The Adversarial Consistency of Surrogate Risks for Binary Classification

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Natalie Frank, Jonathan Niles-Weed


We study the consistency of surrogate risks for robust binary classification.It is common to learn robust classifiers by adversarial training, which seeks to minimize the expected $0$-$1$ loss when each example can be maliciously corrupted within a small ball.We give a simple and complete characterization of the set of surrogate loss functions that are \emph{consistent}, i.e., that can replace the $0$-$1$ loss without affecting the minimizing sequences of the original adversarial risk, for any data distribution.We also prove a quantitative version of adversarial consistency for the $\rho$-margin loss.Our results reveal that the class of adversarially consistent surrogates is substantially smaller than in the standard setting, where many common surrogates are known to be consistent.