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The geometry of hidden representations of large transformer models

Lucrezia Valeriani · Diego Doimo · Francesca Cuturello · Alessandro Laio · Alessio Ansuini · Alberto Cazzaniga

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #506
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


Large transformers are powerful architectures used for self-supervised data analysis across various data types, including protein sequences, images, and text. In these models, the semantic structure of the dataset emerges from a sequence of transformations between one representation and the next. We characterize the geometric and statistical properties of these representations and how they change as we move through the layers.By analyzing the intrinsic dimension (ID) and neighbor composition, we find that the representations evolve similarly in transformers trained on protein language taskand image reconstruction tasks. In the first layers, the data manifold expands, becoming high-dimensional, and then contracts significantly in the intermediate layers. In the last part of the model, the ID remains approximately constant or forms a second shallow peak. We show that the semantic information of the dataset is better expressed at the end of the first peak, and this phenomenon can be observed across many models trained on diverse datasets.Based on our findings, we point out an explicit strategy to identify, without supervision, the layers that maximize semantic content: representations at intermediate layers corresponding to a relative minimum of the ID profile are more suitable for downstream learning tasks.

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