[Haskell-cafe] Type vs TypeClass duality

Carl Witty cwitty at newtonlabs.com
Tue Oct 23 15:28:48 EDT 2007

On Tue, 2007-10-23 at 17:40 +0800, TJ wrote:
> On 10/23/07, Jules Bean <jules at jellybean.co.uk> wrote:
> > That is, the type inference algorithm which GHC uses, which is not the
> > only one you can imagine, but for a variety of reasons is considered to
> > be one of the best choices, cannot 'automatically' construct
> > existentials, and requires some kinds of explicit annotations to
> > 'delimit' the existential.
> Why can't it automatically construct them then? Assuming we do have a
> syntax for "A list of objects, each of which is of some
> possibly different type 'a', subject only to the restriction that a is a
> member of typeclass Show", as the following:
> ls :: [a where Show a]
> Then I would think that all the type checker has to do would be to check that,
> a) everything you cons onto ls is an instance of class Show
> b) where you extract items from ls, you only use them as you would use
> any instance of class Show.

I think your idea is good, but I also think it's much harder to specify
and implement than you seem to imply.

Here's an example of one difficult point (the first one I thought of);
I'm sure there are many more.

Consider the function:

show_list x = map show x

Can you use show_list on your list?  If so: what type does show_list
have?  How is it implemented?  (Consider that in a typical Haskell
implementation, show_list would take a hidden dictionary parameter and a
normal list parameter.  But on your list, show_list takes a list where
each element contains a hidden dictionary.)

Carl Witty

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