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Optimizers (formerly Teleprompters)

A DSPy optimizer is an algorithm that can tune the parameters of a DSPy program (i.e., the prompts and/or the LM weights) to maximize the metrics you specify, like accuracy.

There are many built-in optimizers in DSPy, which apply vastly different strategies. A typical DSPy optimizer takes three things:

  • Your DSPy program. This may be a single module (e.g., dspy.Predict) or a complex multi-module program.

  • Your metric. This is a function that evaluates the output of your program, and assigns it a score (higher is better).

  • A few training inputs. This may be very small (i.e., only 5 or 10 examples) and incomplete (only inputs to your program, without any labels).

If you happen to have a lot of data, DSPy can leverage that. But you can start small and get strong results.

Note: Formerly called DSPy Teleprompters. We are making an official name update, which will be reflected throughout the library and documentation.

What does a DSPy Optimizer tune? How does it tune them?

Traditional deep neural networks (DNNs) can be optimized with gradient descent, given a loss function and some training data.

DSPy programs consist of multiple calls to LMs, stacked together as [DSPy modules]. Each DSPy module has internal parameters of three kinds: (1) the LM weights, (2) the instructions, and (3) demonstrations of the input/output behavior.

Given a metric, DSPy can optimize all of these three with multi-stage optimization algorithms. These can combine gradient descent (for LM weights) and discrete LM-driven optimization, i.e. for crafting/updating instructions and for creating/validating demonstrations. DSPy Demonstrations are like few-shot examples, but they're far more powerful. They can be created from scratch, given your program, and their creation and selection can be optimized in many effective ways.

In many cases, we found that compiling leads to better prompts than human writing. Not because DSPy optimizers are more creative than humans, but simply because they can try more things, much more systematically, and tune the metrics directly.

What DSPy Optimizers are currently available?

Subclasses of Teleprompter

All of these can be accessed via from dspy.teleprompt import *.

Automatic Few-Shot Learning

These optimizers extend the signature by automatically generating and including optimized examples within the prompt sent to the model, implementing few-shot learning.

  1. LabeledFewShot: Simply constructs few-shot examples (demos) from provided labeled input and output data points. Requires k (number of examples for the prompt) and trainset to randomly select k examples from.

  2. BootstrapFewShot: Uses a teacher module (which defaults to your program) to generate complete demonstrations for every stage of your program, along with labeled examples in trainset. Parameters include max_labeled_demos (the number of demonstrations randomly selected from the trainset) and max_bootstrapped_demos (the number of additional examples generated by the teacher). The bootstrapping process employs the metric to validate demonstrations, including only those that pass the metric in the "compiled" prompt. Advanced: Supports using a teacher program that is a different DSPy program that has compatible structure, for harder tasks.

  3. BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch: Applies BootstrapFewShot several times with random search over generated demonstrations, and selects the best program over the optimization. Parameters mirror those of BootstrapFewShot, with the addition of num_candidate_programs, which specifies the number of random programs evaluated over the optimization, including candidates of the uncompiled program, LabeledFewShot optimized program, BootstrapFewShot compiled program with unshuffled examples and num_candidate_programs of BootstrapFewShot compiled programs with randomized example sets.

  4. BootstrapFewShotWithOptuna: Applies BootstrapFewShot with Optuna optimization across demonstration sets, running trials to maximize evaluation metrics and selecting the best demonstrations.

  5. KNNFewShot. Selects demonstrations through k-Nearest Neighbors algorithm to pick a diverse set of examples from different clusters. Vectorizes the examples, and then clusters them, using cluster centers with BootstrapFewShot for bootstrapping/selection process. This will be useful when there's a lot of data over random spaces: using KNN helps optimize the trainset for BootstrapFewShot. See this notebook for an example.

Automatic Instruction Optimization

These optimizers produce optimal instructions for the prompt and, in the case of MIPRO also optimize the set of few-shot demonstrations.

  1. COPRO: Generates and refines new instructions for each step, and optimizes them with coordinate ascent (hill-climbing using the metric function and the trainset). Parameters include depth which is the number of iterations of prompt improvement the optimizer runs over.

  2. MIPRO: Generates instructions and few-shot examples in each step. The instruction generation is data-aware and demonstration-aware. Uses Bayesian Optimization to effectively search over the space of generation instructions/demonstrations across your modules.

Automatic Finetuning

This optimizer is used to fine-tune the underlying LLM(s).

  1. BootstrapFinetune: Distills a prompt-based DSPy program into weight updates (for smaller LMs). The output is a DSPy program that has the same steps, but where each step is conducted by a finetuned model instead of a prompted LM.

Program Transformations

  1. Ensemble: Ensembles a set of DSPy programs and either uses the full set or randomly samples a subset into a single program.

Which optimizer should I use?

As a rule of thumb, if you don't know where to start, use BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch.

Here's the general guidance on getting started:

  • If you have very little data, e.g. 10 examples of your task, use BootstrapFewShot.

  • If you have slightly more data, e.g. 50 examples of your task, use BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch.

  • If you have more data than that, e.g. 300 examples or more, use MIPRO.

  • If you have been able to use one of these with a large LM (e.g., 7B parameters or above) and need a very efficient program, compile that down to a small LM with BootstrapFinetune.

How do I use an optimizer?

They all share this general interface, with some differences in the keyword arguments (hyperparameters).

Let's see this with the most common one, BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch.

from dspy.teleprompt import BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch

# Set up the optimizer: we want to "bootstrap" (i.e., self-generate) 8-shot examples of your program's steps.
# The optimizer will repeat this 10 times (plus some initial attempts) before selecting its best attempt on the devset.
config = dict(max_bootstrapped_demos=4, max_labeled_demos=4, num_candidate_programs=10, num_threads=4)

teleprompter = BootstrapFewShotWithRandomSearch(metric=YOUR_METRIC_HERE, **config)
optimized_program = teleprompter.compile(YOUR_PROGRAM_HERE, trainset=YOUR_TRAINSET_HERE)

Saving and loading optimizer output

After running a program through an optimizer, it's useful to also save it. At a later point, a program can be loaded from a file and used for inference. For this, the load and save methods can be used.

Saving a program

The resulting file is in plain-text JSON format. It contains all the parameters and steps in the source program. You can always read it and see what the optimizer generated.

Loading a program

To load a program from a file, you can instantiate an object from that class and then call the load method on it.

loaded_program = YOUR_PROGRAM_CLASS()