Learning to Compress Prompts with Gist Tokens

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jesse Mu, Xiang Li, Noah Goodman


Prompting is the primary way to utilize the multitask capabilities of language models (LMs), but prompts occupy valuable space in the input context window, and repeatedly encoding the same prompt is computationally inefficient. Finetuning and distillation methods allow for specialization of LMs without prompting, but require retraining the model for each task. To avoid this trade-off entirely, we present gisting, which trains an LM to compress prompts into smaller sets of "gist" tokens which can be cached and reused for compute efficiency. Gist models can be trained with no additional cost over standard instruction finetuning by simply modifying Transformer attention masks to encourage prompt compression. On decoder (LLaMA-7B) and encoder-decoder (FLAN-T5-XXL) LMs, gisting enables up to 26x compression of prompts, resulting in up to 40% FLOPs reductions, 4.2% wall time speedups, and storage savings, all with minimal loss in output quality.