[Haskell-cafe] RFC: Top level mutable state in terms of pure-function initialization?

EatsKittens temporalabstraction at gmail.com
Sun Dec 15 11:39:20 UTC 2013

A pure function (enumToIORef :: (Enum a, Defaultable b) => a -> IORef b).
This function returns referentially transparently an IORef as a function of
its "seed" with the guarantee that the IORef returned is identical if and
only if the seed is. This function can be used to implement top level
mutable state in a module. The module can specifically create an enumerated
type for this and not export it, thereby removing any possibility of
another module passing the seed type and conflicting.

The Defaultable class is added in this case to implement only a single
method (defaultValue :: Defaultable a => a -> a). This is conceptionally
the 'simplest' value of the type, such as the empty list, the number 0,
False, the null character &c. The IORef returned by enumToIORef would be
initialized before being written to to this specific default value of its
type. This approach is chosen because it is impossible to initialize it to
user specified value because enumToIORef can be called twice with the same
seed but a different initial value.

In the alternative it is also possible to do without the default value and
say the IORef returned is the same if and only if the seed and the initial
value given are the same. Allowing the function to remain referentially
transparent as well. This would probably require for good semantics the
underlying type of the IORef to be a member of EQ...?

All this would of course require that newIORef and enumToIORef never
produce the same IORef.

Aside its limitations of the type IORef's initialized with this method can
carry, I do believe they cover the vast majority of use cases of top level
mutable state?

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