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Jeremy McMahan, Young Wu, Xiaojin Zhu, Qiaomin Xie

To ensure the usefulness of Reinforcement Learning (RL) in real systems, it is crucial to ensure they are robust to noise and adversarial attacks. In adversarial RL, an external attacker has the power to manipulate the victim agent's interaction with the environment. We study the full class of online manipulation attacks, which include (i) state attacks, (ii) observation attacks (which are a generalization of perceived-state attacks), (iii) action attacks, and (iv) reward attacks. We show the attacker's problem of designing a stealthy attack that maximizes its own expected reward, which often corresponds to minimizing the victim's value, is captured by a Markov Decision Process (MDP) that we call a meta-MDP since it is not the true environment but a higher level environment induced by the attacked interaction. We show that the attacker can derive optimal attacks by planning in polynomial time or learning with polynomial sample complexity using standard RL techniques. We argue that the optimal defense policy for the victim can be computed as the solution to a stochastic Stackelberg game, which can be further simplified into a partially-observable turn-based stochastic game (POTBSG). Neither the attacker nor the victim would benefit from deviating from their respective optimal policies, thus such solutions are truly robust. Although the defense problem is NP-hard, we show that optimal Markovian defenses can be computed (learned) in polynomial time (sample complexity) in many scenarios.

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Shubham Kumar Bharti, Stephen Wright, Adish Singla, Xiaojin Zhu

We study optimal teaching of Linear Behavior Cloning (LBC) learners. In this setup, the teacher can select which states to demonstrate to an LBC learner. The learner maintains a version space of infinite linear hypotheses consistent with the demonstration. The goal of the teacher is to teach a realizable target policy to the learner using minimum number of state demonstrations. This number is known as the Teaching Dimension(TD). We present a teaching algorithm called ``Teach using Iterative Elimination(TIE)" that achieves instance optimal TD. However, we also show that finding optimal teaching set computationally is NP-hard. We further provide an approximation algorithm that guarantees an approximation ratio of $\log(|A|-1)$ on the teaching dimension. Finally, we provide experimental results to validate the efficiency and effectiveness of our algorithm.

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Ara Vartanian, Xiaoxi Sun, Yun-Shiuan Chuang, Siddharth Suresh, Xiaojin Zhu, Timothy T. Rogers

This paper considers how interactions with AI algorithms can boost human creative thought. We employ a psychological task that demonstrates limits on human creativity, namely semantic feature generation: given a concept name, respondents must list as many of its features as possible. Human participants typically produce only a fraction of the features they know before getting "stuck." In experiments with humans and with a language AI (GPT-4) we contrast behavior in the standard task versus a variant in which participants can ask for algorithmically-generated hints. Algorithm choice is administered by a multi-armed bandit whose reward indicates whether the hint helped generating more features. Humans and the AI show similar benefits from hints, and remarkably, bandits learning from AI responses prefer the same prompting strategy as those learning from human behavior. The results suggest that strategies for boosting human creativity via computer interactions can be learned by bandits run on groups of simulated participants.

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Jeremy McMahan, Xiaojin Zhu

We introduce and study constrained Markov Decision Processes (cMDPs) with anytime constraints. An anytime constraint requires the agent to never violate its budget at any point in time, almost surely. Although Markovian policies are no longer sufficient, we show that there exist optimal deterministic policies augmented with cumulative costs. In fact, we present a fixed-parameter tractable reduction from anytime-constrained cMDPs to unconstrained MDPs. Our reduction yields planning and learning algorithms that are time and sample-efficient for tabular cMDPs so long as the precision of the costs is logarithmic in the size of the cMDP. However, we also show that computing non-trivial approximately optimal policies is NP-hard in general. To circumvent this bottleneck, we design provable approximation algorithms that efficiently compute or learn an arbitrarily accurate approximately feasible policy with optimal value so long as the maximum supported cost is bounded by a polynomial in the cMDP or the absolute budget. Given our hardness results, our approximation guarantees are the best possible under worst-case analysis.

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Young Wu, Jeremy McMahan, Yiding Chen, Yudong Chen, Xiaojin Zhu, Qiaomin Xie

We study the game modification problem, where a benevolent game designer or a malevolent adversary modifies the reward function of a zero-sum Markov game so that a target deterministic or stochastic policy profile becomes the unique Markov perfect Nash equilibrium and has a value within a target range, in a way that minimizes the modification cost. We characterize the set of policy profiles that can be installed as the unique equilibrium of some game, and establish sufficient and necessary conditions for successful installation. We propose an efficient algorithm, which solves a convex optimization problem with linear constraints and then performs random perturbation, to obtain a modification plan with a near-optimal cost.

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Xuefeng Du, Yiyou Sun, Xiaojin Zhu, Yixuan Li

Utilizing auxiliary outlier datasets to regularize the machine learning model has demonstrated promise for out-of-distribution (OOD) detection and safe prediction. Due to the labor intensity in data collection and cleaning, automating outlier data generation has been a long-desired alternative. Despite the appeal, generating photo-realistic outliers in the high dimensional pixel space has been an open challenge for the field. To tackle the problem, this paper proposes a new framework DREAM-OOD, which enables imagining photo-realistic outliers by way of diffusion models, provided with only the in-distribution (ID) data and classes. Specifically, DREAM-OOD learns a text-conditioned latent space based on ID data, and then samples outliers in the low-likelihood region via the latent, which can be decoded into images by the diffusion model. Different from prior works, DREAM-OOD enables visualizing and understanding the imagined outliers, directly in the pixel space. We conduct comprehensive quantitative and qualitative studies to understand the efficacy of DREAM-OOD, and show that training with the samples generated by DREAM-OOD can benefit OOD detection performance. Code is publicly available at https://github.com/deeplearning-wisc/dream-ood.

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Jeremy McMahan, Young Wu, Yudong Chen, Xiaojin Zhu, Qiaomin Xie

Many real-world games suffer from information asymmetry: one player is only aware of their own payoffs while the other player has the full game information. Examples include the critical domain of security games and adversarial multi-agent reinforcement learning. Information asymmetry renders traditional solution concepts such as Strong Stackelberg Equilibrium (SSE) and Robust-Optimization Equilibrium (ROE) inoperative. We propose a novel solution concept called VISER (Victim Is Secure, Exploiter best-Responds). VISER enables an external observer to predict the outcome of such games. In particular, for security applications, VISER allows the victim to better defend itself while characterizing the most damaging attacks available to the attacker. We show that each player's VISER strategy can be computed independently in polynomial time using linear programming (LP). We also extend VISER to its Markov-perfect counterpart for Markov games, which can be solved efficiently using a series of LPs.

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Young Wu, Jeremy McMahan, Xiaojin Zhu, Qiaomin Xie

We characterize offline data poisoning attacks on Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL), where an attacker may change a data set in an attempt to install a (potentially fictitious) unique Markov-perfect Nash equilibrium. We propose the unique Nash set, namely the set of games, specified by their Q functions, with a specific joint policy being the unique Nash equilibrium. The unique Nash set is central to poisoning attacks because the attack is successful if and only if data poisoning pushes all plausible games inside it. The unique Nash set generalizes the reward polytope commonly used in inverse reinforcement learning to MARL. For zero-sum Markov games, both the inverse Nash set and the set of plausible games induced by data are polytopes in the Q function space. We exhibit a linear program to efficiently compute the optimal poisoning attack. Our work sheds light on the structure of data poisoning attacks on offline MARL, a necessary step before one can design more robust MARL algorithms.

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Leitian Tao, Xuefeng Du, Xiaojin Zhu, Yixuan Li

Out-of-distribution (OOD) detection is indispensable for safely deploying machine learning models in the wild. One of the key challenges is that models lack supervision signals from unknown data, and as a result, can produce overconfident predictions on OOD data. Recent work on outlier synthesis modeled the feature space as parametric Gaussian distribution, a strong and restrictive assumption that might not hold in reality. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, Non-Parametric Outlier Synthesis (NPOS), which generates artificial OOD training data and facilitates learning a reliable decision boundary between ID and OOD data. Importantly, our proposed synthesis approach does not make any distributional assumption on the ID embeddings, thereby offering strong flexibility and generality. We show that our synthesis approach can be mathematically interpreted as a rejection sampling framework. Extensive experiments show that NPOS can achieve superior OOD detection performance, outperforming the competitive rivals by a significant margin. Code is publicly available at https://github.com/deeplearning-wisc/npos.

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Shubham Kumar Bharti, Xuezhou Zhang, Adish Singla, Xiaojin Zhu

We propose a provable defense mechanism against backdoor policies in reinforcement learning under subspace trigger assumption. A backdoor policy is a security threat where an adversary publishes a seemingly well-behaved policy which in fact allows hidden triggers. During deployment, the adversary can modify observed states in a particular way to trigger unexpected actions and harm the agent. We assume the agent does not have the resources to re-train a good policy. Instead, our defense mechanism sanitizes the backdoor policy by projecting observed states to a 'safe subspace', estimated from a small number of interactions with a clean (non-triggered) environment. Our sanitized policy achieves $\epsilon$ approximate optimality in the presence of triggers, provided the number of clean interactions is $O\left(\frac{D}{(1-\gamma)^4 \epsilon^2}\right)$ where $\gamma$ is the discounting factor and $D$ is the dimension of state space. Empirically, we show that our sanitization defense performs well on two Atari game environments.

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