[swift-evolution] Universal Equatability, Hashability, and Comparability

Brian Pratt brian at pratt.io
Tue Mar 8 16:02:41 CST 2016

Definitely a +1 on the basics. When you get inheritance involved, does that
complicates things a little bit?

Let's say I have a subclass instance that has corresponding fields with a
superclass instance. Is it equal to said super-class instance using just
member-wise comparisons? Would that be problematic? In Scala you'd often
use a reference to an "equality contract" object type in order to get
"transitive" equality between subclasses and superclasses, which definitely
feels like a step backwards from the current protocol-driven approach.

On Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 2:54 PM, Joe Groff via swift-evolution <
swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:

> (starting a new thread by DaveA's request)
> There's a definition of equality that makes sense as a default for nearly
> every type in our system:
> - Basic types like IntNN, FloatNN, String, etc. have domain-defined
> equality,
> - Structs and tuples can be considered equal if their corresponding fields
> are equal,
> - Enums can be considered equal if they carry the same, equal payload,
> - Class references can be considered equal if they refer to the same
> instance,
> - Metatypes can be considered equal if they represent the same type, and
> - Existentials can be considered equal if they carry equal values of the
> same dynamic type.
> and similarly, reasonable hash code implementations could be synthesized
> by applying a standard hash combine operation over the components, and a
> default ordering  could be assigned to values of every type. I think it's
> worth considering whether Equatable, Hashable, and/or Comparable, instead
> of being explicit protocols, should become universal behavior like 'print',
> with customization points to override the default behavior. If Equatable
> and Hashable behavior were universal, that would solve many of the common
> problems people currently have trying to work with heterogeneous
> containers. In object-oriented frameworks, including Cocoa, Java, and .NET,
> it is common for the root (NS)Object class to provide default equality and
> hashing operations. There are of course some tradeoffs:
> - Universal behavior would require us to either generate code for '==',
> 'hashValue', and/or '<' for every type, or provide sufficient reflection
> info for a common runtime implementation to do it. The reflection-based
> approach may be reasonable for print(), since dumping reflection info only
> reduces the quality of the default logging behavior, but '==' and
> 'hashValue' are more essential to proper behavior, so relying on reflection
> might be too slow, and would be brittle when we introduce the ability to
> drop reflection info.
> - Type safety with '==' is important to prevent accidental '1 == "1"' type
> comparsions, and a fully generic 'func ==<T>(x: T, y: T) -> Bool' could
> potentially allow those sorts of mixed-type comparisons by accident.
> Language rules that constrained when generic parameters can be resolved to
> supertypes might help here.
> - Function types in Swift do not provide a ready equality operation. We
> could provide a default implementation that always returns 'false', perhaps.
> - A Comparable ordering can be dreamt up for many types, but it's not
> always a stable ordering, or a desired one. Many people have complained
> that 'nil < .Some(1)' works for optionals, for instance, ordering 'nil'
> below Some values. We could use pointer identity to order class instances
> and types, but this wouldn't be a stable ordering across process runs. That
> might be good enough for ordered collections like search trees, but is
> weaker than what many people expect '<' to do.
> It's my feeling that Equatable and Hashable would make a lot of sense as
> universal operations; I'm not so sure about Comparable.
> -Joe
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