Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Monge blunts Bayes: Hardness Results for Adversarial Training

Zac Cranko · Aditya Menon · Richard Nock · Cheng Soon Ong · Zhan Shi · Christian Walder

Pacific Ballroom #191

Keywords: [ Supervised Learning ] [ Statistical Learning Theory ] [ Information Theory and Estimation ] [ Adversarial Examples ]


The last few years have seen a staggering number of empirical studies of the robustness of neural networks in a model of adversarial perturbations of their inputs. Most rely on an adversary which carries out local modifications within prescribed balls. None however has so far questioned the broader picture: how to frame a \textit{resource-bounded} adversary so that it can be \textit{severely detrimental} to learning, a non-trivial problem which entails at a minimum the choice of loss and classifiers.

We suggest a formal answer for losses that satisfy the minimal statistical requirement of being \textit{proper}. We pin down a simple sufficient property for any given class of adversaries to be detrimental to learning, involving a central measure of ``harmfulness'' which generalizes the well-known class of integral probability metrics. A key feature of our result is that it holds for \textit{all} proper losses, and for a popular subset of these, the optimisation of this central measure appears to be \textit{independent of the loss}. When classifiers are Lipschitz -- a now popular approach in adversarial training --, this optimisation resorts to \textit{optimal transport} to make a low-budget compression of class marginals. Toy experiments reveal a finding recently separately observed: training against a sufficiently budgeted adversary of this kind \textit{improves} generalization.

Live content is unavailable. Log in and register to view live content