The What, Why, and How of Large Language Models

Dmytro Ivanov
MACHINE LEARNING ENGINEER
Vladyslav Kitsela
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Large language models or just LLM are a form of artificial intelligence that can emulate human cognitive abilities. By analyzing natural language patterns, these models can generate responses closely resembling human interactions. LLMs have a wide range of applications from simple content generation to performing complex tasks in financial and legal sectors by leveraging large textual databases, chatbots, and digital assistants. That, of course, is not all and there are more use cases for LLMs in healthcare, marketing, customer relations management, and more.

In today’s article, we will delve deeper into the nature of LLMs and explore their functioning. We will also discuss the use cases for LLMs, the challenges to their implementation, and the potential for improving and applying these models in different business contexts.  

What is a large language model?

The large language model is an instance of foundation models that are trained using vast amounts of unlabeled and self-supervised data, which means that they learn from various patterns in that data to produce an adaptable output. This output could come in different forms, including images, audio, videos, and text. LLMs are the instances of foundation models applied specifically to text or text-like content such as code.

These LLM models utilize transformer architecture and are trained on extensive datasets, making them large in scale. In some cases, such models pull the information from the internet and transform it into fresh content. In other cases, LLMs can train using specific types of data, which limits the conversational capabilities of the model to a specific type of content and puts it in the context of a specific business or industry. 

At the same time, while conversing with the model, the users train it to understand human requests and generate better responses. This training enables the models to comprehend, translate, predict, or create text that corresponds to the users’ requests. 

Similar to human learning, LLMs undergo pre-training to excel in tasks like text classification, question answering, document summarization, and text generation. Their problem-solving abilities find applications in fields like healthcare, finance, and entertainment, powering NLP applications like chatbots and AI assistants.

See how generative AI transforms modern enterprises and how to make it work for you.

How do large language models work?

A large language model is built upon the transformer architecture and operates by taking input, encoding it, and then decoding it to generate an output prediction. However, before it can perform these functions effectively, it undergoes training processes.

During training, large language models are exposed to extensive textual datasets from sources across the web encompassing vast volumes of text. This training phase involves unsupervised learning, where the model processes the data without explicit instructions. 

Through this process, the model's AI algorithm learns the meanings and contextual relationships of words. For instance, it learns to differentiate between "right" meaning "correct", and "right" meaning a direction relative to the speaker. Fine-tuning is essential for the model to excel in specific tasks, such as translation or content generation, and customizes the model's performance for these tasks.

Prompt-tuning serves a similar purpose to fine-tuning but focuses on training the model through few-shot or zero-shot prompting. A prompt is an instruction given to the model. Few-shot prompting involves teaching the model to predict outputs by providing examples. For instance, in a sentiment analysis task, a few-shot prompt might include positive and negative customer reviews, allowing the model to understand sentiment based on examples. In contrast, zero-shot prompting doesn't provide examples but explicitly defines the task, prompting the model to respond accordingly.

The three key components of the LLM functioning are data, architecture, and training.

  • Data: As discussed earlier, the large language models process vast volumes of data, primarily from the internet. They use millions upon millions of text pages to enrich their knowledge base on both general and highly specialized topics.
  • Architecture: Large language models typically use a transformer architecture. Transformers are deep learning models specifically designed for sequence-to-sequence tasks, making them well-suited for NLP. This allows the LLMs to create sequences of content, like sentences, lines of code, and even large bits of cohesive text. More so, such models can even sustain a continued dialogue with the user remembering previous interactions and their outcomes.
  • Training: The model begins with pre-training on a massive corpus of text data from the internet. During this phase, it learns to predict the next word in a sentence, given the previous context. This pre-training helps the model capture grammar, context, and a wide range of linguistic patterns from the data. The model thus learns to predict the context of the sentence and the meaning of the words, becoming better and better with every session. The result is a model with a vast amount of world knowledge encoded in its parameters.

The model can be trained on more specific data sets, that correspond to the needs of the user, enabling the model to refine its understanding of a specific topic to perform certain tasks. The applications of large language models now expand drastically finding their way into a number of industries dealing with vast volumes of data to simplify and reduce routine tasks. That is where we get to more specialized use cases for large language model AI. 

Sharing the experience: The role of LLMs in an industry-specific context

A large language model can be applied in different contexts, even though right now, the most common use case for LLMs is text generation. It simplifies the process of information retrieval and content generation for marketing experts, content creators, advertisers, and more. It also assists software developers in writing lines of code, which also creates a fair share of controversy. 

Naturally, any output produced by an LLM model is rarely 100% accurate, which leaves room for human editing and adaptation. Even still, these models can produce an entirely false output, which is often referred to as hallucination. 

Here at Trinetix, our experts have been working with large language models for years developing solutions for clients across different industries. In our experience, LLMs have a huge impact on organizations that deal with large amounts of financial data.

Document summarization and data extraction

Large language models can automatically summarize lengthy financial reports, legal documents, or tax filings. This helps financial professionals quickly extract essential information without reading through voluminous documents. In our experience, businesses in financial services and accounting deal with large volumes of documentation, which can be overwhelming for human professionals. 

Scanning through hundreds of documents to find a specific bit of information is a monotonous and tiresome task and LLMs can simplify it. The finance teams can just ask the AI-powered assistant to provide the data they are looking for and get what they need in seconds. They can extract relevant data from unstructured financial documents, such as invoices, receipts, and contracts. This streamlines data entry and reduces the risk of manual errors in financial record-keeping.

Tax compliance and precision

Large language models can assist with tax compliance by interpreting tax regulations and identifying potential deductions or credits based on financial data. This can aid individuals and businesses in optimizing their tax filings. Even though human tax professionals possess the required expertise, the sheer quantity of forms can overwhelm them, demanding constant attention to detail. 

In contrast, LLMs can process a wide array of forms with exceptional precision, reducing the likelihood of any oversight or errors. This high level of accuracy not only improves businesses' adherence to tax regulations but also serves as a protective measure against potential legal repercussions.

Learn how large language models help with enterprise data management

Build or train: How to get your very own LLM?

Building a large language model is a complex and resource-intensive endeavor that typically requires a significant level of expertise, substantial computational resources, and access to extensive data. The process involves several key steps, including data collection, preprocessing, selecting a suitable neural network architecture, designing the model, pre-training it on vast datasets for specific tasks, continuous evaluation and refinement, and finally, deployment.

While it is feasible for the largest tech companies and research institutions to undertake the development of large language models, it may not be practical for most businesses. The main challenges here include the high computational costs (we are talking tens of millions of dollars), the need for specialized machine learning expertise, and the availability of massive datasets for model training. As a result, many businesses use pre-existing open source large language models through APIs or cloud services provided by major tech companies, rather than attempt to build and maintain their own models from scratch. 

Even though building a large language model from scratch is not a feasible endeavor for most businesses, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the extensive capabilities of the existing model. Through careful preparation, training, validation, and deployment, you can take full advantage of available LLMs

Training a pre-existing large language model, albeit challenging, is an achievable task for a much broader selection of companies. It typically involves collaboration with experts in machine learning as training itself is a complex process that includes a number of critical steps: 

  1. Data preparation: Gather a diverse and extensive dataset relevant to the business's specific application. Ensure the data is cleaned, preprocessed, and structured for the training task. This may involve tasks like tokenization, data cleaning, and labeling.
  1. Model selection: Choose a pre-existing large language model that aligns with the business's needs and objectives. Common choices include models like Google’s PaLM, Open AI’s GPT, and Meta’s LLaMa, depending on the task.
  1. Training infrastructure: Set up the infrastructure for training, which may include high-performance computing resources, GPUs or TPUs, and distributed computing clusters.
  1. Hyperparameter tuning: Adjust model hyperparameters such as learning rates, batch sizes, and optimization strategies to optimize performance for the specific task.
  1. Training process: Train the model using dataset, monitoring performance metrics closely during training. This step can be computationally intensive and may take several hours or days.
  1. Validation: Continuously evaluate the model's performance on a validation dataset to ensure it meets the desired quality and accuracy standards.
  1. Ethical considerations: Implement safeguards to address ethical concerns, such as bias mitigation, privacy protection, and responsible AI deployment. This step is especially critical for businesses dealing with sensitive information.
  1. Deployment: Once the model achieves satisfactory performance, deploy it in a production environment, making it available for inference and integration into the business's applications or services.
  1. Monitoring and maintenance: Continuously monitor the model's behavior in production, addressing any issues that arise. Periodically retrain the model with updated data to keep it accurate and up-to-date.

Large language models offer a wide range of applications and are exceptionally advantageous for problem-solving by providing information in a clear and understandable conversational style. While building an entirely new large language model AI is too expensive for most businesses, there exist a number of ready-made models businesses can use for their purposes. What’s more, their performance continually improves as they learn from additional data and parameters, getting better with increased knowledge. Large language models can also demonstrate in-context learning, where they learn from prompts without the need for extra parameters, resulting in rapid learning without extensive training.

Achieve precision and efficiency of data management through LLM training with Trinetix

Challenges of Large Language Models

Just like any technology, large language models have inherent limitations. Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the content they generate stands out as one of the foremost challenges. While these models can replicate the style of a specific author or genre, there’s a risk of generating content that is factually incorrect or misleading, particularly in contexts like news articles where precision is paramount. Large language models may create the illusion of understanding and accurate responses, but they are fundamentally technological tools, facing various challenges:

  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations occur when these models produce outputs that are false or not aligned with user intent. For instance, they might claim human attributes or emotions, leading to what's known as a "hallucination" since they predict the next syntactically correct word rather than fully grasping human meaning.
  • Security: Large language models pose significant security risks without proper oversight. They can inadvertently leak private information, engage in phishing scams, or generate spam. When misused, they can be reprogrammed to propagate biased ideologies and misinformation, potentially causing global harm.
  • Bias: The training data influences a model's outputs, and if the data lacks diversity or primarily represents a single demographic, the model's responses may exhibit bias, reinforcing existing disparities.
  • Consent: Some of the data used to train these models may have been collected without consent. When scraping data from the internet, these models can infringe copyright, plagiarize content, and compromise privacy by extracting personal information from descriptions, leading to potential legal issues.

While large language models offer impressive capabilities, they must grapple with a range of issues related to understanding human intent, security, and bias. Over the past years, we’ve seen numerous examples of LLMs generating false information, making controversial statements, and even dropping the quality of responses due to poor training. 

All of that is up for further improvement, but the good news is that the more we interact with these models, the better they become. And if we put effort into specialized training, they can outdo humans in terms of speed and accuracy of data processing and transformation.

The future of LLM and potential for enterprise use

We can anticipate greater customization and specialization, allowing businesses to fine-tune these models to specific needs with greater ease. This will democratize access to AI in the future, enabling a broader range of organizations to harness the power of large language models. Domain-specific models will also become more prevalent, offering industry-specific expertise and understanding, further enhancing their utility across diverse sectors. Ethical considerations and sustainability will remain at the forefront, ensuring responsible AI deployment and energy-efficient model training.

For businesses, training an existing large language model to align with their unique requirements can yield substantial advantages. It can drive operational efficiency by automating tasks, improving customer service, and enhancing data analysis capabilities. 

All the while, a business needs relevant expertise in AI and machine learning to properly train a large language model. Trinetix has experience training LLMs for enterprises to perform a broad range of tasks and emphasize all of their benefits while mitigating the potential challenges.

Let’s chat and discuss how your enterprise can benefit from fine-tuning an LLM! 

FAQ

A large language model is a powerful artificial intelligence system that can understand, generate, and manipulate human language. It relies on deep learning techniques and is typically trained on vast datasets to perform tasks like translation, text generation, and question answering. These models have millions or even billions of parameters and are at the forefront of natural language processing technology.
Large language models are a subset of generative AI focused specifically on natural language understanding and generation. Generative AI, on the other hand, encompasses a broader category of AI systems that can generate content across various modalities, including text, images, audio, and more. Large language models are a specific application of generative AI, primarily centered around text-based tasks.
A parameter refers to a numerical value that the model uses to make predictions and generate text. These parameters are learned during the training process and represent the model's knowledge and understanding of language. Large language models can have millions or even billions of parameters, which contribute to their ability to generate relevant text.
Ready to explore
 tomorrow's potential?