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KDD Summary

08 Aug 2019

Welcome to the final installment of my KDD 25 Roundup. Thursday was the final day of the conference, so we had some concluding keynotes, a little more time on the expo floor, and finally, tear down. I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on the conference and summarize lessons learned.

Adversarial Defense

A series of talks at the LEMINCS workshop discussed and demonstrated weaknesses in the current generation of deep learning and graph-based models to adversarial perturbations (imperceptible, targeted adjustments to inputs which degrade performance and change the model’s predictions). These vulnerable models span many domains, from cyber security to computer vision.

The state of the art has risen to address these vulnerabilities, introducing a variety of defenses.

In the computer vision domain, we saw SHIELD, and UnMask. The former introduces an ensemble of preprocessing defenses, while the latter suggests an auxiliary model which verifies the output of the main CV model. The interesting part about these contributions is how they decouple defense from the model itself; they could give rise to a generic defense framework that could be applied to a large collection of models.

We’ve also seen a growing interest in the study of graph-based models, particularly in cyber security. One of the LEMINCS keynotes, Adversarial Robustness of Machine Learning Models for Graphs, introduces a principled approach to injecting malicious, imperceptible perturbations into data for a graph model, and that the performance of many popular graph models can be degraded by this method. The author went on to show how simple, non-graph models outperform these attacked graph models, suggesting that if we can’t detect when a model has been attacked, it may be better to downgrade to the baseline model.

Timeseries & Real-Time

Like graphs, timeseries analysis is a rapidly growing area of study, with many potential uses in cyber. At KDD, we saw many innovations in this space driven by engineering constraints and by borrowing mathematics from other fields.

For example, we saw a real-time mobile diagnostics model required to maintain nanosecond-order latency with 80+% accuracy, which additionally learned dynamically from user feedback and 2-stage classification. We also saw how Walmart executes anomaly detection at scale as a means to locate and correct algorithmic pricing errors.

In another example, a presenter showed how Spectral Residual Mapping and Convolutional Neural Networks (borrowed form computer vision) can be used to detect anomalies without a labeled dataset (and how to do so at scale with open source tools).


I, unfortunately, only saw one talk on the subject, but saw no fewer than a dozen posters on it at one of the evening poster sessions. Attention is a way for neural networks to prioritize different features during inference based on the values of the input vector.

It seems to be a promising way to make models more aware of and adaptive to context, and indeed, Real-Time Attention-Based Look-Alike Model for Recommender Systems (or RALM) backs this up. The authors presented a neural network architecture which leveraged attention mechanics to incorporate user context more strongly into a recommender system, with striking results.

This approach seems promising in more domains than recommendation, so I’m excited to dig deeper!

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