Keywords: Robust learning, adversarial robustness, constrained learning, semi-infinite programming
Abstract: Despite strong performance in numerous applications, the fragility of deep learning to input perturbations has raised serious questions about its use in safety-critical domains. While adversarial training can mitigate this issue in practice, state-of-the-art methods are increasingly application-dependent, heuristic in nature, and suffer from fundamental trade-offs between nominal performance and robustness. Moreover, the problem of finding worst-case perturbations is non-convex and underparameterized, both of which engender a non-favorable optimization landscape. Thus, there is a gap between the theory and practice of robust learning, particularly with respect to when and why adversarial training works. In this paper, we take a constrained learning approach to address these questions and to provide a theoretical foundation for robust learning. In particular, we leverage semi-infinite optimization and non-convex duality theory to show that adversarial training is equivalent to a statistical problem over perturbation distributions. Notably, we show that a myriad of previous robust training techniques can be recovered for particular, sub-optimal choices of these distributions. Using these insights, we then propose a hybrid Langevin Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach for which several common algorithms (e.g., PGD) are special cases. Finally, we show that our approach can mitigate the trade-off between nominal and robust performance, yielding state-of-the-art results on MNIST and CIFAR-10. Our code is available at: https://github.com/arobey1/advbench.
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