Ning Shi


Revisit Systematic Generalization via Meaningful Learning
Ning Shi | Boxin Wang | Wei Wang | Xiangyu Liu | Zhouhan Lin
Proceedings of the Fifth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

Humans can systematically generalize to novel compositions of existing concepts. Recent studies argue that neural networks appear inherently ineffective in such cognitive capacity, leading to a pessimistic view and a lack of attention to optimistic results. We revisit this controversial topic from the perspective of meaningful learning, an exceptional capability of humans to learn novel concepts by connecting them with known ones. We reassess the compositional skills of sequence-to-sequence models conditioned on the semantic links between new and old concepts. Our observations suggest that models can successfully one-shot generalize to novel concepts and compositions through semantic linking, either inductively or deductively. We demonstrate that prior knowledge plays a key role as well. In addition to synthetic tests, we further conduct proof-of-concept experiments in machine translation and semantic parsing, showing the benefits of meaningful learning in applications. We hope our positive findings will encourage excavating modern neural networks’ potential in systematic generalization through more advanced learning schemes.

Text Editing as Imitation Game
Ning Shi | Bin Tang | Bo Yuan | Longtao Huang | Yewen Pu | Jie Fu | Zhouhan Lin
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Text editing, such as grammatical error correction, arises naturally from imperfect textual data. Recent works frame text editing as a multi-round sequence tagging task, where operations – such as insertion and substitution – are represented as a sequence of tags. While achieving good results, this encoding is limited in flexibility as all actions are bound to token-level tags. In this work, we reformulate text editing as an imitation game using behavioral cloning. Specifically, we convert conventional sequence-to-sequence data into state-to-action demonstrations, where the action space can be as flexible as needed. Instead of generating the actions one at a time, we introduce a dual decoders structure to parallel the decoding while retaining the dependencies between action tokens, coupled with trajectory augmentation to alleviate the distribution shift that imitation learning often suffers. In experiments on a suite of Arithmetic Equation benchmarks, our model consistently outperforms the autoregressive baselines in terms of performance, efficiency, and robustness. We hope our findings will shed light on future studies in reinforcement learning applying sequence-level action generation to natural language processing.

RoChBert: Towards Robust BERT Fine-tuning for Chinese
Zihan Zhang | Jinfeng Li | Ning Shi | Bo Yuan | Xiangyu Liu | Rong Zhang | Hui Xue | Donghong Sun | Chao Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Despite of the superb performance on a wide range of tasks, pre-trained language models (e.g., BERT) have been proved vulnerable to adversarial texts. In this paper, we present RoChBERT, a framework to build more Robust BERT-based models by utilizing a more comprehensive adversarial graph to fuse Chinese phonetic and glyph features into pre-trained representations during fine-tuning. Inspired by curriculum learning, we further propose to augment the training dataset with adversarial texts in combination with intermediate samples. Extensive experiments demonstrate that RoChBERT outperforms previous methods in significant ways: (i) robust – RoChBERT greatly improves the model robustness without sacrificing accuracy on benign texts. Specifically, the defense lowers the success rates of unlimited and limited attacks by 59.43% and 39.33% respectively, while remaining accuracy of 93.30%; (ii) flexible – RoChBERT can easily extend to various language models to solve different downstream tasks with excellent performance; and (iii) efficient – RoChBERT can be directly applied to the fine-tuning stage without pre-training language model from scratch, and the proposed data augmentation method is also low-cost.


Counterfactual Adversarial Learning with Representation Interpolation
Wei Wang | Boxin Wang | Ning Shi | Jinfeng Li | Bingyu Zhu | Xiangyu Liu | Rong Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Deep learning models exhibit a preference for statistical fitting over logical reasoning. Spurious correlations might be memorized when there exists statistical bias in training data, which severely limits the model performance especially in small data scenarios. In this work, we introduce Counterfactual Adversarial Training framework (CAT) to tackle the problem from a causality perspective. Particularly, for a specific sample, CAT first generates a counterfactual representation through latent space interpolation in an adversarial manner, and then performs Counterfactual Risk Minimization (CRM) on each original-counterfactual pair to adjust sample-wise loss weight dynamically, which encourages the model to explore the true causal effect. Extensive experiments demonstrate that CAT achieves substantial performance improvement over SOTA across different downstream tasks, including sentence classification, natural language inference and question answering.


Recurrent Inference in Text Editing
Ning Shi | Ziheng Zeng | Haotian Zhang | Yichen Gong
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

In neural text editing, prevalent sequence-to-sequence based approaches directly map the unedited text either to the edited text or the editing operations, in which the performance is degraded by the limited source text encoding and long, varying decoding steps. To address this problem, we propose a new inference method, Recurrence, that iteratively performs editing actions, significantly narrowing the problem space. In each iteration, encoding the partially edited text, Recurrence decodes the latent representation, generates an action of short, fixed-length, and applies the action to complete a single edit. For a comprehensive comparison, we introduce three types of text editing tasks: Arithmetic Operators Restoration (AOR), Arithmetic Equation Simplification (AES), Arithmetic Equation Correction (AEC). Extensive experiments on these tasks with varying difficulties demonstrate that Recurrence achieves improvements over conventional inference methods.