skip to main content

Title: What Can the Neural Tangent Kernel Tell Us About Adversarial Robustness?
The adversarial vulnerability of neural nets, and subsequent techniques to create robust models have attracted significant attention; yet we still lack a full understanding of this phenomenon. Here, we study adversarial examples of trained neural networks through analytical tools afforded by recent theory advances connecting neural networks and kernel methods, namely the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK), following a growing body of work that leverages the NTK approximation to successfully analyze important deep learning phenomena and design algorithms for new applications. We show how NTKs allow to generate adversarial examples in a ``training-free'' fashion, and demonstrate that they transfer to fool their finite-width neural net counterparts in the ``lazy'' regime. We leverage this connection to provide an alternative view on robust and non-robust features, which have been suggested to underlie the adversarial brittleness of neural nets. Specifically, we define and study features induced by the eigendecomposition of the kernel to better understand the role of robust and non-robust features, the reliance on both for standard classification and the robustness-accuracy trade-off. We find that such features are surprisingly consistent across architectures, and that robust features tend to correspond to the largest eigenvalues of the model, and thus are learned early during training. Our framework allows us to identify and visualize non-robust yet useful features. Finally, we shed light on the robustness mechanism underlying adversarial training of neural nets used in practice: quantifying the evolution of the associated empirical NTK, we demonstrate that its dynamics falls much earlier into the ``lazy'' regime and manifests a much stronger form of the well known bias to prioritize learning features within the top eigenspaces of the kernel, compared to standard training.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Recent research shows that the dynamics of an infinitely wide neural network (NN) trained by gradient descent can be characterized by Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) [27]. Under the squared loss, the infinite-width NN trained by gradient descent with an infinitely small learning rate is equivalent to kernel regression with NTK [4]. However, the equivalence is only known for ridge regression currently [6], while the equivalence between NN and other kernel machines (KMs), e.g. support vector machine (SVM), remains unknown. Therefore, in this work, we propose to establish the equivalence between NN and SVM, and specifically, the infinitely wide NN trained by soft margin loss and the standard soft margin SVM with NTK trained by subgradient descent. Our main theoretical results include establishing the equivalence between NN and a broad family of L2 regularized KMs with finite width bounds, which cannot be handled by prior work, and showing that every finite-width NN trained by such regularized loss functions is approximately a KM. Furthermore, we demonstrate our theory can enable three practical applications, including (i) non-vacuous generalization bound of NN via the corresponding KM; (ii) nontrivial robustness certificate for the infinite-width NN (while existing robustness verification methods would provide vacuous bounds); (iii) intrinsically more robust infinite-width NNs than those from previous kernel regression. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    In suitably initialized wide networks, small learning rates transform deep neural networks (DNNs) into neural tangent kernel (NTK) machines, whose training dynamics is well-approximated by a linear weight expansion of the network at initialization. Standard training, however, diverges from its linearization in ways that are poorly understood. We study the relationship between the training dynamics of nonlinear deep networks, the geometry of the loss landscape, and the time evolution of a data-dependent NTK. We do so through a large-scale phenomenological analysis of training, synthesizing diverse measures characterizing loss landscape geometry and NTK dynamics. In multiple neural architectures and datasets, we find these diverse measures evolve in a highly correlated manner, revealing a universal picture of the deep learning process. In this picture, deep network training exhibits a highly chaotic rapid initial transient that within 2 to 3 epochs determines the final linearly connected basin of low loss containing the end point of training. During this chaotic transient, the NTK changes rapidly, learning useful features from the training data that enables it to outperform the standard initial NTK by a factor of 3 in less than 3 to 4 epochs. After this rapid chaotic transient, the NTK changes at constant velocity, and its performance matches that of full network training in 15\% to 45\% of training time. Overall, our analysis reveals a striking correlation between a diverse set of metrics over training time, governed by a rapid chaotic to stable transition in the first few epochs, that together poses challenges and opportunities for the development of more accurate theories of deep learning. 
    more » « less
  3. Models produced by machine learning, particularly deep neural networks, are state-of-the-art for many machine learning tasks and demonstrate very high prediction accuracy. Unfortunately, these models are also very brittle and vulnerable to specially crafted adversarial examples. Recent results have shown that accuracy of these models can be reduced from close to hundred percent to below 5\% using adversarial examples. This brittleness of deep neural networks makes it challenging to deploy these learning models in security-critical areas where adversarial activity is expected, and cannot be ignored. A number of methods have been recently proposed to craft more effective and generalizable attacks on neural networks along with competing efforts to improve robustness of these learning models. But the current approaches to make machine learning techniques more resilient fall short of their goal. Further, the succession of new adversarial attacks against proposed methods to increase neural network robustness raises doubts about a foolproof approach to robustify machine learning models against all possible adversarial attacks. In this paper, we consider the problem of detecting adversarial examples. This would help identify when the learning models cannot be trusted without attempting to repair the models or make them robust to adversarial attacks. This goal of finding limitations of the learning model presents a more tractable approach to protecting against adversarial attacks. Our approach is based on identifying a low dimensional manifold in which the training samples lie, and then using the distance of a new observation from this manifold to identify whether this data point is adversarial or not. Our empirical study demonstrates that adversarial examples not only lie farther away from the data manifold, but this distance from manifold of the adversarial examples increases with the attack confidence. Thus, adversarial examples that are likely to result into incorrect prediction by the machine learning model is also easier to detect by our approach. This is a first step towards formulating a novel approach based on computational geometry that can identify the limiting boundaries of a machine learning model, and detect adversarial attacks. 
    more » « less
  4. We study the optimization of wide neural networks (NNs) via gradient flow (GF) in setups that allow feature learning while admitting non-asymptotic global convergence guarantees. First, for wide shallow NNs under the mean-field scaling and with a general class of activation functions, we prove that when the input dimension is no less than the size of the training set, the training loss converges to zero at a linear rate under GF. Building upon this analysis, we study a model of wide multi-layer NNs whose second-to-last layer is trained via GF, for which we also prove a linear-rate convergence of the training loss to zero, but regardless of the input dimension. We also show empirically that, unlike in the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) regime, our multi-layer model exhibits feature learning and can achieve better generalization performance than its NTK counterpart. 
    more » « less
  5. Chen, Xinyun ; Xie, Cihang ; Shafahi, Ali ; Li, Bo ; Zhao, Ding ; Goldstein, Tom ; Song, Dawn (Ed.)
    The adversarial training paradigm has become the standard in training deep neural networks for robustness. Yet, it remains unstable, with the mechanisms driving this instability poorly understood. In this study, we discover that this instability is primarily driven by a non-smooth optimization landscape and an internal covariate shift phenomenon, and show that Batch Normalization (BN) can effectively mitigate both these issues. Further, we demonstrate that BN universally improves clean and robust performance across various defenses, datasets, and model types, with greater improvement on more difficult tasks. Finally, we confirm BN’s heterogeneous distribution issue with mixed-batch training and propose a solution. 
    more » « less