Efficient Training of Low-Curvature Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Suraj Srinivas, Kyle Matoba, Himabindu Lakkaraju, Fran├žois Fleuret


Standard deep neural networks often have excess non-linearity, making them susceptible to issues such as low adversarial robustness and gradient instability. Common methods to address these downstream issues, such as adversarial training, are expensive and often sacrifice predictive accuracy. In this work, we address the core issue of excess non-linearity via curvature, and demonstrate low-curvature neural networks (LCNNs) that obtain drastically lower curvature than standard models while exhibiting similar predictive performance. This leads to improved robustness and stable gradients, at a fraction of the cost of standard adversarial training. To achieve this, we decompose overall model curvature in terms of curvatures and slopes of its constituent layers. To enable efficient curvature minimization of constituent layers, we introduce two novel architectural components: first, a non-linearity called centered-softplus that is a stable variant of the softplus non-linearity, and second, a Lipschitz-constrained batch normalization layer.Our experiments show that LCNNs have lower curvature, more stable gradients and increased off-the-shelf adversarial robustness when compared to standard neural networks, all without affecting predictive performance. Our approach is easy to use and can be readily incorporated into existing neural network architectures.