Adversarial Examples Are Not Bugs, They Are Features

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Andrew Ilyas, Shibani Santurkar, Dimitris Tsipras, Logan Engstrom, Brandon Tran, Aleksander Madry


<p>Adversarial examples have attracted significant attention in machine learning, but the reasons for their existence and pervasiveness remain unclear. We demonstrate that adversarial examples can be directly attributed to the presence of non-robust features: features (derived from patterns in the data distribution) that are highly predictive, yet brittle and (thus) incomprehensible to humans. After capturing these features within a theoretical framework, we establish their widespread existence in standard datasets. Finally, we present a simple setting where we can rigorously tie the phenomena we observe in practice to a {\em misalignment} between the (human-specified) notion of robustness and the inherent geometry of the data.</p>