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Information, Geometry, and Physics Seminar

Wednesday, April 17, 2024
4:00pm to 5:30pm
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Linde Hall 310
Toward a Control Theory of LLMs
Aman Bhargava, Electrical Engineering Department, Computational & Neural Systems, Caltech,
Shi-Zhuo Looi, Department of Mathematics, Caltech,

Prompt engineering is crucial for deploying LLMs but is poorly understood mathematically. We formalize LLM systems as a class of discrete stochastic dynamical systems to explore prompt engineering through the lens of control theory. We investigate the reachable set of output token sequences $\mathcal R_y(\mathbf x_0)$ for which there exists a control input sequence $\mathbf u$ for each $\mathbf y \in \mathcal R_y(\mathbf x_0)$ that steers the LLM to output $\mathbf y$ from initial state sequence $\mathbf x_0$.

We offer analytic analysis on the limitations on the controllability of self-attention in terms of reachable set, where we prove an upper bound on the reachable set of outputs $\mathcal R_y(\mathbf x_0)$ as a function of the singular values of the parameter matrices.

We present complementary empirical analysis on the controllability of a panel of LLMs, including Falcon-7b, Llama-7b, and Falcon-40b.

Our results demonstrate a lower bound on the reachable set of outputs $\mathcal R_y(\mathbf x_0)$ w.r.t. initial state sequences $\mathbf x_0$ sampled from the Wikitext dataset.

We find that the correct next Wikitext token following sequence $\mathbf x_0$ is reachable over 97\% of the time with prompts of $k\leq 10$ tokens.

We also establish that the top 75 most likely next tokens, as estimated by the LLM itself, are reachable at least 85\% of the time with prompts of $k\leq 10$ tokens.

Intriguingly, short prompt sequences can dramatically alter the likelihood of specific outputs, even making the least likely tokens become the most likely ones.

This control-centric analysis of LLMs demonstrates the significant and poorly understood role of input sequences in steering output probabilities, offering a foundational perspective for enhancing language model system capabilities.

For more information, please contact Mathematics Department by phone at 626-395-4335 or by email at [email protected].