Keywords: Robustness, Distribution shift, Group Shift
TL;DR: Robustness to group shifts without training group annotations can be achieved with a constrained form of DRO.
Abstract: Training machine learning models robust to distribution shifts is critical for real-world applications. Some robust training algorithms (e.g., Group DRO) specialize to group shifts and require group information on all training points. Other methods (e.g., CVaR DRO) that do not need group annotations can be overly conservative, since they naively upweight high loss points which may form a contrived set that does not correspond to any meaningful group in the real world (e.g., when the high loss points are randomly mislabeled training points). In this work, we address limitations in prior approaches by assuming a more nuanced form of group shift: conditioned on the label, we assume that the true group function (indicator over group) is simple. For example, we may expect that group shifts occur along low bitrate features (e.g., image background, lighting). Thus, we aim to learn a model that maintains high accuracy on simple group functions realized by these low bitrate features, that need not spend valuable model capacity achieving high accuracy on contrived groups of examples. Based on this, we consider the two-player game formulation of DRO where the adversary's capacity is bitrate-constrained. Our resulting practical algorithm, Bitrate-Constrained DRO (\bdro), does not require group information on training samples yet matches the performance of Group DRO on datasets that have training group annotations and that of CVaR DRO on long-tailed distributions. Our theoretical analysis reveals that in some settings \bdro objective can provably yield statistically efficient and less conservative solutions than unconstrained CVaR DRO.
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