Abstract: This paper studies the undesired phenomena of over-sensitivity of representations learned by deep networks to semantically-irrelevant changes in data. We identify a cause for this shortcoming in the classical Variational Auto-encoder (VAE) objective, the evidence lower bound (ELBO). We show that the ELBO fails to control the behaviour of the encoder out of the support of the empirical data distribution and this behaviour of the VAE can lead to extreme errors in the learned representation. This is a key hurdle in the effective use of representations for data-efficient learning and transfer. To address this problem, we propose to augment the data with specifications that enforce insensitivity of the representation with respect to families of transformations. To incorporate these specifications, we propose a regularization method that is based on a selection mechanism that creates a fictive data point by explicitly perturbing an observed true data point. For certain choices of parameters, our formulation naturally leads to the minimization of the entropy regularized Wasserstein distance between representations. We illustrate our approach on standard datasets and experimentally show that significant improvements in the downstream adversarial accuracy can be achieved by learning robust representations completely in an unsupervised manner, without a reference to a particular downstream task and without a costly supervised adversarial training procedure.

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