Do Adversarially Robust ImageNet Models Transfer Better?

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

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Hadi Salman, Andrew Ilyas, Logan Engstrom, Ashish Kapoor, Aleksander Madry


Transfer learning is a widely-used paradigm in deep learning, where models pre-trained on standard datasets can be efficiently adapted to downstream tasks. Typically, better pre-trained models yield better transfer results, suggesting that initial accuracy is a key aspect of transfer learning performance. In this work, we identify another such aspect: we find that adversarially robust models, while less accurate, often perform better than their standard-trained counterparts when used for transfer learning. Specifically, we focus on adversarially robust ImageNet classifiers, and show that they yield improved accuracy on a standard suite of downstream classification tasks. Further analysis uncovers more differences between robust and standard models in the context of transfer learning. Our results are consistent with (and in fact, add to) recent hypotheses stating that robustness leads to improved feature representations. Code and models is available in the supplementary material.