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On the Functional Similarity of Robust and Non-Robust Neural Representations

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Model stitching—where the internal representations of two neural networks are aligned linearly—helped demonstrate that the representations of different neural networks for the same task are surprisingly similar in a functional sense. At the same time, the representations of adversarially robust networks are considered to be different from non-robust representations. For example, robust image classifiers are invertible, while non-robust networks are not. Here, we investigate the functional similarity of robust and non-robust representations for image classification with the help of model stitching. We find that robust and non-robust networks indeed have different representations. However, these representations are compatible regarding accuracy. From the point of view of robust accuracy, compatibility decreases quickly after the first few layers but the representations become compatible again in the last layers, in the sense that the properties of the front model can be recovered. Moreover, this is true even in the case of cross-task stitching. Our results suggest that stitching in the initial, preprocessing layers and the final, abstract layers test different kinds of compatibilities. In particular, the final layers are easy to match, because their representations depend mostly on the same abstract task specification, in our case, the classification of the input into n classes.