[magnus@galois.com: Re: [Haskell-cafe] Monads for Incremental computing]

Ryan Ingram ryani.spam at gmail.com
Fri Nov 14 03:51:57 EST 2008

2008/11/13 Conal Elliott <conal at conal.net>:
> As Magnus pointed out in his (very clever) paper, the Applicative interface
> allows for more precise/efficient tracking of dependencies, in that it
> eliminates accidental sequentiality imposed by the Monad interface.  (Magnus
> didn't mention Applicative by name, as his paper preceded
> Idiom/Applicative.)  However, I don't see an Applicative instance in the
> library.

I was wondering about that, actually.  The specialized Applicative
instance mentioned in the paper adds an additional storage cell to the
computation graph.  I would expect that for simple computations, using
the applicative instance could perform worse than "naive" monadic

For example, given three adaptive references "ref1", "ref2", and
"ref3" :: Adaptive Int

    a <- ref1
    b <- ref2
    c <- ref3
    return (a+b+c)

This computation adds three "read" nodes to the current "write"
output.  But this code:

    (\a b c -> a + b + c) <$> read ref1 <*> read ref2 <*> read ref3

using (<*>) = the enhanced version of "ap" from the paper.

I believe this would allocate additional cells to hold the results of
the function partially applied to the intermediate computations.
Overall I think this would not be a win in this case.  But it is also
easy to construct cases where it *is* a win.  I suppose you can allow
the user to choose one or the other, but my general expectation for
Applicative is that (<*>) should never perform *worse* than code that
uses Control.Monad.ap

Is this the right understanding, or am I totally missing something
from the Adaptive paper?

  -- ryan

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