[Haskell-cafe] about Haskell code written to be "too smart"

Thomas Hartman tphyahoo at gmail.com
Sat Apr 4 13:41:31 EDT 2009

Thanks Claus,

  Indeed the problem was that I was using the Strict state monad, with
lazy state it does the right thing when run through testP. I will try
and get back to this thread if I manage the derivation which "proves"
(or at least supports) that the two versions are equivalent.

2009/4/4 Claus Reinke <claus.reinke at talk21.com>:
>>  takeListSt' = evalState . foldr k (return []) . map (State . splitAt)
>>    where k m m'    = cutNull $ do x<-m; xs<-m'; return (x:xs)
>>          cutNull m = do s<-get; if null s then return [] else m
> |Not only is ths not that elegant anymore,
> As I was saying, sequence/mapM with early cutout is common
> enough that one might want it in the libraries, which would return
> this variant into readability again.
> |I think it *still* has a bug, stack overflow against
> That would really surprise me. Not that it is impossible - as I was
> also saying, I haven't replayed the derivation for the modified code.
> However, the modification was arrived at by taking the original
> derivation, seeing where its result deviated from the explicitly
> recursive specification, and spotting the aspect of the implicitly
> recursive version that was responsible for the deviation.
> Of course, the derivation itself could have an error, but equating the
> functions themselves gives me rather more confidence/coverage than any
> finite number of tests could. If I were to enter the derivation
> into a proof checking tool and be successful, that would further raise
> the level of confidence/coverage (leaving bugs in the proof checker).
> Note that I'm not asking whether the original spec did the "right"
> thing, only whether or not the variations "correctly" do the same
> thing as the original spec.
> |testP pf = mapM_ putStrLn  [
> |          show $ take 5 $ pf (repeat 0) [1,2,3]
> |          , show $ pf ( take 1000 [3,7..] ) [1..100]
> |          , show . pf [3,7,11,15] $ ( take (10^6) [1..])
> |          , show . head . last $ pf (take 1000 $ [3,3..]) [1..10^6]
> |        ]
> |
> |where the first test (with take 5) is new.
> |whereas the version with explicit recursion and pattern matching
> |doesn't suffer from this problem
> I get identical results for 'takeListSt'' and the original 'takeList1'
> (code repeated below).
> It took me a couple of moments to remember that you had been playing with
> Control.Monad.State.Strict instead of the default
> Control.Monad.State(.Lazy). That would invalidate the original derivation
> (different definition of '>>=', therefore a different end result after
> unfolding '>>='), let alone the modified code based on it.
> If you replay the derivation, taking the strictness variations into account,
> you should arrive at an explicitly recursive version that
> differs from the spec. Which might make it easier to see what
> the difference is.
> |partitions [] xs = []
> |partitions (n:parts) xs =
> |  let (beg,end) = splitAt n xs
> |  in  beg : ( case end of
> |               [] -> []
> |               xs -> partitions parts xs)
> That version cannot be transformed into the original spec, because
> it doesn't define the same function. As I mentioned:
>> (btw, both 'takeListSt'' and 'takeListSc'' pass Thomas' 'testP', as does
>> his 'partitions', but 'partitions' is not the same function as 'takeList':
>> consider 'null $ takeList [1] undefined' and 'takeList [0] []' ;-)
> With the original spec
> takeList1 [] _         =  []
> takeList1 _ []         =  []
> takeList1 (n : ns) xs  =  h : takeList1 ns t
>   where (h, t) = splitAt n xs
> and 'takeList4' being your 'partitions', we get:
> *Main> null $ takeList1 [1] undefined
> *** Exception: Prelude.undefined
> *Main> null $ takeList4 [1] undefined
> False
> *Main> takeList1 [0] []
> []
> *Main> takeList4 [0] []
> [[]]
>> I am starting to think that the tricky part in all these functions is
>> that by using higher order functions from the prelude, you sweep the
>> failure case under the rug.
> Yes, the reason that more abstract functions are useful is that they
> hide irrelevant details, allowing us to spend our limited capacity on
> relevant details. If all abstract functions happen to hide details that
> matter, more concrete functions that expose those details can be more
> helpful.
> But even that has to be qualified: for instance, at first I found it easier
> to see the issues with the original 'State' variant in its transformed,
> explicitly recursive version, but after the derivation had convinced me that
> there was no magic going on, I realized that it was just the old 'mapM'
> doesn't stop early issue. So I could have seen the issue in the abstract
> form, but my mind (and apparently other minds, too;-) refused to think about
> the cornercases there until prompted.
> If not for this tendency to ignore details that might be relevant, the
> abstract code would provide an abstract treatment of the failure case as
> well: instead of working out the details by trying to find useful tests for
> the explicit pattern matches, we can just look at
> wether the definition uses 'mapM' or 'mapMWithCut', or whether
> it uses 'Control.Monad.State' or 'Control.Monad.State.Strict'.
> Just exposing all the details all the time isn't going to help, as the
> 'partition' example demonstrates: we might still ignore the relevant
> details, this time not because they are hidden in abstractions, but
> because they are hidden in other irrelevant details. There really
> isn't a single view of software that will serve all purposes, one
> has to find appropriate views for every task, including using
> multiple views of the same piece of software. Which is where
> program transformation comes in handy!-)
>> Specifically, what happens when splitAt n doesn't have a list of length n?
>> The answer isn't in fact obvious at all. I can think of three things that
>> could hapen.
> I agree that the "right" thing to do can be a matter of dispute, and
> so I based my definition of "correct" on equivalence to a specific version
> of the code, the first explicitly recursive version I could find
> ('takeList1' above).
> Claus
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