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LLM See, LLM Do: Guiding Data Generation to Target Non-Differentiable Objectives


Luísa Shimabucoro, Sebastian Ruder, Julia Kreutzer, Marzieh Fadaee, Sara Hooker


The widespread adoption of synthetic data raises new questions about how models generating the data can influence other large language models (LLMs) via distilled data. To start, our work exhaustively characterizes the impact of passive inheritance of model properties by systematically studying the consequences of synthetic data integration. We provide one of the most comprehensive studies to-date of how the source of synthetic data shapes models' internal biases, calibration and generations' textual attributes and preferences. We find that models are surprisingly sensitive towards certain attributes even when the synthetic data prompts appear "neutral". which invites the question whether this sensitivity can be exploited for good.
Our findings invite the question can we explicitly steer the models towards the properties we want at test time by exploiting the data generation process? This would have historically been considered infeasible due to the cost of collecting data with a specific characteristic or objective in mind. However, improvement in the quality of synthetic data, as well as a shift towards general-purpose models designed to follow a diverse way of instructions, means this question is timely. We propose active inheritance as a term to describe intentionally constraining synthetic data according to a non-differentiable objective. We demonstrate how active inheritance can steer the generation profiles of models towards desirable non-differentiable attributes, e.g. high lexical diversity or low toxicity.