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When are Non-Parametric Methods Robust?

Robi Bhattacharjee · Kamalika Chaudhuri

Keywords: [ Adversarial Examples ] [ Learning Theory ] [ Non-parametric Methods ]


A growing body of research has shown that many classifiers are susceptible to adversarial examples -- small strategic modifications to test inputs that lead to misclassification. In this work, we study general non-parametric methods, with a view towards understanding when they are robust to these modifications. We establish general conditions under which non-parametric methods are r-consistent -- in the sense that they converge to optimally robust and accurate classifiers in the large sample limit.

Concretely, our results show that when data is well-separated, nearest neighbors and kernel classifiers are r-consistent, while histograms are not. For general data distributions, we prove that preprocessing by Adversarial Pruning (Yang et. al., 2019)-- that makes data well-separated -- followed by nearest neighbors or kernel classifiers also leads to r-consistency.

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