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Minimax Optimality (Probably) Doesn't Imply Distribution Learning for GANs

Sitan Chen · Jerry Li · Yuanzhi Li · Raghu Meka


Arguably the most fundamental question in the theory of generative adversarial networks (GANs) is to understand when GANs can actually learn the underlying distribution. Theoretical and empirical evidence (see e.g. Arora-Risteski-Zhang '18) suggest local optimality of the empirical training objective is insufficient, yet it does not rule out the possibility that achieving a true population minimax optimal solution might imply distribution learning. In this paper, we show that standard cryptographic assumptions imply that this stronger condition is still insufficient. Namely, we show that if local pseudorandom generators (PRGs) exist, then for a large family of natural target distributions, there are ReLU network generators of constant depth and poly size which take Gaussian random seeds so that (i) the output is far in Wasserstein distance from the target distribution, but (ii) no polynomially large Lipschitz discriminator ReLU network can detect this. This implies that even achieving a population minimax optimal solution to the Wasserstein GAN objective is likely insufficient for distribution learning. Our techniques reveal a deep connection between GANs and PRGs, which we believe will lead to further insights into the computational landscape of GANs.

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