Kernelized Concept Erasure

Shauli Ravfogel, Francisco Vargas, Yoav Goldberg, Ryan Cotterell

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The representation space of neural models for textual data emerges in an unsupervised manner during training. Understanding how those representations encode human-interpretable concepts is a fundamental problem. One prominent approach for the identification of concepts in neural representations is searching for a linear subspace whose erasure prevents the prediction of the concept from the representations. However, while many linear erasure algorithms are tractable and interpretable, neural networks do not necessarily represent concepts in a linear manner. To identify non-linearly encoded concepts, we propose a kernelization of a linear minimax game for concept erasure. We demonstrate that it is possible to prevent specific nonlinear adversaries from predicting the concept. However, the protection does not transfer to different nonlinear adversaries. Therefore, exhaustively erasing a non-linearly encoded concept remains an open problem.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2022 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 7 Dec 202211 Dec 2022


Conference2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
CityAbu Dhabi

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems


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