DeepMind’s Self-Discover prompt technique encourages LLMs to think for themselves


Researchers at Google DeepMind and the University of Southern California have unveiled Self-Discover, a framework that enables language models to find logical reasoning prompts for complex tasks on their own.

Despite all the progress that has been made, logical reasoning is still the greatest challenge for large language models. To solve this problem, scientists from Google DeepMind and the University of Southern California have now presented a new approach called “Self-Discover”. The goal is for language models to discover logical structures on their own to solve complex problems.

Select, adapt, implement

The framework provides the language model with a set of reasoning prompts, such as “step-by-step,” “critically examine,” or “break down into sub-problems.”

In the first phase, for a given task, the model selects from these reasoning prompts, adapts them to the specific task, and eventually combines them into an actionable plan.



In the second phase, the model attempts to solve the task simply by following the plan it has developed.

Image: Zhou et al.

According to the researchers, this approach mimics the human problem-solving process. It promises better results and is also computationally efficient since it only needs to be generated once at the meta-level.

One possible application for Self-Discover is solving a complex mathematical equation. Instead of trying to solve the equation directly, Self-Discover could first create a logical structure consisting of several steps, such as simplifying the equation, isolating variables, and finally solving the equation. The LLM then follows this structure to solve the problem step by step.

Self-Discover delivers significant improvements over Chain of Thought

An example from the researchers compares Self-Discover with Chain of Thought (CoT) and Plan-and-Solve, where the language model is asked to infer the correct geometric shape from the SVG path of a vector file.

Image: Zhou et al.

The researchers tested Self-Discover with OpenAI’s GPT-4 Turbo, GPT-3.5 Turbo, Meta’s LLaMa-2-70B, and Google’s PaLM 2. In 21 out of 25 tasks, Self-Discover outperformed the proven CoT method, which also required more computing power, by up to 42 percent. Self-Discover required only three additional inference steps at the task level.


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