Over-parameterized Adversarial Training: An Analysis Overcoming the Curse of Dimensionality

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2020)

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Yi Zhang, Orestis Plevrakis, Simon S. Du, Xingguo Li, Zhao Song, Sanjeev Arora


Adversarial training is a popular method to give neural nets robustness against adversarial perturbations. In practice adversarial training leads to low robust training loss. However, a rigorous explanation for why this happens under natural conditions is still missing. Recently a convergence theory of standard (non-adversarial) supervised training was developed by various groups for {\em very overparametrized} nets. It is unclear how to extend these results to adversarial training because of the min-max objective. Recently, a first step towards this direction was made by Gao et al. using tools from online learning, but they require the width of the net to be \emph{exponential} in input dimension $d$, and with an unnatural activation function. Our work proves convergence to low robust training loss for \emph{polynomial} width instead of exponential, under natural assumptions and with ReLU activations. A key element of our proof is showing that ReLU networks near initialization can approximate the step function, which may be of independent interest.