Abstract: Some neurons in deep networks specialize in recognizing highly specific perceptual, structural, or semantic features of inputs. In computer vision, techniques exist for identifying neurons that respond to individual concept categories like colors, textures, and object classes. But these techniques are limited in scope, labeling only a small subset of neurons and behaviors in any network. Is a richer characterization of neuron-level computation possible? We introduce a procedure (called MILAN, for mutual information-guided linguistic annotation of neurons) that automatically labels neurons with open-ended, compositional, natural language descriptions. Given a neuron, MILAN generates a description by searching for a natural language string that maximizes pointwise mutual information with the image regions in which the neuron is active. MILAN produces fine-grained descriptions that capture categorical, relational, and logical structure in learned features. These descriptions obtain high agreement with human-generated feature descriptions across a diverse set of model architectures and tasks, and can aid in understanding and controlling learned models. We highlight three applications of natural language neuron descriptions. First, we use MILAN for analysis, characterizing the distribution and importance of neurons selective for attribute, category, and relational information in vision models. Second, we use MILAN for auditing, surfacing neurons sensitive to human faces in datasets designed to obscure them. Finally, we use MILAN for editing, improving robustness in an image classifier by deleting neurons sensitive to text features spuriously correlated with class labels.
Community Implementations: [![CatalyzeX](/images/catalyzex_icon.svg) 1 code implementation](https://www.catalyzex.com/paper/arxiv:2201.11114/code)