[swift-evolution] protocol-oriented integers (take 2)

Dave Abrahams dabrahams at apple.com
Sun Jan 15 21:05:51 CST 2017

Sent from my moss-covered three-handled family gradunza

> On Jan 15, 2017, at 5:29 PM, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Sun, Jan 15, 2017 at 7:24 PM, Dave Abrahams <dabrahams at apple.com> wrote:
>> on Sun Jan 15 2017, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu-AT-gmail.com> wrote:
>> > On Sun, Jan 15, 2017 at 6:42 PM, David Sweeris <davesweeris at mac.com> wrote:
>> >
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> On Jan 15, 2017, at 18:02, Xiaodi Wu <xiaodi.wu at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >>
>> >> "Mathematically correct" integers behave just like Int in that there is
>> >> not a multiplicative inverse. What we're trying to do here is to determine
>> >> how much of what we know about mathematics is usefully modeled in the
>> >> standard library. The answer is not zero, because there is more than just
>> >> counting that people do with integers.
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> It's an interesting problem... When I was in school, "integer" division
>> >> "returned" a "quotient and remainder", a "fraction" (which, occasionally,
>> >> could be simplified to just an integer), or a "real". We never talked about
>> >> division in the context of "(Int, Int) -> Int", though. OTOH, I never took
>> >> any math classes past Differential Equations or Linear Algebra, either...
>> >> I'm *aware* of areas of math where you formally restrict yourself to the
>> >> kind of "(Int, Int) -> Int" operations we're doing here, but I don't
>> >> really know much about it. Is division even well-defined in that context?
>> >>
>> >> - Dave Sweeris
>> >>
>> >
>> > I'm no mathematician, and I'm not sure how to tackle the question of
>> > "well-defined." Hopefully someone who is more knowledgable can chime in
>> > here.
>> >
>> > But I'll have a go at replying to your point as it relates to the practical
>> > issue here. Two Int values can be "divided" to produce another Int, and
>> > that gives a predictable and well-understood result. It's an operation
>> > that's always going to be there--first, because it'd be insane to remove it
>> > since much working code relies on it, and second, because we're only
>> > re-designing integer protocols and not the concrete types. However, it _is_
>> > true that such an operation has very different semantics from division as
>> > you learned it in math.
>> >
>> > This is why I'm advocating for perhaps another look at the top of this
>> > integer protocol hierarchy. At the moment, `Arithmetic` offers reasonable
>> > semantic guarantees for a lot of things, but `/` has different semantics
>> > for integer types and floating point types
>> Well, that really depends on how closely you look.  From one
>> point-of-view, floating point division and integer division *both*
>> produce approximate results.
> Yes, from a certain point of view. I remember we did discuss this at one point on the list; I asked whether FloatingPoint was meant to model only the countable set of representable values or whether it was meant to model the uncountable set of reals. The answer was that here in Swift-land we're trying to model the latter, and the approximate result is an artifact of the imperfect modeling. Integer division, however, is not such an artifact, but fundamentally a different operation.

That's right.  Thanks for keeping us honest and reminding us of our guiding stars. 👌🏻

>> > and is really closer to just syntax. Other mathematical types--which
>> > certainly the stdlib doesn't have to offer, but the stdlib protocol
>> > hierarchy shouldn't preclude their conformance to relevant protocols
>> > if it's possible--such as fractions and complex numbers, share with
>> > floating point types the semantics of `/` that qualify these types as
>> > fields. Dave A's question as to practical uses can probably best be
>> > answered in this way: to the extent that any generic algorithm relies
>> > on `/` having semantics and can be applied to fractions and real
>> > numbers, it would be useful to distinguish such an operation from
>> > integer "division."
>> That's not a bad answer.  Ruminating on this...
>> --
>> -Dave
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