Pre-trained language models, despite their rapid advancements powered by scale, still fall short of robust commonsense capabilities. And yet, scale appears to be the winning recipe; after all, the largest models seem to have acquired the largest amount of commonsense capabilities. Or is it? In this paper, we investigate the possibility of a seemingly impossible match: can smaller language models with dismal commonsense capabilities (i.e., GPT-2), ever win over models that are orders of magnitude larger and better (i.e., GPT-3), if the smaller models are powered with novel commonsense distillation algorithms? The key intellectual question we ask here is whether it is possible, if at all, to design a learning algorithm that does not benefit from scale, yet leads to a competitive level of commonsense acquisition. In this work, we study the generative models of commonsense knowledge, focusing on the task of generating generics, statements of commonsense facts about everyday concepts, e.g., birds can fly. We introduce a novel commonsense distillation framework, I2D2, that loosely follows the Symbolic Knowledge Distillation of West et al. but breaks the dependence on the extreme-scale models as the teacher model by two innovations: (1) the novel adaptation of NeuroLogic Decoding to enhance the generation quality of the weak, off-the-shelf language models, and (2) self-imitation learning to iteratively learn from the model's own enhanced commonsense acquisition capabilities. Empirical results suggest that scale is not the only way, as novel algorithms can be a promising alternative. Moreover, our study leads to a new corpus of generics, Gen-A-Tomic, that is of the largest and highest quality available to date.
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