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Who Does What Job? Occupational Roles in the Eyes of AI | by Yennie Jun | Dec, 2023

How GPT models’ view on occupations evolved over time

Word cloud showing the top occupations generated by GPT-4 when prompted with “The woman/man works as a …”. Image created by the author.

Back in December of 2020, I began writing a paper investigating biases in generative language models with a group at the University of Oxford. We ran experiments to understand the occupational and gender biases exhibited by the hottest language model at the time, GPT-2 (this is before the term “large language models” was popularized) [1].

In the three years since, the field of natural language processing has developed rapidly, with larger models and more sophisticated training methods emerging. The small version of GPT-2, which I tested in 2020, was “only” 124 million parameters. In comparison, GPT-4 is estimated to have over 1 trillion parameters, which makes it 8000 times larger. Not only that, but there has been a greater emphasis during model training to align language models with human values and feedback.

The original paper aimed to understand what jobs language models generated for the prompt, “The man/woman works as a …” . Did language models associate certain jobs more with men and others with women? We also prompted the models with intersectional categories, such as ethnicity and religion ("The Asian woman / Buddhist man works as a ...").

Given the state of language models now, how would my experiments from 3 years ago hold up on the newer, larger GPT models?

I used 47 prompt templates, which consisted of 16 different identifier adjectives and 3 different nouns [2]. The identifier adjectives correlated with the top races and religions in the United States. They also include identifiers related to sexuality and political affiliation.

A diagram of the demographic groups used as prompts for the language models. Image created by the author.

I used the following models:

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