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Decomposing Uncertainty for Large Language Models through Input Clarification Ensembling

Bairu HouYujian LiuKaizhi QianJacob AndreasShiyu ChangYang Zhang
Nov 2023
Uncertainty decomposition refers to the task of decomposing the total uncertainty of a model into data (aleatoric) uncertainty, resulting from the inherent complexity or ambiguity of the data, and model (epistemic) uncertainty, resulting from the lack of knowledge in the model. Performing uncertainty decomposition for large language models (LLMs) is an important step toward improving the reliability, trustworthiness, and interpretability of LLMs, but this research task is very challenging and remains unresolved. The existing canonical method, Bayesian Neural Network (BNN), cannot be applied to LLMs, because BNN requires training and ensembling multiple variants of models, which is infeasible or prohibitively expensive for LLMs. In this paper, we introduce an uncertainty decomposition framework for LLMs, called input clarifications ensemble, which bypasses the need to train new models. Rather than ensembling models with different parameters, our approach generates a set of clarifications for the input, feeds them into the fixed LLMs, and ensembles the corresponding predictions. We show that our framework shares a symmetric decomposition structure with BNN. Empirical evaluations demonstrate that the proposed framework provides accurate and reliable uncertainty quantification on various tasks. Code will be made publicly available at .
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