Prompt Engineering Series Decoding Self-Consistency Prompting with ChatGPT

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Generative AI models, like ChatGPT, serve as powerful tools that can amplify our creativity and assist in refining and expanding our ideas when used effectively. In our ongoing series, we have been discussing the effective methods of interacting with Large Language Models (LLMs) through "few-shot", "zero-shot" and "chain-of-thought" prompting. These strategies show us how to guide AI models to generate desired outcomes. Today, we progress further into the toolkit with "self-consistency" prompting. This powerful approach taps into the model's inherent understanding of the world. However, it also emphasizes the essential role of human discernment and judgment in assessing the AI's responses.

Self-consistency prompting is akin to asking the model to self-verify its own responses. Like a student double-checking their answers, the AI model cross-references its responses to maintain consistency. This method aids in maintaining coherence in the responses the model generates, fostering reliability.

Imagine you're probing the model's understanding of a complex concept like "black holes."

First Query: "What is a black hole?" Model's Response: "A black hole is a region of spacetime exhibiting gravitational acceleration so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it."

To assist with consistency, you introduce a self-consistency check:

Second Query: "According to your earlier statement, can light escape from a black hole?" Model's Response: "Based on my earlier statement, light cannot escape from a black hole due to its strong gravitational pull."

Through this self-check, the model reaffirms its understanding. This technique is useful when the model is engaged in a task that requires coherence over a series of exchanges, such as argumentation or narrative creation. However, this is where human discernment comes into play, as the accuracy of the responses ultimately depends on our judgment.

Importantly, self-consistency prompting is not a catch-all solution. It assists with internal consistency, not factual accuracy. If the model's initial Response is inaccurate, self-consistency checks may amplify these errors. Again, this is why it's crucial to have some knowledge or at least passing familiarity with the subject you're discussing with ChatGPT or any other LLM. While these AI models will augment your speed and stimulate ideas, they should not be blindly trusted. They are tools designed to assist, not replace, human judgment.

When comparing self-consistency prompting to the techniques we've previously discussed—zero-shot and few-shot prompting—their complementary nature becomes apparent. Zero-shot and few-shot prompting are excellent for tasks requiring the model to generate responses based on examples or unique prompts. In contrast, self-consistency prompting is advantageous when the task demands the model to maintain coherence and consistency in a series of responses. However, integrating self-consistency prompting into your prompting workflow will enhance the chances of obtaining accurate results; just remember to leave the final assessment of accuracy with you or someone knowledgeable about the subject.

The journey with AI is about the symbiosis between machine intelligence and human discernment. Each technique has its strengths and limitations, and the choice hinges on the task, the context of interaction, and the required degree of accuracy or consistency. Let's keep exploring the exciting world of AI together, maintaining the human-centric aspect throughout this journey.

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