses for specific tasks.

These tasks can range from chatbot conversations and code generation to question formation, ensuring better alignment with the desired output. The process is akin to a neural network adjusting its weights during training.

This technique excels in ensuring that the language model behaves in a particular way. If an organization desires to model AI that speaks in a specific style - such as Donald Trump, for instance - fine-tuning is the approach to opt for.

Or, for instance, in customer service chatbots, fine-tuning can enhance the chatbot's understanding of industry-specific terms or jargon, leading to more accurate and pertinent responses to customer inquiries.

As a form of transfer learning, fine-tuning adapts a pre-trained model to perform new tasks without necessitating extensive retraining. The process involves making minor adjustments to the model's parameters, allowing it to better execute the target task.

This method utilizes the vast corpus of available data, like chat histories or broadcast interview transcripts, to infuse a certain type of behavior into the large language model. Fine-tuning offers a valuable approach to mold a language model to adopt specific behaviors, but its efficacy has its limitations.

However, fine-tuning large language models (such as GPT-3) presents its own set of challenges.

While fine-tuning proves effective in emulating behaviors, it's not the best fit for cases that require extensive domain knowledge, such as legal or financial sectors.

For instance, if there's a need for highly accurate data, like determining which stock has the highest price movement, fine-tuning may not suffice. Here, the knowledge-based method holds the upper hand.

A common misconception is that fine-tuning will enable the model to acquire new information, but in reality, it teaches the model new tasks or patterns, not new knowledge.

Furthermore, fine-tuning can be time-consuming, complex, and costly, limiting its scalability and practicality for numerous use cases.

The value of teaching specific tasks: One of the primary benefits of fine-tuning is its ability to teach the model specific tasks or patterns, enabling it to perform more effectively in those areas.

For instance, fine-tuning can be used to improve the model's capability in tasks like email generation, code creation, or even long-form fiction writing. By focusing on these specific tasks, the model can provide more accurate, relevant, and contextually appropriate outputs tailored to the user's needs.

It is important to note that fine-tuning LLMs does not involve teaching new knowledge. The model's pre-training phase already provides it with a wealth of information, and fine-tuning merely adjusts the model to generate text that aligns with a desired pattern. In essence, fine-tuning helps LLMs understand and produce the appropriate structure for a particular task, without introducing new knowledge.

Semantic Embeddings: The Knowledge Based Method

In contrast to fine-tuning, the knowledge-based method doesn't involve retraining the model. Instead, it entails creating an embedding or a vector database comprising all available knowledge. This database is then used to find relevant data that is fed into the large language model as part of the prompt.

Semantic embeddings are numerical vector representations of text that capture the semantic meaning of words or phrases. By comparing and analyzing these vectors, similarities and differences between textual elements can be discerned.

Leveraging semantic embeddings for search enables the quick and efficient retrieval of relevant information, particularly within large datasets.

This method proves efficient when the task involves delivering accurate data. For instance, using embeddings to create a knowledge base for financial market stats can yield real-time, relevant data.

The knowledge-based method is also a cost-effective approach as it removes the need for fine-tuning, cutting down on expenses and making AI adaptation more economically viable.

Semantic search boasts several advantages over fine-tuning, such as faster search speeds, reduced computational costs, and the prevention of confabulation or fact fabrication. Owing to these benefits, semantic search is often favoured when the objective is to access specific knowledge within a model.

Embeddings find applications in various domains, including recommendation engines, search functionality, and text classification. For example, when designing a movie recommendation engine for a streaming platform, embeddings can identify movies with similar themes or genres based on their textual descriptions. By representing these descriptions as vectors, the engine can calculate distances between them and recommend movies in close proximity within the vector space, ensuring a more accurate and relevant user experience.

Challenges of Fine-tuning vs Embedding

Main Challenges of Fine-tuning a Large Language Model like GPT-3

Fine-tuning a large language model (LLM) such as GPT-3 presents several challenges that can affect its efficiency, scalability, and effectiveness. In this section, we will discuss the main challenges associated with fine-tuning LLMs:

  1. Computational Costs: Fine-tuning LLMs requires considerable computational resources, which can be expensive and may not be feasible for organizations or researchers with limited budgets. These costs can limit the applicability of fine-tuning in various use cases.
  2. Training Data Quality: High-quality and relevant training data is essential for successful fine-tuning. However, sourcing and preparing this data can be time-consuming and challenging, and there is always a risk of introducing biases or inaccuracies that could affect the model's performance.
  3. Overfitting: Overfitting occurs when the model becomes too specialized in the training data, resulting in poor generalization to new examples. This can be a significant challenge in fine-tuning LLMs, as the balance between specialization and generalization is critical to achieving optimal performance.
  4. Confabulation and Hallucination: Fine-tuning LLMs can sometimes lead to confabulation, where the model produces incorrect or fabricated information, and hallucination, where it generates plausible but incorrect answers. This may undermine the reliability and trustworthiness of the model's output.
  5. Model Adaptability: When new information or updated knowledge becomes available, re-fine-tuning the model may be necessary. This process can be resource-intensive and cumbersome, especially if the model needs to be updated frequently to stay current and relevant.
  6. Ethical Considerations: Fine-tuning LLMs can result in potential biases, as they may inadvertently learn and propagate harmful stereotypes or misinformation from the training data. Ensuring the ethical use and output of the fine-tuned model can be challenging and requires continuous monitoring and evaluation.

The Downsides of Finetuning and Weighing the Alternatives

The world of artificial intelligence has opened up many doors for innovation, and as it continues to evolve, fine-tuning language models like GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 has become a common practice. But does fine-tuning always come up roses, or are there downsides to this technique? In this article, we'll take a conversational stroll through the challenges of fine-tuning, consider alternatives, and explore whether it's worth the hassle in certain situations.

All Models Aren't Created Equal

First things first, it's essential to recognize that not all language models are fine-tunable. In fact, GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, the most sought-after models these days, can't be fine-tuned at all. So, if you're keen on using the crème de la crème of AI, you'll need to embrace a different approach.

The Unseen Costs

Fine-tuning, like any exclusive club, comes with its fair share of hefty fees. Brace yourself for a whopping 60x increase in cost when using a fine-tuned GPT-3 model versus the stock got-3.5-turbo model. And that's not all – using a fine-tuned GPT-3 model can be twice as expensive compared to the stock GPT-4 model. So, unless you've got money to burn, think twice before hopping on the fine-tuning train.

Slow and Steady Doesn't Always Win the Race

Imagine trying to run a race while wearing shoes filled with molasses – that's what fine-tuning feels like when it comes to your iteration loop. Want to add a new capability? Instead of quickly adding a few lines to a prompt, you'll need to create fake data, run the finetune process, and use the newly fine-tuned model. It's a slow, labour-intensive ordeal that can leave even the most patient innovator feeling like they're stuck in the mud.

The Burden of Creating Data

Oh, the joys of manually creating tons of data! As it turns out, fine-tuning isn't just about twiddling your thumbs while the model works its magic. The process demands a significant investment of time and effort to create the data needed for fine-tuning. And let's be honest, who has time for that?

Protecting Your Data and Privacy

When it comes to fine-tuning, it's crucial to remember the golden rule: never use real customer data. Always opt for synthetic data to avoid the risk of leaking sensitive information. But hey, if you never fine-tune a model, you don't have to worry about accidentally spilling the beans, right?

With all the challenges fine-tuning presents, it's essential to consider alternative techniques, such as leveraging zero-shot, one-shot, and few-shot learning. By taking advantage of these alternative methods, you can keep your project moving forward without getting bogged down in the mire of fine-tuning's drawbacks. As the old saying goes, "There's more than one way to skin a cat" – or in this case, to optimize a language model.

The Future of Fine-Tuning

Despite its limitations, fine-tuning remains a potent tool in AI adaptation, particularly for tasks that base models like GPT struggle with.

By using the right model and implementing fine-tuning correctly, one can create a large language model capable of processing simple instructions and turning them into more complex tasks.

By fine-tuning correctly, a large language model can be developed to perform complex tasks on simple instructions. This approach opens new doors for practical, real-world applications of AI in various sectors.

Challenges with Embeddings in Large Language Models

Despite their importance, there are several challenges associated with embeddings in LLMs:

  1. High-dimensionality: Embeddings generated by LLMs often have a high dimensionality, which can lead to increased computational complexity and storage requirements. This can make it challenging to work with large-scale datasets and perform efficient similarity search, clustering, or classification tasks.
  2. Sparse representation: Embeddings may result in sparse representations, where most of the elements in the vector are zeros or near-zero values. This sparsity can lead to increased memory consumption and slower computation times during similarity searches or other tasks.
  3. Interpretability: Embeddings are often difficult to interpret, as they represent complex relationships in a high-dimensional space. This lack of interpretability can make it challenging to diagnose issues, such as biases or inaccuracies in the embeddings, and to understand the underlying reasoning of the model.
  4. Data quality: The effectiveness of embeddings heavily depends on the quality of the input data used for training the LLM. Noisy, biased, or poorly-formatted data can lead to suboptimal embeddings, resulting in reduced performance in downstream tasks.
  5. Domain adaptation: While pre-trained LLMs can generate general-purpose embeddings, adapting these embeddings to specific domains or tasks may require additional fine-tuning or training on domain-specific data. This process can be resource-intensive and requires expertise in model training and optimization.
  6. Out-of-vocabulary words: In some cases, the LLM might encounter words or phrases that were not present in the training data. This out-of-vocabulary (OOV) words can result in suboptimal or inaccurate embeddings, as the model has limited information to generate a meaningful representation.
  7. Language coverage: Many LLMs are trained on data primarily from English or other widely-spoken languages, which may limit the quality of embeddings for low-resource languages. This can lead to reduced performance in tasks involving less-represented languages.
  8. Bias and fairness: Embeddings can unintentionally capture and perpetuate biases present in the training data, such as gender, racial, or cultural biases. These biases can then influence the model's behaviour in downstream tasks, raising concerns about fairness and ethical implications.

Overview of Fine-tuning & Embedding Processes

In this section, we provide a high-level overview of each process, briefly discussing the primary activities involved. Our aim is not to present a step-by-step guide but to offer a general understanding of the core concepts. We have carefully distilled the information to deliver a succinct and clear explanation of these key ideas.

Overview of the Fine-tuning Process

  1. Define your objective: Clearly identify the task or domain you want the model to specialize in, such as sentiment analysis, summarization, or a specific subject area.
  2. Collect and preprocess data: Gather a dataset relevant to your objective. This dataset should contain examples of the desired input-output pairs. Preprocess the data to ensure it is clean, consistent, and formatted correctly.
  3. Split the data: Divide your dataset into training, validation, and testing sets. The training set is used to fine-tune the model, the validation set helps in monitoring the model's performance during training and selecting the best model, and the testing set is used to evaluate the final model's performance.
  4. Choose the fine-tuning configuration: Select the appropriate model architecture, learning rate, batch size, and other hyperparameters for fine-tuning. This may require some experimentation and hyperparameter tuning to find the best configuration.
  5. Fine-tune the model: Initialize LLM with the pre-trained weights and start the fine-tuning process. Train the model on your training dataset for a number of epochs or until the validation performance stops improving.
  6. Monitor and evaluate performance: Regularly check the model's performance on the validation set during training. This helps identify overfitting or underfitting, and you can stop training when the performance on the validation set stops improving.
  7. Select the best model: Choose the iteration of the model with the highest performance on the validation set.
  8. Evaluate using the test set: Assess the fine-tuned model's performance on the test dataset to get an unbiased estimate of its generalization ability.
  9. Deploy the model: Once the fine-tuning process is complete and the model's performance is satisfactory, deploy the model in your application or system.
  10. Monitor and maintain: Continuously monitor the model's performance in real-world scenarios, and fine-tune or retrain it as needed to ensure optimal performance.

Overview of  Embedding and Vector Search with LLM:

The embedding process is an essential component of large language models (LLMs) like GPT-3/Gpt-3.5/GPT-4, as it allows for semantic understanding and representation of text in a numerical format. Here is a step-by-step overview of the embedding process for LLMs:

  1. Source relevant data: Collect textual data that is relevant to the domain or task you want the model to understand. This could include documents, articles, research papers, or web pages covering the topics of interest.
  2. Pre-process data: Clean and sanitize the text data by removing irrelevant or sensitive information, correcting grammar and spelling errors, and formatting the text for further processing.
  3. Tokenization: Tokenize the pre-processed text into individual words, subwords, or characters, depending on the requirements of the language model. This process breaks down the text into smaller units that can be processed by the LLM.
  4. Embedding: Pass the tokenized text through the language model to generate embeddings, which are numerical representations of the text in a high-dimensional space. These embeddings capture the semantic meaning of the text and enable the model to perform various tasks, such as similarity search, clustering, or classification.
  5. Dimensionality reduction (optional): If needed, reduce the dimensionality of the generated embeddings using techniques like PCA or t-SNE. This step can help improve the efficiency of similarity search and other downstream tasks.
  6. Indexing and storage: Index the generated embeddings using an appropriate data structure, such as a vector database or an inverted index, to facilitate fast and efficient retrieval during search or query processing.
  7. Search and retrieval: Use the indexed embeddings to perform similarity search or other tasks by comparing the embeddings of user queries with those of the indexed text. Retrieve the most relevant documents or text chunks based on the similarity scores or other relevance criteria.
  8. Post-processing: Extract relevant information from the retrieved documents or text chunks, such as metadata or specific sections of interest, to provide a comprehensive and informative response to the user's query.

Choosing Between Embeddings and Fine-tuning

While there is some overlap in their applications, the choice between using embeddings or fine-tuning depends on the problem at hand. For search and recommendation tasks, embeddings are generally more suitable, as they allow for the efficient comparison of textual data. For instance, in chatbot response generation, fine-tuning is the preferred method, as it enhances the model's performance in generating appropriate responses to user inputs.

Semantic Embeddings vs Fine-Tuning

It is crucial to understand that semantic embeddings and fine-tuning are two separate methodologies for harnessing the power of language models like GPT-3. Fine-tuning concentrates on teaching the model new tasks via transfer learning, while semantic embeddings involve converting the text's meaning into a numerical representation, which can be employed in tasks such as semantic search and information retrieval.

Semantic search, also referred to as neural search or vector search enables databases to search and retrieve information based on semantic meaning rather than solely on keywords or indexes. This approach is highly scalable and typically faster and more cost-effective than fine-tuning a model for a specific task.

In contrast, fine-tuning can be time-consuming, complex, and costly, and does not inherently enhance the model's capacity to store and retrieve new information. Moreover, fine-tuning large language models for QA might not always be the most efficient or effective solution, as it continues to face issues such as confabulation (producing inaccurate or fabricated information) and hallucination (generating plausible but incorrect answers).

One might argue that every search problem can be formulated as a question-and-answer task. While this is true to some extent, the choice between using embeddings and fine-tuning for question-answering depends on the specific requirements and complexity of the problem. For simpler search tasks, embeddings can be more efficient and easier to implement, whereas, for more complex question-answering scenarios, fine-tuning may provide better results.

Case Studies

1. Case Study: Fine-tuning GPT-3 for Customer Support Chatbot

Background: You have been tasked with creating a chatbot for a telecommunications company. The chatbot will be responsible for answering customer inquiries related to billing, troubleshooting, and product information. The goal is to fine-tune GPT-3 for this specific domain and improve its performance in handling customer support queries.

Step 1: Gather Training Data: Collect customer support chat logs that have been anonymized and sanitized to remove any personally identifiable information (PII). These chat logs should include both the customer's queries and the support agent's responses. Organize the logs in a structured format (e.g., JSON, CSV) for further processing.

Step 2: Preprocess the Data: Clean and preprocess the data by removing irrelevant or sensitive information, correcting grammar and spelling errors, and formatting the text to match the input requirements of GPT-3. Convert the chat logs into a conversation format that GPT-3 can understand.

Step 3: Create JSONL File: Create a JSONL file (newline-delimited JSON) with your preprocessed data, which will be used to fine-tune GPT-3. Each line of the file should represent a single example in the form of a JSON object with two keys: "role" (either "user" or "assistant") and "content" (the text content).

Example extract of the JSONL file:

{"role": "user", "content": "How can I check my current balance?"} {"role": "assistant","content": "To check your current balance, log into your account on our website or mobile app, and navigate to the 'Account Overview' section."} {"role": "user", "content": "What should I do if my internet connection is slow?"} {"role": "assistant", "content": "If your internet connection is slow, try restarting your modem and router. If the issue persists, contact our support team for further assistance."} ...

Step 4: Fine-tune GPT-3: Upload the JSONL file to the OpenAI platform and initiate the fine-tuning process using the GPT-3 model. Specify the training parameters, such as learning rate, number of epochs, and batch size, based on your requirements and the size of your dataset. Monitor the training process and adjust the parameters as needed to achieve optimal performance.

Step 5: Evaluate Fine-tuned Model: Once the fine-tuning process is complete, evaluate the performance of the fine-tuned GPT-3 model on a separate set of chat logs that were not used during training. Measure its accuracy, response time, and other relevant metrics to determine its effectiveness in handling customer support queries.

Step 6: Deploy Fine-tuned Model: Integrate the fine-tuned GPT-3 model into your chatbot application and test it with real users. Continuously monitor its performance and make any necessary adjustments to improve its accuracy and user experience.

Background: In this scenario, you are tasked with improving a legal research platform that helps law professionals search for relevant case laws, legislation, and legal articles. The current platform uses a keyword-based search approach, which often returns irrelevant or incomplete results. The goal is to enhance the search functionality using embedding and vector search to provide more accurate and contextually relevant results.

Step 1: Gather and Preprocess Documents: Collect a comprehensive set of legal documents, including case laws, legislation, and legal articles. Preprocess the documents by removing irrelevant or sensitive information, correcting grammar and spelling errors, and formatting the text for further processing.

Step 2: Chunk Documents: Break down the collected legal documents into smaller, self-contained sections, such as paragraphs or subsections, to facilitate embedding and vector search. Store the chunks in a structured format (e.g., JSON, CSV) for further processing.

Step 3: Generate Embeddings: Use a pre-trained language model, such as GPT-3, to generate semantic embeddings for each document chunk. These embeddings will be used to represent the contextual meaning of the text and enable vector-based similarity search.

Step 4: Index Embeddings: Store the generated embeddings in a vector database or a search engine that supports vector search, such as Pinecone, Elasticsearch or Faiss. Index the embeddings along with the associated document chunk metadata, such as document title, author, and publication date.

Step 5: Implement Search Functionality: When a user submits a query, generate an embedding for the query using the same language model employed for document embeddings. Use the indexed embeddings to perform a vector search, ranking document chunks based on their similarity to the query embedding.

Step 6: Display and Refine Results: Return the top-ranked document chunks to the user, along with their metadata and source document information. Allow users to refine their search results using additional filters, such as document type, date range, or jurisdiction.

Step 7: Evaluate and Optimize Performance: Evaluate the performance of the enhanced search functionality using metrics such as search accuracy, recall, and user satisfaction. Gather user feedback and analyze search logs to identify areas for improvement. Continuously refine and optimize the embedding and vector search process to deliver better search results.

At this point, it is only important that you understand these concepts and when to use them and when not to use them. In our mode advanced lessons we will explore these topics in more detail. Generally, as a Prompt Engineer, you would be working with a development team and you may provide guidance on the technology and strategy and have them execute on it. This is not to say having some hands-on experience in these aspects of Prompt Engineering would not be a valuable asset.


Fine-tuning GPT-3

  1. Teaches new tasks or patterns
  2. Originally created for image models, now applies to NLP tasks
  3. Used for classification, sentiment analysis, and named entity recognition
  4. Does not teach new information, only new tasks
  5. Prone to confabulation and hallucination
  6. Expensive, slow, and difficult to implement
  7. Not scalable for large datasets

Embedding & Semantic Search

  1. Also known as neural search or vector search
  2. Adds to the LLMs knowledge base
  3. Uses semantic embeddings to represent text meaning
  4. Scales well, fast, and cost-effective
  5. Searches based on context and topic, not just keywords
  6. Easily updates with new information
  7. Solves half of the QA problem by retrieving relevant information

Comparing Fine-tuning and Semantic Search

  • Slow, difficult, and expensive
  • Prone to confabulation
  • Teaches new tasks, not new information
  • Requires constant retraining
  • Not ideal for QA tasks

Semantic Search

  • Fast, easy, and cheap
  • Recalls exact information
  • Easy to add new information
  • Scalable and efficient
  • Solves half of QA tasks by retrieving relevant documents

Both fine-tuning LLMs and semantic embeddings offer unique advantages in the field of natural language processing, each catering to specific needs and tasks. Each offers unique advantages and challenges, reflecting the ongoing evolution of AI application across industries.

While semantic search is optimal for quickly and accurately retrieving knowledge, fine-tuning focuses on generating structured and patterned text that aligns with a specific task or application.

Fine-tuning LLMs excels at teaching new tasks or patterns, but may not be ideal for QA tasks due to its inherent limitations and technical complexities.

In contrast, semantic search is better suited for QA tasks, providing efficient retrieval of relevant information and scalability.

By recognizing the distinct strengths of these two approaches, users can make informed decisions about which method best addresses their particular objectives.

Useful References

Fine-tune vs Embedding
you can check out this video you can check out this video OpenAI Q&A: Finetuning GPT-3 vs Semantic Search - which to use, when, and why? - YouTube
Introducing text and code embeddings
We are introducing embeddings, a new endpoint in the OpenAI API that makes it easy to perform natural language and code tasks like semantic search, clustering, topic modeling, and classification.
openai-cookbook/Question_answering_using_embeddings.ipynb at main · openai/openai-cookbook
Examples and guides for using the OpenAI API. Contribute to openai/openai-cookbook development by creating an account on GitHub.
Finetuning for Domain Knowledge and Questions
This one just summarize the whole dilemma about fine-tuning 🙂

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