Abstract: In this paper, we explore learning statistically consistent classifiers under label noise by estimating the noise transition matrix T. We first provide a holistic view of existing T-estimation methods including those with or without anchor point assumptions. We unified them into the Minimum Geometric Envelope Operator (MGEO) framework, which tries to find the smallest T (in terms of a certain metric) that elicits a convex hull to enclose the posteriors of all the training data. Although MGEO methods show appealing theoretical properties and empirical results, we find them prone to failing when the noisy posterior estimation is imperfect, which is inevitable in practice. Specifically, we show that MGEO methods are in-consistent even with infinite samples if the noisy posterior is not estimated accurately. In view of this, we make the first effort to address this issue by proposing a novel T-estimation framework via the lens of bilevel optimization, and term it RObust Bilevel OpTimzation (ROBOT). ROBOT paves a new road beyond MGEO framework, which enjoys strong theoretical properties: identifibility, consistency and finite-sample generalization guarantees. Notably, ROBOT neither requires the perfect posterior estimation nor assumes the existence of anchor points. We further theoretically demonstrate that ROBOT is more robust in the case where MGEO methods fail. Experimentally, our framework also shows superior performance across multiple benchmarks.
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