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VisBERT: Hidden-State Visualizations for Transformers

by   Betty van Aken, et al.

Explainability and interpretability are two important concepts, the absence of which can and should impede the application of well-performing neural networks to real-world problems. At the same time, they are difficult to incorporate into the large, black-box models that achieve state-of-the-art results in a multitude of NLP tasks. Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is one such black-box model. It has become a staple architecture to solve many different NLP tasks and has inspired a number of related Transformer models. Understanding how these models draw conclusions is crucial for both their improvement and application. We contribute to this challenge by presenting VisBERT, a tool for visualizing the contextual token representations within BERT for the task of (multi-hop) Question Answering. Instead of analyzing attention weights, we focus on the hidden states resulting from each encoder block within the BERT model. This way we can observe how the semantic representations are transformed throughout the layers of the model. VisBERT enables users to get insights about the model's internal state and to explore its inference steps or potential shortcomings. The tool allows us to identify distinct phases in BERT's transformations that are similar to a traditional NLP pipeline and offer insights during failed predictions.


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