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Open Source AI is AI we can Trust — with Soumith Chintala of Meta AI

Open Source AI is AI we can Trust — with Soumith Chintala of Meta AI

The PyTorch creator riffs on geohot's Tinygrad, Chris Lattner's Mojo, Apple's MLX, the PyTorch Mafia, the upcoming Llama 3 and MTIA ASIC, AI robotics, and what it takes for open source AI to win!

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Soumith Chintala needs no introduction in the ML world — his insights are incredibly accessible across Twitter, LinkedIn, podcasts, and conference talks (in this pod we’ll assume you’ll have caught up on the History of PyTorch pod from last year and cover different topics). He’s well known as the creator of PyTorch, but he's more broadly the Engineering Lead on AI Infra, PyTorch, and Generative AI at Meta.

Soumith was one of the earliest supporters of Latent Space (and more recently AI News), and we were overjoyed to catch up with him on his latest SF visit for a braindump of the latest AI topics, reactions to some of our past guests, and why Open Source AI is personally so important to him.

Life in the GPU-Rich Lane

Back in January, Zuck went on Instagram to announce their GPU wealth: by the end of 2024, Meta will have 350k H100s. By adding all their GPU clusters, you'd get to 600k H100-equivalents of compute. At FP16 precision, that's ~1,200,000 PFLOPS. If we used George Hotz's (previous guest!) "Person of Compute" measure, Meta now has 60k humans of compute in their clusters1.

Meta's AI Initiatives: $20B+ of Investment in GPUs and Data Center Infra

Occasionally we get glimpses into the GPU-rich life; on a recent ThursdAI chat, swyx prompted PaLM tech lead Yi Tay to write down what he missed most from Google, and he commented that UL2 20B was trained by accidentally leaving the training job running for a month, because hardware failures are so rare in Google.

Meta AI’s Epic LLM Run

Before Llama broke the internet, Meta released an open source LLM in May 2022, OPT-175B, which was notable for how “open” it was - right down to the logbook! They used only 16 NVIDIA V100 GPUs and Soumith agrees that, with hindsight, it was likely under-trained for its parameter size.

In Feb 2023 (pre Latent Space pod), Llama was released, with a 7B version trained on 1T tokens alongside 65B and 33B versions trained on 1.4T tokens. The Llama authors included Guillaume Lample and Timothée Lacroix, who went on to start Mistral.

July 2023 was Llama2 time (which we covered!): 3 model sizes, 7B, 13B, and 70B, all trained on 2T tokens. The three models accounted for a grand total of 3,311,616 GPU hours for all pre-training work. CodeLlama followed shortly after, a fine-tune of Llama2 specifically focused on code generation use cases. The family had models in the 7B, 13B, 34B, and 70B size, all trained with 500B extra tokens of code and code-related data, except for 70B which is trained on 1T.

All of this on top of other open sourced models like Segment Anything (one of our early hits!), Detectron, Detectron 2, DensePose, and Seamless, and in one year, Meta transformed from a company people made fun of for its “metaverse” investments to one of the key players in the AI landscape and its stock has almost tripled since (about $830B in market value created in the past year).

Why Open Source AI

The obvious question is why Meta would spend hundreds of millions on its AI efforts and then release them for free. Zuck has addressed this in public statements:

But for Soumith, the motivation is even more personal:

“I'm irrationally interested in open source. I think open source has that fundamental way to distribute opportunity in a way that is very powerful. Like, I grew up in India… And knowledge was very centralized, but I saw that evolution of knowledge slowly getting decentralized. And that ended up helping me learn quicker and faster for like zero dollars. And I think that was a strong reason why I ended up where I am. So like that, like the open source side of things, I always push regardless of like what I get paid for, like I think I would do that as a passion project on the side…

…I think at a fundamental level, the most beneficial value of open source is that you make the distribution to be very wide. It's just available with no friction and people can do transformative things in a way that's very accessible. Maybe it's open source, but it has a commercial license and I'm a student in India. I don't care about the license. I just don't even understand the license. But like the fact that I can use it and do something with it is very transformative to me…

…Like, okay, I again always go back to like I'm a student in India with no money. What is my accessibility to any of these closed source models? At some scale I have to pay money. That makes it a non-starter and stuff. And there's also the control issue: I strongly believe if you want human aligned AI, you want all humans to give feedback. And you want all humans to have access to that technology in the first place. And I actually have seen, living in New York, whenever I come to Silicon Valley, I see a different cultural bubble.

We like the way Soumith put it last year: Closed AI “rate-limits against people's imaginations and needs”!

What It Takes For Open Source AI to Win

However Soumith doesn’t think Open Source will simply win by popular demand. There is a tremendous coordination problem with the decentralized nature of the open source AI development right now: nobody is collecting the valuable human feedback in the way that OpenAI or Midjourney are doing.

“Open source in general always has a coordination problem. If there's a vertically integrated provider with more resources, they will just be better coordinated than open source. And so now open source has to figure out how to have coordinated benefits. And the reason you want coordinated benefits is because these models are getting better based on human feedback.

And if you see with open source models, like if you go to the /r/localllama subreddit, like there's so many variations of models that are being produced from, say, Nous research. I mean, like there's like so many variations built by so many people. And one common theme is they're all using these fine-tuning or human preferences datasets that are very limited and they're not sufficiently diverse.

And you look at the other side, say front-ends like Oobabooga or like Hugging Chat or Ollama, they don't really have feedback buttons. All the people using all these front-ends, they probably want to give feedback, but there's no way for them to give feedback… So we're just losing all of this feedback. Maybe open source models are being as used as GPT is at this point in like all kinds of, in a very fragmented way, like in aggregate all the open source models together are probably being used as much as GPT is, maybe close to that. But the amount of feedback that is driving back into the open source ecosystem is like negligible, maybe less than 1% of like the usage.

So I think like some, like the blueprint here I think is you'd want someone to create a sinkhole for the feedback… I think if we do that, if that actually happens, I think that probably has a real chance of the open source models having a runaway effect against OpenAI, I think like there's a clear chance we can take at truly winning open source.”

If you’re working on solving open source coordination, please get in touch!

Show Notes


  • [00:00:00] Introductions

  • [00:00:51] Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Success

  • [00:02:40] Importance of Open Source and Its Impact

  • [00:03:46] PyTorch vs TinyGrad

  • [00:08:33] Why PyTorch is the Switzerland of frameworks

  • [00:10:27] Modular's Mojo + PyTorch?

  • [00:13:32] PyTorch vs Apple's MLX

  • [00:16:27] FAIR / PyTorch Alumni

  • [00:18:50] How can AI inference providers differentiate?

  • [00:21:41] How to build good benchmarks and learnings from AnyScale's

  • [00:25:28] Most interesting unexplored ideas

  • [00:28:18] What people get wrong about synthetic data

  • [00:35:57] Meta AI's evolution

  • [00:38:42] How do you allocate 600,000 GPUs?

  • [00:42:05] Even the GPU Rich are GPU Poor

  • [00:47:31] Meta's MTIA silicon

  • [00:50:09] Why we need open source

  • [00:59:00] Open source's coordination problem for feedback gathering

  • [01:08:59] Beyond text generation

  • [01:15:37] Osmo and the Future of Smell Recognition Technology


Alessio [00:00:00]: Hey everyone, welcome to the Latent Space podcast. This is Alessio, partner and CTO in residence at Decibel Partners, and I'm joined by my co-host Swyx, founder of Smol AI.

Swyx [00:00:15]: Hey, and today we have in the studio Soumith Chintala, welcome.

Soumith [00:00:17]: Thanks for having me.

Swyx [00:00:18]: On one of your rare visits from New York where you live. You got your start in computer vision at NYU with Yann LeCun. That was a very fortuitous start. I was actually listening to your interview on the Gradient podcast. So if people want to know more about the history of Soumith, history of PyTorch, they can go to that podcast. We won't spend that much time there, but I just was marveling at your luck, or I don't know if it's your luck or your drive to find AI early and then find the right quality mentor because I guess Yan really sort of introduced you to that world.

Soumith [00:00:51]: Yeah, I think you're talking about extrinsic success, right? A lot of people just have drive to do things that they think is fun, and a lot of those things might or might not be extrinsically perceived as good and successful. I think I just happened to like something that is now one of the coolest things in the world or whatever. But if I happen, the first thing I tried to become was a 3D VFX artist, and I was really interested in doing that, but I turned out to be very bad at it. So I ended up not doing that further. But even if I was good at that, whatever, and I ended up going down that path, I probably would have been equally happy. It's just like maybe like the perception of, oh, is this person successful or not might be different. I think like after a baseline, like your happiness is probably more correlated with your intrinsic stuff.

Swyx [00:01:44]: Yes. I think Dan Pink has this book on drive that I often refer to about the power of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic and how long extrinsic lasts. It's not very long at all. But anyway, now you are an investor in Runway, so in a way you're working on VFX. Yes.

Soumith [00:02:01]: I mean, in a very convoluted way.

Swyx [00:02:03]: It reminds me of Ed Catmull. I don't know if you guys know, but he actually tried to become an animator in his early years and failed or didn't get accepted by Disney and then went and created Pixar and then got bought by Disney and created Toy Story. So you joined Facebook in 2014 and eventually became a creator and maintainer of PyTorch. And there's this long story there you can refer to on the gradient. I think maybe people don't know that you also involved in more sort of hardware and cluster decision affair. And we can dive into more details there because we're all about hardware this month. Yeah. And then finally, I don't know what else, like what else should people know about you on a personal side or professional side?

Soumith [00:02:40]: I think open source is definitely a big passion of mine and probably forms a little bit of my identity at this point. I'm irrationally interested in open source. I think open source has that fundamental way to distribute opportunity in a way that is very powerful. Like, I grew up in India. I didn't have internet for a while. In college, actually, I didn't have internet except for GPRS or whatever. And knowledge was very centralized, but I saw that evolution of knowledge slowly getting decentralized. And that ended up helping me learn quicker and faster for zero dollars. And I think that was a strong reason why I ended up where I am. So the open source side of things, I always push regardless of what I get paid for, like I think I would do that as a passion project on the side.

Swyx [00:03:35]: Yeah, that's wonderful. Well, we'll talk about the challenges as well that open source has, open models versus closed models. Maybe you want to touch a little bit on PyTorch before we move on to the sort of Meta AI in general.

PyTorch vs Tinygrad tradeoffs

Alessio [00:03:46]: Yeah, we kind of touched on PyTorch in a lot of episodes. So we had George Hotz from TinyGrad. He called PyTorch a CISC and TinyGrad a RISC. I would love to get your thoughts on PyTorch design direction as far as, I know you talk a lot about kind of having a happy path to start with and then making complexity hidden away but then available to the end user. One of the things that George mentioned is I think you have like 250 primitive operators in PyTorch, I think TinyGrad is four. So how do you think about some of the learnings that maybe he's going to run into that you already had in the past seven, eight years almost of running PyTorch?

Soumith [00:04:24]: Yeah, I think there's different models here, but I think it's two different models that people generally start with. Either they go like, I have a grand vision and I'm going to build a giant system that achieves this grand vision and maybe one is super feature complete or whatever. Or other people say they will get incrementally ambitious, right? And they say, oh, we'll start with something simple and then we'll slowly layer out complexity in a way that optimally applies Huffman coding or whatever. Like where the density of users are and what they're using, I would want to keep it in the easy, happy path and where the more niche advanced use cases, I'll still want people to try them, but they need to take additional frictional steps. George, I think just like we started with PyTorch, George started with the incrementally ambitious thing. I remember TinyGrad used to be, like we would be limited to a thousand lines of code and I think now it's at 5,000. So I think there is no real magic to which why PyTorch has the kind of complexity. I think it's probably partly necessitated and partly because we built with the technology available under us at that time, PyTorch is like 190,000 lines of code or something at this point. I think if you had to rewrite it, we would probably think about ways to rewrite it in a vastly simplified way for sure. But a lot of that complexity comes from the fact that in a very simple, explainable way, you have memory hierarchies. You have CPU has three levels of caches and then you have DRAM and SSD and then you have network. Similarly, GPU has several levels of memory and then you have different levels of network hierarchies, NVLink plus InfiniBand or Rocky or something like that, right? And the way the flops are available on your hardware, they are available in a certain way and your computation is in a certain way and you have to retrofit your computation onto both the memory hierarchy and like the flops available. When you're doing this, it is actually a fairly hard mathematical problem to do this setup, like you find the optimal thing. And finding the optimal thing is, what is optimal depends on the input variables themselves. So like, okay, what is the shape of your input tensors and what is the operation you're trying to do and various things like that. Finding that optimal configuration and writing it down in code is not the same for every input configuration you have. Like for example, just as the shape of the tensors change, let's say you have three input tensors into a Sparstar product or something like that. The shape of each of these input tensors will vastly change how you do this optimally placing this operation onto the hardware in a way that will get you maximal throughput. So a lot of our complexity comes from writing out hundreds of configurations for each single PyTorch operator and templatizing these things and symbolically generating the final CUDA code or CPU code. There's no way to avoid it because mathematically we haven't found symbolic ways to do this that also keep compile time near zero. You can write a very simple framework, but then you also should be willing to eat the long compile time. So if searching for that optimal performance at runtime, but that's the trade off. There's no, like, I don't think unless we have great breakthroughs George's vision is achievable, he should be thinking about a narrower problem such as I'm only going to make this for work for self-driving car connets or I'm only going to make this work for LLM transformers of the llama style. Like if you start narrowing the problem down, you can make a vastly simpler framework. But if you don't, if you need the generality to power all of the AI research that is happening and keep zero compile time and in all these other factors, I think it's not easy to avoid the complexity.

Pytorch vs Mojo

Alessio [00:08:33]: That's interesting. And we kind of touched on this with Chris Lattner when he was on the podcast. If you think about frameworks, they have the model target. They have the hardware target. They have different things to think about. He mentioned when he was at Google, TensorFlow trying to be optimized to make TPUs go brr, you know, and go as fast. I think George is trying to make especially AMD stack be better than ROCm. How come PyTorch has been such as Switzerland versus just making Meta hardware go brr?

Soumith [00:09:00]: First, Meta is not in the business of selling hardware. Meta is not in the business of cloud compute. The way Meta thinks about funding PyTorch is we're funding it because it's net good for Meta to fund PyTorch because PyTorch has become a standard and a big open source project. And generally it gives us a timeline edge. It gives us leverage and all that within our own work. So why is PyTorch more of a Switzerland rather than being opinionated? I think the way we think about it is not in terms of Switzerland or not. We actually the way we articulate it to all hardware vendors and software vendors and all who come to us being we want to build a backend in core for PyTorch and ship it by default is we just only look at our user side of things. Like if users are using a particular piece of hardware, then we want to support it. We very much don't want to king make the hardware side of things. So as the MacBooks have GPUs and as that stuff started getting increasingly interesting, we pushed Apple to push some engineers and work on the NPS support and we spend significant time from Meta funded engineers on that as well because a lot of people are using the Apple GPUs and there's demand. So we kind of mostly look at it from the demand side. We never look at it from like oh which hardware should we start taking opinions on.

Swyx [00:10:27]: Is there a future in which, because Mojo or Modular Mojo is kind of a superset of Python, is there a future in which PyTorch might use Mojo features optionally?

Soumith [00:10:36]: I think it depends on how well integrated it is into the Python ecosystem. So if Mojo is like a pip install and it's readily available and users feel like they can use Mojo so smoothly within their workflows in a way that just is low friction, we would definitely look into that. Like in the same way PyTorch now depends on Triton, OpenAI Triton, and we never had a conversation that was like huh, that's like a dependency. Should we just build a Triton of our own or should we use Triton? It almost doesn't, like those conversations don't really come up for us. The conversations are more well does Triton have 10,000 dependencies and is it hard to install? We almost don't look at these things from a strategic leverage point of view. We look at these things from a user experience point of view, like is it easy to install? Is it smoothly integrated and does it give enough benefits for us to start depending on it? If so, yeah, we should consider it. That's how we think about it.

Swyx [00:11:37]: You're inclusive by default as long as it meets the minimum bar of, yeah, but like maybe I phrased it wrongly. Maybe it's more like what problems would you look to solve that you have right now?

Soumith [00:11:48]: I think it depends on what problems Mojo will be useful at.

Swyx [00:11:52]: Mainly a performance pitch, some amount of cross compiling pitch.

Soumith [00:11:56]: Yeah, I think the performance pitch for Mojo was like, we're going to be performant even if you have a lot of custom stuff, you're going to write arbitrary custom things and we will be performant. And that value proposition is not clear to us from the PyTorch side to consider it for PyTorch. So PyTorch, it's actually not 250 operators, it's like a thousand operators. PyTorch exposes about a thousand operators and people kind of write their ideas in the thousand operators of PyTorch. Mojo is like, well, maybe it's okay to completely sidestep those thousand operators of PyTorch and just write it in a more natural form. Just write raw Python, write for loops or whatever, right? So from the consideration of how do we intersect PyTorch with Mojo, I can see one use case where you have custom stuff for some parts of your program, but mostly it's PyTorch. And so we can probably figure out how to make it easier for say Torch.compile to smoothly also consume Mojo subgraphs and like, you know, the interoperability being actually usable, that I think is valuable. But Mojo as a fundamental front end would be replacing PyTorch, not augmenting PyTorch. So in that sense, I don't see a synergy in more deeply integrating Mojo.

Pytorch vs MLX

Swyx [00:13:21]: So call out to Mojo whenever they have written something in Mojo and there's some performance related thing going on. And then since you mentioned Apple, what should people think of PyTorch versus MLX?

Soumith [00:13:32]: I mean, MLX is early and I know the folks well, Ani used to work at FAIR and I used to chat with him all the time. He used to be based out of New York as well. The way I think about MLX is that MLX is specialized for Apple right now. It has a happy path because it's defined its product in a narrow way. At some point MLX either says we will only be supporting Apple and we will just focus on enabling, you know, there's a framework if you use your MacBook, but once you like go server side or whatever, that's not my problem and I don't care. For MLS, it enters like the server side set of things as well. Like one of these two things will happen, right? If the first thing will happen, like MLX's overall addressable market will be small, but it probably do well within that addressable market. If it enters the second phase, they're going to run into all the same complexities that we have to deal with. They will not have any magic wand and they will have more complex work to do. They probably wouldn't be able to move as fast.

Swyx [00:14:44]: Like having to deal with distributed compute?

Soumith [00:14:48]: Distributed, NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, like just like having a generalization of the concept of a backend, how they treat compilation with plus overheads. Right now they're deeply assumed like the whole NPS graph thing. So they need to think about all these additional things if they end up expanding onto the server side and they'll probably build something like PyTorch as well, right? Like eventually that's where it will land. And I think there they will kind of fail on the lack of differentiation. Like it wouldn't be obvious to people why they would want to use it.

Swyx [00:15:24]: I mean, there are some cloud companies offering M1 and M2 chips on servers. I feel like it might be interesting for Apple to pursue that market, but it's not their core strength.

Soumith [00:15:33]: Yeah. If Apple can figure out their interconnect story, maybe, like then it can become a thing.

Swyx [00:15:40]: Honestly, that's more interesting than the cars. Yes.

Soumith [00:15:43]: I think the moat that NVIDIA has right now, I feel is that they have the interconnect that no one else has, like AMD GPUs are pretty good. I'm sure there's various silicon that is not bad at all, but the interconnect, like NVLink is uniquely awesome. I'm sure the other hardware providers are working on it, but-

Swyx [00:16:04]: I feel like when you say it's uniquely awesome, you have some appreciation of it that the rest of us don't. I mean, the rest of us just like, you know, we hear marketing lines, but what do you mean when you say NVIDIA is very good at networking? Obviously they made the acquisition maybe like 15 years ago.

Soumith [00:16:15]: Just the bandwidth it offers and the latency it offers. I mean, TPUs also have a good interconnect, but you can't buy them. So you have to go to Google to use it.

PyTorch Mafia

Alessio [00:16:27]: Who are some of the other FAIR PyTorch alumni that are building cool companies? I know you have Fireworks AI, Lightning AI, Lepton, and Yangqing, you knew since college when he was building Coffee?

Soumith [00:16:40]: Yeah, so Yangqing and I used to be framework rivals, PyTorch, I mean, we were all a very small close-knit community back then. Caffe, Torch, Theano, Chainer, Keras, various frameworks. I mean, it used to be more like 20 frameworks. I can't remember all the names. CCV by Liu Liu, who is also based out of SF. And I would actually like, you know, one of the ways it was interesting is you went into the framework guts and saw if someone wrote their own convolution kernel or they were just copying someone else's. There were four or five convolution kernels that were unique and interesting. There was one from this guy out of Russia, I forgot the name, but I remembered who was awesome enough to have written their own kernel. And at some point there, I built out these benchmarks called ConNet benchmarks. They're just benchmarking all the convolution kernels that are available at that time. It hilariously became big enough that at that time AI was getting important, but not important enough that industrial strength players came in to do these kinds of benchmarking and standardization. Like we have MLPerf today. So a lot of the startups were using ConNet benchmarks in their pitch decks as like, oh, you know, on ConNet benchmarks, this is how we fare, so you should fund us. I remember Nirvana actually was at the top of the pack because Scott Gray wrote amazingly fast convolution kernels at that time. Very interesting, but separate times. But to answer your question, Alessio, I think mainly Lepton, Fireworks are the two most obvious ones, but I'm sure the fingerprints are a lot wider. They're just people who worked within the PyTorch Cafe2 cohort of things and now end up at various other places.

Swyx [00:18:50]: I think as a, both as an investor and a people looking to build on top of their services, it's a uncomfortable slash like, I don't know what I don't know pitch. Because I've met Yang Tsing and I've met Lin Chao. Yeah, I've met these folks and they're like, you know, we are deep in the PyTorch ecosystem and we serve billions of inferences a day or whatever at Facebook and now we can do it for you. And I'm like, okay, that's great. Like, what should I be wary of or cautious of when these things happen? Because I'm like, obviously this experience is extremely powerful and valuable. I just don't know what I don't know. Like, what should people know about like these sort of new inference as a service companies?

Soumith [00:19:32]: I think at that point you would be investing in them for their expertise of one kind. So if they've been at a large company, but they've been doing amazing work, you would be thinking about it as what these people bring to the table is that they're really good at like GPU programming or understanding the complexity of serving models once it hits a certain scale. You know, various expertise like from the infra and AI and GPUs point of view. What you would obviously want to figure out is whether their understanding of the external markets is clear, whether they know and understand how to think about running a business, understanding how to be disciplined about making money or, you know, various things like that.

Swyx [00:20:23]: Maybe I'll put it like, actually I will de-emphasize the investing bit and just more as a potential customer. Oh, okay. Like, it's more okay, you know, you have PyTorch gods, of course. Like, what else should I know?

Soumith [00:20:37]: I mean, I would not care about who's building something. If I'm trying to be a customer, I would care about whether...

Swyx [00:20:44]: Benchmarks.

Soumith [00:20:44]: Yeah, I use it and it's usability and reliability and speed, right?

Swyx [00:20:51]: Quality as well.

Soumith [00:20:51]: Yeah, if someone from some random unknown place came to me and say, user stuff is great. Like, and I have the bandwidth, I probably will give it a shot. And if it turns out to be great, like I'll just use it.

Benchmark drama

Swyx [00:21:07]: Okay, great. And then maybe one more thing about benchmarks, since we already brought it up and you brought up Confident Benchmarks. There was some recent drama around AnyScale. AnyScale released their own benchmarks and obviously they look great on their own benchmarks, but maybe didn't give the other... I feel there are two lines of criticism. One, which is they didn't test some apples for apples on the kind of endpoints that the other providers, that they are competitors with, on their benchmarks and that is due diligence baseline. And then the second would be more just optimizing for the right thing. You had some commentary on it. I'll just kind of let you riff.

Soumith [00:21:41]: Yeah, I mean, in summary, basically my criticism of that was AnyScale built these benchmarks for end users to just understand what they should pick, right? And that's a very good thing to do. I think what they didn't do a good job of is give that end user a full understanding of what they should pick. Like they just gave them a very narrow slice of understanding. I think they just gave them latency numbers and that's not sufficient, right? You need to understand your total cost of ownership at some reasonable scale. Not oh, one API call is one cent, but a thousand API calls are 10 cents. Like people can misprice to cheat on those benchmarks. So you want to understand, okay, like how much is it going to cost me if I actually subscribe to you and do like a million API calls a month or something? And then you want to understand the latency and reliability, not just from one call you made, but an aggregate of calls you've made over several various times of the day and times of the week. And the nature of the workloads, is it just some generic single paragraph that you're sending that is cashable? Or is it like testing of real world workload? I think that kind of rigor, like in presenting that benchmark wasn't there. It was a much more narrow sliver of what should have been a good benchmark. That was my main criticism. And I'm pretty sure if before they released it, they showed it to their other stakeholders who would be caring about this benchmark because they are present in it, they would have easily just pointed out these gaps. And I think they didn't do that and they just released it. So I think those were the two main criticisms. I think they were fair and Robert took it well.

Swyx [00:23:40]: And he took it very well. And we'll have him on at some point and we'll discuss it. But I think it's important for, I think the market being maturing enough that people start caring and competing on these kinds of things means that we need to establish what best practice is because otherwise everyone's going to play dirty.

Soumith [00:23:55]: Yeah, absolutely. My view of the LLM inference market in general is that it's the laundromat model. Like the margins are going to drive down towards the bare minimum. It's going to be all kinds of arbitrage between how much you can get the hardware for and then how much you sell the API and how much latency your customers are willing to let go. You need to figure out how to squeeze your margins. Like what is your unique thing here? Like I think Together and Fireworks and all these people are trying to build some faster CUDA kernels and faster, you know, hardware kernels in general. But those modes only last for a month or two. These ideas quickly propagate.

Swyx [00:24:38]: Even if they're not published?

Soumith [00:24:39]: Even if they're not published, the idea space is small. So even if they're not published, the discovery rate is going to be pretty high. It's not like we're talking about a combinatorial thing that is really large. You're talking about Llama style LLM models. And we're going to beat those to death on a few different hardware SKUs, right? Like it's not even we have a huge diversity of hardware you're going to aim to run it on. Now when you have such a narrow problem and you have a lot of people working on it, the rate at which these ideas are going to get figured out is going to be pretty rapid.

Swyx [00:25:15]: Is it a standard bag of tricks? Like the standard one that I know of is, you know, fusing operators and-

Soumith [00:25:22]: Yeah, it's the standard bag of tricks on figuring out how to improve your memory bandwidth and all that, yeah.

Alessio [00:25:28]: Any ideas instead of things that are not being beaten to death that people should be paying more attention to?

Novel PyTorch Applications

Swyx [00:25:34]: One thing I was like, you know, you have a thousand operators, right? Like what's the most interesting usage of PyTorch that you're seeing maybe outside of this little bubble?

Soumith [00:25:41]: So PyTorch, it's very interesting and scary at the same time, but basically it's used in a lot of exotic ways, like from the ML angle, what kind of models are being built? And you get all the way from state-based models and all of these things to stuff nth order differentiable models, like neural ODEs and stuff like that. I think there's one set of interestingness factor from the ML side of things. And then there's the other set of interesting factor from the applications point of view. It's used in Mars Rover simulations, to drug discovery, to Tesla cars. And there's a huge diversity of applications in which it is used. So in terms of the most interesting application side of things, I think I'm scared at how many interesting things that are also very critical and really important it is used in. I think the scariest was when I went to visit CERN at some point and they said they were using PyTorch and they were using GANs at the same time for particle physics research. And I was scared more about the fact that they were using GANs than they were using PyTorch, because at that time I was a researcher focusing on GANs. But the diversity is probably the most interesting. How many different things it is being used in. I think that's the most interesting to me from the applications perspective. From the models perspective, I think I've seen a lot of them. Like the really interesting ones to me are where we're starting to combine search and symbolic stuff with differentiable models, like the whole AlphaGo style models is one example. And then I think we're attempting to do it for LLMs as well, with various reward models and search. I mean, I don't think PyTorch is being used in this, but the whole alpha geometry thing was interesting because again, it's an example of combining the symbolic models with the gradient based ones. But there are stuff like alpha geometry that PyTorch is used at, especially when you intersect biology and chemistry with ML. In those areas, you want stronger guarantees on the output. So yeah, maybe from the ML side, those things to me are very interesting right now.

Swyx [00:28:03]: Yeah. People are very excited about the alpha geometry thing. And it's kind of like, for me, it's theoretical. It's great. You can solve some Olympia questions. I'm not sure how to make that bridge over into the real world applications, but I'm sure people smarter than me will figure it out.

Synthetic Data vs Symbolic Models

Soumith [00:28:18]: Let me give you an example of it. You know how the whole thing about synthetic data will be the next rage in LLMs is a thing?

Swyx [00:28:27]: Already is a rage.

Soumith [00:28:28]: Which I think is fairly misplaced in how people perceive it. People think synthetic data is some kind of magic wand that you wave and it's going to be amazing. Synthetic data is useful in neural networks right now because we as humans have figured out a bunch of symbolic models of the world or made up certain symbolic models because of human innate biases. So we've figured out how to ground particle physics in a 30 parameter model. And it's just very hard to compute as in it takes a lot of flops to compute, but it only has 30 parameters or so. I mean, I'm not a physics expert, but it's a very low rank model. We built mathematics as a field that basically is very low rank. Language, a deep understanding of language, like the whole syntactic parse trees and just understanding how language can be broken down and into a formal symbolism is something that we figured out. So we basically as humans have accumulated all this knowledge on these subjects, either synthetic, we created those subjects in our heads, or we grounded some real world phenomenon into a set of symbols. But we haven't figured out how to teach neural networks symbolic world models directly. The only way we have to teach them is generating a bunch of inputs and outputs and gradient dissenting over them. So in areas where we have the symbolic models and we need to teach all the knowledge we have that is better encoded in the symbolic models, what we're doing is we're generating a bunch of synthetic data, a bunch of input output pairs, and then giving that to the neural network and asking it to learn the same thing that we already have a better low rank model of in gradient descent in a much more over-parameterized way. Outside of this, like where we don't have good symbolic models, like synthetic data obviously doesn't make any sense. So synthetic data is not a magic wand where it'll work in all cases in every case or whatever. It's just where we as humans already have good symbolic models off. We need to impart that knowledge to neural networks and we figured out the synthetic data is a vehicle to impart this knowledge to. So, but people, because maybe they don't know enough about synthetic data as a notion, but they hear, you know, the next wave of data revolution is synthetic data. They think it's some kind of magic where we just create a bunch of random data somehow. They don't think about how, and then they think that's just a revolution. And I think that's maybe a gap in understanding most people have in this hype cycle.

Swyx [00:31:23]: Yeah, well, it's a relatively new concept, so. Oh, there's two more that I'll put in front of you and then you can see what you respond. One is, you know, I have this joke that it's, you know, it's only synthetic data if it's from the Mistral region of France, otherwise it's just a sparkling distillation, which is what news research is doing. Like they're distilling GPT-4 by creating synthetic data from GPT-4, creating mock textbooks inspired by Phi 2 and then fine tuning open source models like Llama. And so I don't know, I mean, I think that's, should we call that synthetic data? Should we call it something else? I don't know.

Soumith [00:31:57]: Yeah, I mean, the outputs of LLMs, are they synthetic data? They probably are, but I think it depends on the goal you have. If your goal is you're creating synthetic data with the goal of trying to distill GPT-4's superiority into another model, I guess you can call it synthetic data, but it also feels like disingenuous because your goal is I need to copy the behavior of GPT-4 and-

Swyx [00:32:25]: It's also not just behavior, but data set. So I've often thought of this as data set washing. Like you need one model at the top of the chain, you know, unnamed French company that has that, you know, makes a model that has all the data in it that we don't know where it's from, but it's open source, hey, and then we distill from that and it's great. To be fair, they also use larger models as judges for preference ranking, right? So that is, I think, a very, very accepted use of synthetic.

Soumith [00:32:53]: Correct. I think it's a very interesting time where we don't really have good social models of what is acceptable depending on how many bits of information you use from someone else, right? It's like, okay, you use one bit. Is that okay? Yeah, let's accept it to be okay. Okay, what about if you use 20 bits? Is that okay? I don't know. What if you use 200 bits? I don't think we as society have ever been in this conundrum where we have to be like, where is the boundary of copyright or where is the boundary of socially accepted understanding of copying someone else? We haven't been tested this mathematically before,

Swyx [00:33:38]: in my opinion. Whether it's transformative use. Yes. So yeah, I think this New York Times opening eye case is gonna go to the Supreme Court and we'll have to decide it because I think we never had to deal with it before. And then finally, for synthetic data, the thing that I'm personally exploring is solving this great stark paradigm difference between rag and fine tuning, where you can kind of create synthetic data off of your retrieved documents and then fine tune on that. That's kind of synthetic. All you need is variation or diversity of samples for you to fine tune on. And then you can fine tune new knowledge into your model. I don't know if you've seen that as a direction for synthetic data.

Soumith [00:34:13]: I think you're basically trying to, what you're doing is you're saying, well, language, I know how to parametrize language to an extent. And I need to teach my model variations of this input data so that it's resilient or invariant to language uses of that data.

Swyx [00:34:32]: Yeah, it doesn't overfit on the wrong source documents.

Soumith [00:34:33]: So I think that's 100% synthetic. You understand, the key is you create variations of your documents and you know how to do that because you have a symbolic model or like some implicit symbolic model of language.

Swyx [00:34:48]: Okay.

Alessio [00:34:49]: Do you think the issue with symbolic models is just the architecture of the language models that we're building? I think maybe the thing that people grasp is the inability of transformers to deal with numbers because of the tokenizer. Is it a fundamental issue there too? And do you see alternative architectures that will be better with symbolic understanding?

Soumith [00:35:09]: I am not sure if it's a fundamental issue or not. I think we just don't understand transformers enough. I don't even mean transformers as an architecture. I mean the use of transformers today, like combining the tokenizer and transformers and the dynamics of training, when you show math heavy questions versus not. I don't have a good calibration of whether I know the answer or not. I, you know, there's common criticisms that are, you know, transformers will just fail at X. But then when you scale them up to sufficient scale, they actually don't fail at that X. I think there's this entire subfield where they're trying to figure out these answers called like the science of deep learning or something. So we'll get to know more. I don't know the answer.

Meta AI and Llama 2/3

Swyx [00:35:57]: Got it. Let's touch a little bit on just Meta AI and you know, stuff that's going on there. Maybe, I don't know how deeply you're personally involved in it, but you're our first guest with Meta AI, which is really fantastic. And Llama 1 was, you know, you are such a believer in open source. Llama 1 was more or less the real breakthrough in open source AI. The most interesting thing for us covering on this, in this podcast was the death of Chinchilla, as people say. Any interesting insights there around the scaling models for open source models or smaller models or whatever that design decision was when you guys were doing it?

Soumith [00:36:31]: So Llama 1 was Guillaume Lample and team. There was OPT before, which I think I'm also very proud of because we bridged the gap in understanding of how complex it is to train these models to the world. Like until then, no one really in gory detail published.

Swyx [00:36:50]: The logs.

Soumith [00:36:51]: Yeah. Like, why is it complex? And everyone says, oh, it's complex. But no one really talked about why it's complex. I think OPT was cool.

Swyx [00:37:02]: I met Susan and she's very, very outspoken. Yeah.

Soumith [00:37:05]: We probably, I think, didn't train it for long enough, right? That's kind of obvious in retrospect.

Swyx [00:37:12]: For a 175B. Yeah. You trained it according to Chinchilla at the time or?

Soumith [00:37:17]: I can't remember the details, but I think it's a commonly held belief at this point that if we trained OPT longer, it would actually end up being better. Llama 1, I think, was Guillaume Lample and team Guillaume is fantastic and went on to build Mistral. I wasn't too involved in that side of things. So I don't know what you're asking me, which is how did they think about scaling loss and all of that? Llama 2, I was more closely involved in. I helped them a reasonable amount with their infrastructure needs and stuff. And Llama 2, I think, was more like, let's get to the evolution. At that point, we kind of understood what we were missing from the industry's understanding of LLMs. And we needed more data and we needed more to train the models for longer. And we made, I think, a few tweaks to the architecture and we scaled up more. And that was Llama 2. I think Llama 2, you can think of it as after Guillaume left, the team kind of rebuilt their muscle around Llama 2. And Hugo, I think, who's the first author is fantastic. And I think he did play a reasonable big role in Llama 1 as well.

Soumith [00:38:35]: And he overlaps between Llama 1 and 2. So in Llama 3, obviously, hopefully, it'll be awesome.

Alessio [00:38:42]: Just one question on Llama 2, and then we'll try and fish Llama 3 spoilers out of you. In the Llama 2 paper, the loss curves of the 34 and 70B parameter, they still seem kind of steep. Like they could go lower. How, from an infrastructure level, how do you allocate resources? Could they have just gone longer or were you just, hey, this is all the GPUs that we can burn and let's just move on to Llama 3 and then make that one better?

Soumith [00:39:07]: Instead of answering specifically about that Llama 2 situation or whatever, I'll tell you how we think about things. Generally, we're, I mean, Mark really is some numbers, right?

Swyx [00:39:20]: So let's cite those things again. All I remember is like 600K GPUs.

Soumith [00:39:24]: That is by the end of this year and 600K H100 equivalents. With 250K H100s, including all of our other GPU or accelerator stuff, it would be 600-and-something-K aggregate capacity.

Swyx [00:39:38]: That's a lot of GPUs.

Soumith [00:39:39]: We'll talk about that separately. But the way we think about it is we have a train of models, right? Llama 1, 2, 3, 4. And we have a bunch of GPUs. I don't think we're short of GPUs. Like-

Swyx [00:39:54]: Yeah, no, I wouldn't say so. Yeah, so it's all a matter of time.

Soumith [00:39:56]: I think time is the biggest bottleneck. It's like, when do you stop training the previous one and when do you start training the next one? And how do you make those decisions? The data, do you have net new data, better clean data for the next one in a way that it's not worth really focusing on the previous one? It's just a standard iterative product. You're like, when is the iPhone 1? When do you start working on iPhone 2? Where is the iPhone? And so on, right? So mostly the considerations are time and generation, rather than GPUs, in my opinion.

Alessio [00:40:31]: So one of the things with the scaling loss, like Chinchilla is optimal to balance training and inference costs. I think at Meta's scale, you would rather pay a lot more maybe at training and then save on inference. How do you think about that from infrastructure perspective? I think in your tweet, you say you can try and guess on like how we're using these GPUs. Can you just give people a bit of understanding? It's like, because I've already seen a lot of VCs say, Llama 3 has been trained on 600,000 GPUs and that's obviously not true, I'm sure. How do you allocate between the research, FAIR and the Llama training, the inference on Instagram suggestions that get me to scroll, like AI-generated stickers on WhatsApp and all of that?

Soumith [00:41:11]: Yeah, we haven't talked about any of this publicly, but as a broad stroke, it's like how we would allocate resources of any other kinds at any company. You run a VC portfolio, how do you allocate your investments between different companies or whatever? You kind of make various trade-offs and you kind of decide, should I invest in this project or this other project, or how much should I invest in this project? It's very much a zero sum of trade-offs. And it also comes into play, how are your clusters configured, like overall, what you can fit of what size and what cluster and so on. So broadly, there's no magic sauce here. I mean, I think the details would add more spice, but also wouldn't add more understanding. It's just gonna be like, oh, okay, I mean, this looks like they just think about this as I would normally do.

Alessio [00:42:05]: So even the GPU rich run through the same struggles of having to decide where to allocate things.

Soumith [00:42:11]: Yeah, I mean, at some point I forgot who said it, but you kind of fit your models to the amount of compute you have. If you don't have enough compute, you figure out how to make do with smaller models. But no one as of today, I think would feel like they have enough compute. I don't think I've heard any company within the AI space be like, oh yeah, like we feel like we have sufficient compute and we couldn't have done better. So that conversation, I don't think I've heard from any of my friends at other companies.


Swyx [00:42:47]: Stella from Eleuther sometimes says that because she has a lot of donated compute. She's trying to put it to interesting uses, but for some reason she's decided to stop making large models.

Soumith [00:42:57]: I mean, that's a cool, high conviction opinion that might pay out.

Swyx [00:43:01]: Why?

Soumith [00:43:02]: I mean, she's taking a path that most people don't care to take about in this climate and she probably will have very differentiated ideas. I mean, think about the correlation of ideas in AI right now. It's so bad, right? So everyone's fighting for the same pie. In some weird sense, that's partly why I don't really directly work on LLMs. I used to do image models and stuff and I actually stopped doing GANs because GANs were getting so hot that I didn't have any calibration of whether my work would be useful or not because, oh yeah, someone else did the same thing you did. It's like, there's so much to do, I don't understand why I need to fight for the same pie. So I think Stella's decision is very smart.

Making Bets

Alessio [00:43:53]: And how do you reconcile that with how we started the discussion about intrinsic versus extrinsic kind of like accomplishment or success? How should people think about that especially when they're doing a PhD or early in their career? I think in Europe, I walked through a lot of the posters and whatnot, there seems to be mode collapse in a way in the research, a lot of people working on the same things. Is it worth for a PhD to not take a bet on something that is maybe not as interesting just because of funding and visibility and whatnot? Or yeah, what suggestions would you give?

Soumith [00:44:28]: I think there's a baseline level of compatibility you need to have with the field. Basically, you need to figure out if you will get paid enough to eat, right? Like whatever reasonable normal lifestyle you want to have as a baseline. So you at least have to pick a problem within the neighborhood of fundable. Like you wouldn't wanna be doing something so obscure that people are like, I don't know, like you can work on it.

Swyx [00:44:59]: Would a limit on fundability, I'm just observing something like three months of compute, right? That's the top line, that's the like max that you can spend on any one project.

Soumith [00:45:09]: But like, I think that's very ill specified, like how much compute, right? I think that the notion of fundability is broader. It's more like, hey, are these family of models within the acceptable set of, you're not crazy or something, right? Even something like neural or DS, which is a very boundary pushing thing or states-based models or whatever. Like all of these things I think are still in fundable territory. When you're talking about, I'm gonna do one of the neuromorphic models and then apply image classification to them or something, then it becomes a bit questionable. Again, it depends on your motivation. Maybe if you're a neuroscientist, it actually is feasible. But if you're an AI engineer, like the audience of these podcasts, then it's more questionable. The way I think about it is, you need to figure out how you can be in the baseline level of fundability just so that you can just live. And then after that, really focus on intrinsic motivation and depends on your strengths, like how you can play to your strengths and your interests at the same time. Like I try to look at a bunch of ideas that are interesting to me, but also try to play to my strengths. I'm not gonna go work on theoretical ML. I'm interested in it, but when I want to work on something like that, I try to partner with someone who is actually a good theoretical ML person and see if I actually have any value to provide. And if they think I do, then I come in. So I think you'd want to find that intersection of ideas you like, and that also play to your strengths. And I'd go from there. Everything else, like actually finding extrinsic success and all of that, I think is the way I think about it is like somewhat immaterial. When you're talking about building ecosystems and stuff, slightly different considerations come into play, but that's a different conversation.

Swyx [00:47:06]: We're gonna pivot a little bit to just talking about open source AI. But one more thing I wanted to establish for Meta is this 600K number, just kind of rounding out the discussion, that's for all Meta. So including your own inference needs, right? It's not just about training.

Soumith [00:47:19]: It's gonna be the number in our data centers for all of Meta, yeah.

Swyx [00:47:23]: Yeah, so there's a decent amount of workload serving Facebook and Instagram and whatever. And then is there interest in like your own hardware?


Soumith [00:47:31]: We already talked about our own hardware. It's called MTIA. Our own silicon, I think we've even showed the standard photograph of you holding the chip that doesn't work. Like as in the chip that you basically just get like-

Swyx [00:47:51]: As a test, right?

Soumith [00:47:52]: Yeah, a test chip or whatever. So we are working on our silicon and we'll probably talk more about it when the time is right, but-

Swyx [00:48:00]: Like what gaps do you have that the market doesn't offer?

Soumith [00:48:04]: Okay, I mean, this is easy to answer. So basically, remember how I told you about there's this memory hierarchy and like sweet spots and all of that? Fundamentally, when you build a hardware, you make it general enough that a wide set of customers and a wide set of workloads can use it effectively while trying to get the maximum level of performance they can. The more specialized you make the chip, the more hardware efficient it's going to be, the more power efficient it's gonna be, the more easier it's going to be to find the software, like the kernel's right to just map that one or two workloads to that hardware and so on. So it's pretty well understood across the industry that if you have a sufficiently large volume, enough workload, you can specialize it and get some efficiency gains, like power gains and so on. So the way you can think about everyone building, every large company building silicon, I think a bunch of the other large companies are building their own silicon as well, is they, each large company has a sufficient enough set of verticalized workloads that can be specialized that have a pattern to them that say a more generic accelerator like an NVIDIA or an AMD GPU does not exploit. So there is some level of power efficiency that you're leaving on the table by not exploiting that. And you have sufficient scale and you have sufficient forecasted stability that those workloads will exist in the same form, that it's worth spending the time to build out a chip to exploit that sweet spot. Like obviously something like this is only useful if you hit a certain scale and that your forecasted prediction of those kind of workloads being in the same kind of specializable exploitable way is true. So yeah, that's why we're building our own chips.

Swyx [00:50:08]: Awesome.

Open Source AI

Alessio [00:50:09]: Yeah, I know we've been talking a lot on a lot of different topics and going back to open source, you had a very good tweet. You said that a single company's closed source effort rate limits against people's imaginations and needs. How do you think about all the impact that some of the Meta AI work in open source has been doing and maybe directions of the whole open source AI space?

Soumith [00:50:32]: Yeah, in general, I think first, I think it's worth talking about this in terms of open and not just open source, because like with the whole notion of model weights, no one even knows what source means for these things. But just for the discussion, when I say open source, you can assume it's just I'm talking about open. And then there's the whole notion of licensing and all that, commercial, non-commercial, commercial with clauses and all that. I think at a fundamental level, the most benefited value of open source is that you make the distribution to be very wide. It's just available with no friction and people can do transformative things in a way that's very accessible. Maybe it's open source, but it has a commercial license and I'm a student in India. I don't care about the license. I just don't even understand the license. But like the fact that I can use it and do something with it is very transformative to me. Like I got this thing in a very accessible way. And then it's various degrees, right? And then if it's open source, but it's actually a commercial license, then a lot of companies are gonna benefit from gaining value that they didn't previously have, that they maybe had to pay a closed source company for it. So open source is just a very interesting tool that you can use in various ways. So there's, again, two kinds of open source. One is some large company doing a lot of work and then open sourcing it. And that kind of effort is not really feasible by say a band of volunteers doing it the same way. So there's both a capital and operational expenditure that the large company just decided to ignore and give it away to the world for some benefits of some kind. They're not as tangible as direct revenue. So in that part, Meta has been doing incredibly good things. They fund a huge amount of the PyTorch development. They've open sourced Llama and those family of models and several other fairly transformative projects. FICE is one, Segment Anything, Detectron, Detectron 2. Dense Pose. I mean, it's-

Swyx [00:52:52]: Seamless. Yeah, seamless.

Soumith [00:52:53]: Like it's just the list is so long that we're not gonna cover. So I think Meta comes into that category where we spend a lot of CapEx and OpEx and we have a high talent density of great AI people and we open our stuff. And the thesis for that, I remember when FAIR was started, the common thing was like, wait, why would Meta wanna start a open AI lab? Like what exactly is a benefit from a commercial perspective? And for then the thesis was very simple. It was AI is currently rate limiting Meta's ability to do things. Our ability to build various product integrations, moderation, various other factors. Like AI was the limiting factor and we just wanted AI to advance more and we didn't care if the IP of the AI was uniquely in our possession or not. However the field advances, that accelerates Meta's ability to build a better product. So we just built an open AI lab and we said, if this helps accelerate the progress of AI, that's strictly great for us. But very easy, rational, right? Still the same to a large extent with the Llama stuff. And it's the same values, but the argument, it's a bit more nuanced. And then there's a second kind of open source, which is, oh, we built this project, nights and weekends and we're very smart people and we open sourced it and then we built a community around it. This is the Linux kernel and various software projects like that. So I think about open source, like both of these things being beneficial and both of these things being different. They're different and beneficial in their own ways. The second one is really useful when there's an active arbitrage to be done. If someone's not really looking at a particular space because it's not commercially viable or whatever, like a band of volunteers can just coordinate online and do something and then make that happen. And that's great.

Open Source LLMs

I wanna cover a little bit about open source LLMs maybe. So open source LLMs have been very interesting because I think we were trending towards an increase in open source in AI from 2010 all the way to 2017 or something. Like where more and more pressure within the community was to open source their stuff so that their methods and stuff get adopted. And then the LLMs revolution kind of took the opposite effect OpenAI stopped open sourcing their stuff and DeepMind kind of didn't, like all the other cloud and all these other providers, they didn't open source their stuff. And it was not good in the sense that first science done in isolation probably will just form its own bubble where people believe their own bullshit or whatever. So there's that problem. And then there was the other problem which was the accessibility part. Like, okay, I again always go back to I'm a student in India with no money. What is my accessibility to any of these closers models? At some scale I have to pay money. That makes it a non-starter and stuff. And there's also the control thing. I strongly believe if you want human aligned stuff, you want all humans to give feedback. And you want all humans to have access to that technology in the first place. And I actually have seen, living in New York, whenever I come to Silicon Valley, I see a different cultural bubble. Like all the friends I hang out with talk about some random thing like Dyson Spheres or whatever, that's a thing. And most of the world doesn't know or care about any of this stuff. It's definitely a bubble and bubbles can form very easily. And when you make a lot of decisions because you're in a bubble, they're probably not globally optimal decisions. So I think open source, the distribution of open source powers a certain kind of non-falsifiability that I think is very important. I think on the open source models, like it's going great in the fact that LoRa I think came out of the necessity of open source models needing to be fine-tunable in some way. Yeah, and I think DPO also came out of the academic open source side of things. So do any of the closed source labs, did any of them already have LoRa or DPO internally? Maybe, but that does not advance humanity in any way. It advances some companies probability of doing the winner takes all that I talked about earlier in the podcast.

Open Source and Trust

I don't know, it just feels fundamentally good. Like when people try to, you know, people are like, well, what are the ways in which it is not okay? I find most of these arguments, and this might be a little controversial, but I find a lot of arguments based on whether closed source models are safer or open source models are safer very much related to what kind of culture they grew up in, what kind of society they grew up in. If they grew up in a society that they trusted, then I think they take the closed source argument. And if they grew up in a society that they couldn't trust, where the norm was that you didn't trust your government, obviously it's corrupt or whatever, then I think the open source argument is what they take. I think there's a deep connection to like people's innate biases from their childhood and their trust in society and governmental aspects that push them towards one opinion or the other. And I'm definitely in the camp of open source is definitely going to actually have better outcomes for society. Closed source to me just means that centralization of power, which, you know, is really hard to trust. So I think it's going well in so many ways that we're actively disaggregating the centralization of power to just two or three providers. We are, I think, benefiting from so many people using these models in so many ways that aren't allowed by, say, Silicon Valley left-wing tropes. Like some of these things are good or bad, but they're not culturally accepted universally in the world. So those are things worth thinking about. And I think open source is not winning in certain ways. Like these are all the things in which like, as I mentioned, it's actually being very good and beneficial and winning.

Feedback to solve the Open Source Coordination problem

I think one of the ways in which it's not winning, at some point I should write a long-form post about this, is I think it has a classic coordination problem. I mean, open source in general always has a coordination problem. If there's a vertically integrated provider with more resources, they will just be better coordinated than open source. And so now open source has to figure out how to have coordinated benefits. And the reason you want coordinated benefits is because these models are getting better based on human feedback. And if you see with open source models, if you go to Reddit, local llama, subreddit, like there's so many variations of models that are being produced from, say, nose research. I mean, there's so many variations built by so many people. And one common theme is they're all using these fine-tuning or human preferences datasets that are very limited. And like someone published them somewhere and they're not sufficiently diverse. And you look at the other side, say front-ends like Uba or Hugging Chat or Ollama, they don't really have like feedback buttons. Like all the people using all these front-ends, they probably want to give feedback, but there's no way for them to give feedback. So these models are being built, they're being arbitrarily measured, and then they are being deployed into all these open source front-ends or like apps that are closed source, they're serving open source models. And these front-ends don't have, they are not exposing the ability to give feedback. So we're just losing all of this feedback. Maybe open source models are being as used as GPT is at this point in like all kinds of, in a very fragmented way, in aggregate all the open source models together are probably being used as much as GPT is, maybe close to that. But the amount of feedback that is driving back into the open source ecosystem is negligible, maybe less than 1% of the usage. So I think the blueprint here I think is you'd want someone to create a sinkhole for the feedback, some centralized sinkhole, maybe Hugging Face or someone just funds like, okay, I will make available a call to log a string along with a bit of information of positive or negative or something that. And then you would want to send pull requests to all the open source front-ends like Ooba and all being like, hey, we're just integrating a feedback UI and then work with the closed source people as also being like, look, it doesn't cost you anything, just have a button. And then the sinkhole will have a bunch of this data coming in. And then I think a bunch of open source researchers should figure out how to filter their feedback into only the high quality one. I'm sure it will be exploited by spam bots or whatever, right? Like, this is the perfect way to inject your advertising product into the next. So there needs to be some level of that, that in the same way, I'm sure all the closed providers are doing today, like OpenAI, Claude, the feedback that comes in, I'm sure they are figuring out if that's legit or not. That kind of data filtering needs to be done. And that loop has to be set up. And this requires that central sinkhole and that data cleaning effort both to be there. They're not there right now. They're not there right now, I think for capital reasons, but also for coordination reasons. Okay, if that central sinkhole is there, who's gonna go coordinate all of this integration across all of these open source front ends. But I think if we do that, if that actually happens, I think that probably has a real chance of the open source models having a runaway effect against OpenAI with their current daily active users. Probably doesn't have a chance against Google because you know, Google has Android and Chrome and Gmail and Google Docs and everything, you know? So people just use that a lot. But like, I think there's a clear chance we can take at truly winning open source.


Alessio [01:04:00]: Do you think this feedback is helpful to make open source models better or to get to like open source AGI? Because in a way like OpenAI's goal is to get to AGI, right? So versus I think in open source, we're more focused on personal better usage or like commercial better usage.

Soumith [01:04:17]: Yeah, I think that's a good question. But I think, I actually don't think people have a good understanding of AGI. And I don't mean definition level. I mean, people are like, okay, we're gonna, AGI means it's powering 40% of world economic output or something like that, right? But what does that mean? So do you think electricity is powering 40% of world economic output or is it not? Like generally the notion of powering X percent of economic output is not defined well at all for me to understand how to know when we got to AGI or how to measure whether we're getting AGI. Like, you know, you can look at it in terms of intelligence or task automation or whatever. I think that's what we are doing right now. We're basically integrating like the current set of AI technologies into so many real world use cases where we find value that if some new version of AI comes in, we can find, we can be like, ah, this helps me more. In that sense, I think the whole process of how we think we got to AGI will be continuous and not discontinuous like how I think the question is posed. So I think the open source thing will be very much in line with getting to AGI because open source has that natural selection effect. Like if a better open source model comes, really no one says, ha, I don't want to use it because there are ecosystem effect, I'm logged into my ecosystem or, I don't know if I like the models, you know, whatever. It's just a very pure direct thing. So if there's a better model that comes out, then it will be used. So I definitely think it has a good chance of achieving how I would think about it as a continuous path to what we might define as AGI.

OpenAssistant vs LMSys vs OpenRouter

Swyx [01:06:18]: For the listeners, I would actually mention a couple other maybe related notes on just this very interesting concept of feedback sinkhole for open source to really catch up in terms of the overall Google versus OpenAI debate. Open Assistant was led by Yannick Kilcher who recently ended his effort. I think the criticism there was like the kind of people that go to a specific website to give feedback is not representative of real world usage. And that's why the models trained on Open Assistant didn't really seem like they have caught on in the open source world. The two leading candidates in my mind are LMSYS out of UC Berkeley who have the LMSYS arena, which is being touted as one of the only ways, only reliable benchmarks anymore. I kind of call them non-parametric benchmarks because there's nothing to cheat on it except for ELO. And then the other one is OpenRouter, which is Alex Atala's thing. I don't know if you've talked to any of these people.

Soumith [01:07:11]: I obviously know all of the efforts that you talked about. I haven't talked to them directly about this yet. But the way I think about it is the way these models are going to be used is always going to be way more distributed than centralized. Like, which is the power of the open source movement. Like the UI within which these models are going to be used is going to be decentralized. These models are going to be integrated into hundreds and thousands of projects and products and all of that. And I think that is important to recognize. Like the LMSYS leaderboard is the best thing we have right now to understand whether a model is better or not versus another model. But it's also biased in only having a sliver of view into how people actually use these models. Like the people who actually end up coming to the LMSYS leaderboard and then using a model only use it for certain things. Like GitHub Copilot style usage is not captured in say LMSYS things. And so many other styles, like the character AI style things is not captured in LMSYS.

Swyx [01:08:19]: Which OpenRouter could do. They don't do it right now, but.

Soumith [01:08:22]: Yeah, so my point is like the way these models are going to be used is going to be always a large surface area. And I think we need to figure out how to provide the infrastructure to integrate with all these like ways in which it's being used. Even if you get the top hundred front ends that the model, like open source models are used through to subscribe to the sinkhole. I think that's already a substantial thing. I think thinking one or two things will by themselves get a lot of data I think is not going to happen.

Swyx [01:08:58]: Yeah, fair enough.

Other Modalities

Alessio [01:08:59]: Before we let you go, can we do just a quick beyond text segment? So you're an investor in Runway, which is a beta generation. You're an investor in One X, which is a humanoid assistant. Osmo, which is focused on using AI for smell recognition and synthesis. You advise a bunch of robotics projects at NYU.

Swyx [01:09:19]: Maybe. And he builds his own home robot. Yeah, exactly.

Alessio [01:09:22]: On a more, yeah, maybe open editing. What are the things that you're most excited about beyond text generation and kind of the more mundane usage?

Soumith [01:09:30]: Yeah, I mean, in general, I have more things I'm generally excited about than I can possibly do. Investing is one way to try to clear those urges. I'm generally excited about robotics being a possibility, home robotics being five to seven years away into commercialization. I think it's not next year or two years from now, but five to seven years from now, I think a lot more robotics companies might pop out. There's not a good consensus on whether hardware is a bottleneck or AI is a bottleneck in robotics right now. My view is actually hardware is still the bottleneck and AI is also a little bit of bottleneck, but I don't think there's any obvious breakthroughs we need. I think it's just work. So I'm generally excited about robotics. I spend a lot of personal time. I spend every Wednesday afternoon at NYU working with Lerrel Pinto and team and just getting towards my home robot that just does my dishes and stuff.

Swyx [01:10:38]: What's the status of it? Like what does it do for you now?

Soumith [01:10:41]: As of today, we just deployed a couple of months ago, we deployed our home robotics stuff into several tens of New York City homes and tried to make it do a bunch of tasks. And we're basically starting to build out a framework that gets to a certain level of robustness on fairly simple tasks, like picking this cup and putting it somewhere else or taking a few pieces of cloth on the ground and put it somewhere else or open your microwave and various baseline tasks that with low sample complexity. So I think one of the things people don't spend a lot of time in robotics is the user experience, which I think in the research I do at NYU, we spend a huge amount of time on. I think the key there is sample complexity has to be really low. A lot of the current robotics research, if you see they're like, oh yeah, we collected 50 demos and now it's able to do this task or we collected 300 demos or the number of samples you need for this thing to do the task is really high. So we're focusing a lot on, you show it two or three times and that's sufficient for it to actually do the task, but it comes with less generalization, right? Like there's some initial conditions that have to be true for it to do the task. So we're making progress. That's very interesting in general, the space. I don't think people in this space have settled on the hardware, like how the hardware looks like for it to be truly useful in the home or whatever, or the UX or the like AI, ML stuff needed to make it sample efficient and all of that. But I think lots of work is happening in the field.

Alessio [01:12:28]: Yeah, one of my friends, Carlo at Berkeley, he worked on a project called M3L, which is two CNNs, one for tactile feedback and one for image. When you say hardware, is it running all these things on the edge or is it just like the actual servos and the-

Soumith [01:12:45]: By hardware, I mean the actual servos, like the motors, servos, even the sensors. I think we have incredible vision that's still it's so much better compared to in the field of view and in resolution compared to any of the cameras we can buy. We have, our skin is all available touch sensing and we have some of the most efficient, some of the most high capacity motors that can lift large loads in the dexterity of a hand and stuff. So in terms of hardware, I mean in terms of those capabilities, we haven't figured out how to do a lot of this stuff. I mean, Tesla has been making incredible progress. One X, I think announced their new thing that looks incredible. Some of the other companies figure and others are doing great work. But we're really not anywhere close to the hardware that we feel like we need. And there's obviously the other thing I want to call out is a lot of what people show works, but has to be fixed all the time. And like, that's the other thing we are incredible at. Like we don't need any maintenance or the maintenance is part of us. If you buy a product, electronics product of any kind, you buy a PS5, you don't say, oh yeah, my PS5 breaks every six days and I have to do some reasonable amount of work on it. But that's robotics. Like if it's not industrial robotics where it's very controlled and specialized or whatever, you're talking about reliability in those ranges. So I think people don't talk about the reliability thing enough. Like what I mean, we're going to enter the commercialization phase. I mean, we're going to start thinking about, okay, now we have this thing and we need to figure out how to get reliability high enough to deploy it into homes and just sell it to people and Best Buy or something. So that's the other factor that we have to make a lot of progress on.

Swyx [01:14:44]: I just realized that Google has a play in this with Palm E and stuff and OpenAI obviously has a long history of doing this stuff. Is there anything at Meta? No robotics stuff in Meta?

Soumith [01:14:55]: We have a small robotics program at Meta out of FAIR. I actually used to do it at FAIR a little bit before I moved into Infra and focused on my Meta time on a lot of other infrastructural stuff. So yeah, Meta's robotics program is a lot smaller.

Swyx [01:15:10]: Seems like it would be a personal computing.

Soumith [01:15:14]: You could think of it as like, Meta has a ridiculously large device strategy, right? Like, you know, this is how our reality labs stuff. You know, we're going at it from VR and AR and, you know, we showcase a lot of that stuff. I think for Meta, the robot is not as important as like the physical device. Physical devices kind of stuff.

Osmo - smell AI

Swyx [01:15:37]: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay, I want to touch on Osmo a bit because very unusual company to the stuff that we normally discuss, not robotics, sense of smell. The original pitch I heard from the founder, maybe you can correct me, is that he realized that you can smell cancer. Yeah. Is that intuitive? Is that what you get? Or is that the potential that you see?

Soumith [01:15:56]: The very interesting reason I invested in Osmo is because Alex Wiltschko, the founder of Osmo, before PyTorch, there was Torch. And Alex Wiltschko actually worked on Torch. He's actually a frameworks guy. Like, you know, he built this thing called Tangent from Google, another autodiff framework and stuff. I know him from that side of things. And then, he is a neurobiologist by training. He just happens to also love, neural networks and hacking on those frameworks. So incredibly smart guy, one of the smartest people I know. So when he was going in this direction, I thought it was incredible that smell is something that we haven't even started to scrape in terms of digitization. When we think about audio or images or video, they're so advanced. So we have the concept of color spaces. We have the concept of frequency spectrums. Like, you know, we figured out how ears process, like, frequencies in mouse spectrum or whatever logarithmically scaled. Images for RGB, YUV. We have so many different kinds of parameterizations. We have formalized these two senses ridiculously well. Touch and smell, nada. We're where we were with images in, say, in 1920 or maybe even the 1800s, right? That's where we're at. And Alex has this incredible vision of, like, having a smell sensor just eventually just be part of your daily life. Like, as of today, you don't really think about when you're watching an Instagram reel or something, huh, I also would love to know what it smelled like, you know, when you're watching a reel of a food or something. You don't, because we really haven't, as a society, got that muscle to even understand what a smell sensor can do. I think the more near-term effects are obviously going to be around things that provide more obvious utility in the short term, like maybe smelling cancer or repelling mosquitoes better, or, you know, stuff like that.

Swyx [01:18:12]: More recently, he's been talking about categorizing perfumes, obviously. Yeah, exactly. That's a market that you can pursue.

Soumith [01:18:17]: Yeah, like, I mean, think about how you can customize a perfume to your own liking in the same way you can customize a shoe or something, right? I think all the near-term stuff, I think if he's able to figure out a near-term value for it, they, as a company, can sustain themselves to then eventually try to make progress on the long term, which is really in uncharted territory. Like, think about it, 50 years from now, it would be pretty obvious to kids of the generation to just, like, I was going to say scroll a reel on their phone, and maybe phones wouldn't be there.

Swyx [01:18:58]: They're just on their glasses, they're watching something.

Soumith [01:18:58]: Yeah, I think VR would be. And then, like, they immediately get a smell sense of that remote experience as well. We haven't really progressed enough in that dimension, and I think they have a chance to do it.

Alessio [01:19:13]: Awesome, I mean, we touched on a lot of things. Anything, we're missing anything you want to direct people to, or?

Swyx [01:19:19]: Yeah, call to action. Yeah. Call for research, call for startups.

Soumith [01:19:22]: I don't really have a lot of calls to action, because usually I think people should be intrinsically, like, figuring it out.

Swyx [01:19:29]: That's a good look inside yourself. Yeah. That's good.

Alessio [01:19:33]: Awesome, thank you so much for coming on.

Swyx [01:19:35]: Yeah, for sure. This was great.


For comparison, Llama2 trained for 1M GPU hours (3 weeks) on a 2048 A100s cluster of 639 PFLOPS, which is only 32 humans of compute. In a magical world with no overhead, Meta could re-train Llama2 in 20 minutes by pointing all their GPUs at it.

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