Mathematical Models of Computation in Superposition

Published: 24 Jun 2024, Last Modified: 24 Jun 2024ICML 2024 MI Workshop PosterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeXCC BY 4.0
Keywords: superposition, circuit, theory, feature, error correction
TL;DR: We provide mathematical models of computation in superposition based on emulating sparse boolean circuits.
Abstract: Superposition -- when a neural network represents more ``features'' than it has dimensions -- seems to pose a serious challenge to mechanistically interpreting current AI systems. Existing theory work studies \emph{representational} superposition, where superposition only used when passing information through bottlenecks. In this work, we present mathematical models of \emph{computation} in superposition, where superposition is actively helpful for efficiently accomplishing the task. We first construct a task of efficiently emulating a circuit that takes the AND of the $\binom{m}{2}$ pairs of each of $m$ features. We construct a 1-layer MLP that uses superposition to perform this task up to $\varepsilon$-error, where the network only requires $\tilde{O}(m^{\frac{2}{3}})$ neurons, even when the input features are \emph{themselves in superposition}. Next, we generalize this construction to arbitrary sparse boolean circuits of low depth, and then construct ``error correction'' layers that allow deep fully-connected networks of width $d$ to emulate circuits of width $\tilde{O}(d^{1.5})$ and \emph{any} polynomial depth. We conclude by providing some potential applications of our work for interpreting neural networks that implement computation in superposition.
Submission Number: 31