[swift-evolution] [Proposal idea] Support for pure functions

Andrew Bennett cacoyi at gmail.com
Thu Jan 14 02:25:37 CST 2016

Very interesting points Andy, I think I agree with pretty much everything
you've said.

Good point on `func foo<T>(t: T) {}` being impure without a type
constraint, deinit seems to have some interesting consequences.

I've been throwing around the idea of having this notation:

func myFunc<T,U>(value: T, apply: T -> U) @pure(apply) -> U

to indicate that myFunc is pure if 'apply' is also pure. Similar to

If it also requires that A has a pure deinit, or further requirements, then
perhaps you could use "@pure(value,apply)". In your case you would annotate
it like this:

func foo<T>(t: T) @pure(t) {}

Then the compiler can make foo pure only if T's `deinit` is marked @pure.
The issue there is, as you say, if T can be subclassed then those need
@pure deinit. This could be solved if the annotation is always inherited,
likewise for overrides.

On Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:27 PM, Andrew Trick <atrick at apple.com> wrote:

> I'm moving the discussion from "Proposal proposal: @pure keyword" here and
> jumping in this time.
> On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 11:01 PM, Michel Fortin via swift-evolution <
> swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> > 1. Pure means that the function always return the same value given the
> same arguments, and has no side effects (it purely computes a result from
> its inputs), making it possible for the compiler, or a cache, to reuse the
> result from a previous call. This is the simplest definition, and it
> provide strong guaranties. Let's call that "strongly pure".
> >
> > 2. Pure just mean that the function has no access to global variables.
> It can only mutate "outside" things through inout parameters or pointers
> (including class references) passed to it by the caller. So in the general
> case you can't reuse the results. But you can use this function to mutate
> the state inside a strongly pure one. A strongly pure function in this case
> is one with no inout or pointer in the signature.
> There are two independently useful proporties, which I choose to call
> @pure and @noglobals. (Those names haven't been bikeshedded). However, I
> don't think @pure needs to be as strong as was suggested. A pure function
> can mutate its copy of any values that it takes and return those to the
> caller. It cannot access shared state--that is, state the may be reachable
> via other values. Put simply, it can't access heap objects unless we can
> guarantee those objects are uniquely referenced or immutable.
> These properties can and should be inferred by the compiler. However, I
> feel that at least @noglobals should be the default, if not @pure, so that
> published APIs permit future optimization. If they aren't accepted as
> default, then we should aggressively add annotations to stdlib entry
> points. The compiler can then infer purity in higher level user code.
> Note that I'm looking at this mainly from an optimizer-hint perspective,
> and haven't seriously considered supporting computed lets.
> On 9 Jan 2016, at 8:04 PM, Andrew Bennett <cacoyi at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Is a method impure if it uses self? I suppose it could be. I guess self
> is
> > an inout parameter. I presume an inout parameter is a known expected.
> > side-effect.
> I think normal inout parameters, including self are still @pure (closure
> captures are not pure). inout arguments do not have pointer-like semantics
> and are guaranteed not to alias for the purpose of side-effect visibility.
> The inout arguments simply need to be treated as results. Naturally, a
> @pure call cannot be eliminated if the inout argument is used after the
> call. Similarly, two mutating pure method calls on the same struct are not
> redundant. These facts are obvious to the optimizer, so I don't see the
> issue.
> The value of the inout argument can mutate locally within a @pure
> function. If that argument is a struct, then those struct members can
> mutate.
> The argument values, whether inout or not, can be copied without losing
> purity. Incrementing reference counts should not be considered a side
> effect from the perspective of function purity. It's true that we have an
> isUniquelyReferenced() API, but there is a requirement on the user of this
> API to ensure identical program behavior regardless of the return value (it
> is purely an optimization for CoW implementations).
> On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 11:01 PM, Michel Fortin via swift-evolution
> <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> > All that's good in theory, but there is a major detail that needs
> addressing. Memory allocation breaks the guaranties of a "strongly pure"
> function. For instance, if you return a newly allocated object, or a struct
> with a pointer to an object, the object is going to be a different one
> every time. That object is mutable memory, and returning a different chunk
> of mutable memory is quite different in semantics from returning the same
> one. If you want strong purity guaranties when returning objects (and thus
> be able to optimize by reusing the result from a previous call), there
> needs to be a way to return objects that have a language-enforced guaranty
> of immutability... same for structs that can have a pointer to an object or
> other memory. Without immutability guaranties, `@pure` has almost no
> optimization value.
> I think broader support for immutability requires a separate proposal. I
> will say that we would like to optimize around calls that allocate objects
> but are otherwise @pure (they can't be marked @pure because they are not
> idempotent). We can probably get a lot of mileage out of marking them
> @noglobals. If we need to do better, we could introduce a @pure_with_alloc
> sort of attribute later.
> On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 9:29 PM, Dmitri Gribenko <gribozavr at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > I'm concerned that with this definition we won't be able to mark many
> APIs
> > as pure, even though they actually are pure.  The issue is that this
> > definition disallows local mutation.  Consider CollectionType.sort() --
> the
> > way it is implemented is that it first copies the collection into an
> array,
> > and then sorts that array in-place.  sortInPlace() isn't pure, but
> because
> > the mutation happens on local state, the whole operation is pure.
> Array<T>.sortInPlace() should definitely be considered @pure. Of course,
> that won't be inferred from the rules above because it's implementation
> uses UnsafeMutableBufferPointer, but we will annotate it as such. Chris L.
> already mentioned that we need this escape hatch.
> There is a more general problem with CoW data types. Simply reading an
> array element is superficially impure because it accesses array storage. We
> would work around this using the same "force pure" mechanism because we
> know the storage is uniquely referenced or immutable.
> This leads me to a much bigger issue though. Consuming a generic value is
> not necessarilly @pure because of deinit(). In fact it isn't even
> @noglobals. So this single argument nop function, which doesn't even have
> an inout, is impure and may access globals:
>   func foo<T>(t: T) {}
> To fix this we need to:
> - Assert that freeing a non-ObjC Swift object has no side effects other
> than it's deinit().
> - Introduce a type modifier that prevents any subclasses or protocol
> conformance from introducing an impure deinit().
> Then we could write generic code that guarantees purity:
>   func @pure foo<T : PureType>(t: T) {}
> We still have a problem because our core library routines need to work on
> all types and we aren't going to accept an explosion of purity in the API.
> It's particularly problematic if we want @pure or @noglobal to be default.
> This seems like it will require polymorphic effects/attributes that can be
> derived from the generic type parameters. Generally, we want to be able to
> say that foo<T>(t: T) is pure whenever T is a "pure type" as I explained
> above. This idea could be extended to support declaring a function purity
> conditionally depending on the purity (or @noglobals property) of any
> closure arguments.
> So, to conclude, I'm strongly in favor of defining @pure and @noglobals
> semantics, getting the defaults right, and annotating APIs from the outset.
> However, I don't have a compelling design proposal short of introducing a
> significant language feature. Suggested alternatives or proposals for the
> necessary language support are welcome.
> AndyT
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