Published on Wed Dec 21 2022

Parallel Context Windows Improve In-Context Learning of Large Language Models

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For applications that require processing large amounts of text at inference time, Large Language Models (LLMs) are handicapped by their limited context windows, which are typically 2048 tokens. In-context learning, an emergent phenomenon in LLMs in sizes above a certain parameter threshold, constitutes one significant example because it can only leverage training examples that fit into the context window. Existing efforts to address the context window limitation involve training specialized architectures, which tend to be smaller than the sizes in which in-context learning manifests due to the memory footprint of processing long texts. We present Parallel Context Windows (PCW), a method that alleviates the context window restriction for any off-the-shelf LLM without further training. The key to the approach is to carve a long context into chunks (``windows'') that fit within the architecture, restrict the attention mechanism to apply only within each window, and re-use the positional embeddings among the windows. We test the PCW approach on in-context learning with models that range in size between 750 million and 178 billion parameters, and show substantial improvements for tasks with diverse input and output spaces. Our results motivate further investigation of Parallel Context Windows as a method for applying off-the-shelf LLMs in other settings that require long text sequences.