[Haskell] Monad transformer question

Cyril Schmidt cschmidt at deds.nl
Wed Oct 25 08:49:06 EDT 2006

Working on a Monte-Carlo simulation where I have to
calculate the values of a certain function on the given set of inputs,
I noticed that some of the input variables change for every iteration,
while others do not.

To give a simple example, let's suppose I have a function

f a1 a2 p = a1*a2 + p

and I have to get its values for
[ (a1,a2,p) | a1 <- [0.1,0.2], a2 <- [0.1,0.2], p <- [0..9] ]

For efficiency, I want to pre-calculate (a1*a2) for each pair of a1 and a2,
and then calculate f for each p.

(The real function is far more complicated, but the idea is the same:
pre-calculate all that depends on seldom-changing variables, and then run
the rest of the iterations using the pre-calculated value).

I built my function f as a Reader monad because my real f has many
input parameters, so it is handy to have them packed in the Reader's
There are two Readers, in fact: the first environment contains the seldom-
-changing variables, the second contains the variable that changes often.

My code looked as follows.

>{-# OPTIONS -fno-monomorphism-restriction #-}
>module Main where
>import Control.Monad.Reader

The variable that changes most often:

>data Inner = Inner { p1 :: Double }

The variables that change seldom

>data Outer = Outer { a1 :: Double,
>                     a2 :: Double }

Function precalc pre-calculates (a1*a2)

>precalc = do
>    a1 <- asks a1
>    a2 <- asks a2
>    let r = {-# SCC "r" #-} a1*a2
>    return r

Function f in monadic form:

>f :: Reader Outer (Reader Inner Double)
>f = do
>    r <- precalc
>    return $ do { p1 <- asks p1
>                ; let s = {-# SCC "s" #-} r+p1
>                ; return s }

Function runf runs f over all values of p:

>runf (a1,a2) = do
>    let reader  = runReader f $ Outer a1 a2
>        results = map (runReader reader) [ Inner { p1 = x } | x <- [0..9] ]
>    putStrLn $ "a1 = "++show a1++", a2= "++show a2++", results = "
>               ++show results

The main function

>main = mapM_ runf [(a1,a2) | a1 <- [0.1,0.2], a2 <- [0.1,0.2]]

This all works fine; the profiler shows that the (a1*a2) calculation is
exactly 4 times, while addition, just as expected, 40 times.

I noticed that f
f :: Reader Outer (Reader Inner Double)
can be implemented using monad transformer:
f' :: ReaderT Outer (Reader Inner) Double

The only difference in the implementation is that f' uses lift instead of

>f' :: ReaderT Outer (Reader Inner) Double
>f' = do
>    r <- precalc
>    lift   $ do { p1 <- asks p1
>                ; let s = {-# SCC "s" #-} r+p1
>                ; return s }
>runf' (a1,a2) = do
>    let reader  = runReaderT f' $ Outer a1 a2
>        results = map (runReader reader) [ Inner { p1 = x } | x <- [0..9] ]
>    putStrLn $ "a1 = "++show a1++", a2= "++show a2++", results = "
>               ++show results

However similar they look, f and f' have very different behaviour (their
results are the same, of course).

When I use runf' instead of runf, the profiler shows that precalc is
invoked 40 times,
which means that all the benefits of pre-calculating (a1*a2) are gone. (In
the real application, I pre-calculate a much more complicated and
expensive expression, that's why it matters).

I am curious why this happens. As far as I can see, the lift function of
ReaderT is the same as return of Reader, and the >>= in Reader and ReaderT
are pretty similar to each other, so why is the behaviour different?

This is a question of a purely theoretical significance for me; it does
not hinder my work in any way. Still, I would greatly appreciate any
By the way, I am using GHC 6.4.2 on Windows.

Kind regards,


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