[swift-evolution] [Proposal] Explicit Synthetic Behaviour

Xiaodi Wu xiaodi.wu at gmail.com
Fri Sep 8 20:02:42 CDT 2017

On Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 4:00 PM, Itai Ferber via swift-evolution <
swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:

> On Sep 8, 2017, at 12:46 AM, Haravikk via swift-evolution <
> swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> On 7 Sep 2017, at 22:02, Itai Ferber <iferber at apple.com> wrote:
> protocol Fooable : Equatable { // Equatable is just a simple example
>     var myFoo: Int { get }}
> extension Fooable {
>     static func ==(_ lhs: Self, _ rhs: Self) -> Bool {
>         return lhs.myFoo == rhs.myFoo
>     }}
> struct X : Fooable {
>     let myFoo: Int
>     let myName: String
>     // Whoops, forgot to give an implementation of ==}
> print(X(myFoo: 42, myName: "Alice") == X(myFoo: 42, myName: "Bob")) // true
> This property is *necessary*, but not *sufficient* to provide a correct
> implementation. A default implementation might be able to *assume* something
> about the types that it defines, but it does not necessarily know enough.
> Sorry but that's a bit of a contrived example; in this case the protocol
> should *not* implement the equality operator if more information may be
> required to define equality. It should only be implemented if the protocol
> is absolutely clear that .myFoo is the only part of a Fooable that can or
> should be compared as equatable, e.g- if a Fooable is a database record and
> .myFoo is a primary key, the data could differ but it would still be a
> reference to the same record.
> To be clear, I'm not arguing that someone can't create a regular default
> implementation that also makes flawed assumptions, but that
> synthesised/reflective implementations *by their very nature have to*, as
> they cannot under every circumstance guarantee correctness when using parts
> of a concrete type that they know nothing about.
> You can’t argue this both ways:
>    - If you’re arguing this on principle, that in order for synthesized
>    implementations to be correct, they *must* be able to — *under every
>    circumstance* — guarantee correctness, then you have to apply the same
>    reasoning to default protocol implementations. Given a default protocol
>    implementation, it is possible to come up with a (no matter how contrived)
>    case where the default implementation is wrong. Since you’re arguing this *on
>    principle*, you cannot reject contrived examples.
>    - If you are arguing this *in practice*, then you’re going to have to
>    back up your argument with evidence that synthesized examples are more
>    often wrong than default implementations. You can’t declare that
>    synthesized implementations are *by nature* incorrect but allow
>    default implementations to slide because *in practice*, many
>    implementations are allowable. There’s a reason why synthesis passed code
>    review and was accepted: in the majority of cases, synthesis was deemed to
>    be beneficial, and would provide correct behavior. If you are willing to
>    say that yes, sometimes default implementations are wrong but overall
>    they’re correct, you’re going to have to provide hard evidence to back up
>    the opposite case for synthesized implementations. You stated in a previous
>    email that "A synthesised/reflective implementation however may return
>    a result that is simply incorrect, because it is based on assumptions made
>    by the protocol developer, with no input from the developer of the concrete
>    type. In this case the developer must override it in to provide
>    *correct* behaviour." — if you can back this up with evidence (say,
>    taking a survey of a large number of model types and see if in the majority
>    of cases synthesized implementation would be incorrect) to provide a
>    compelling argument, then this is something that we should in that case
>    reconsider.
Well put, and I agree with this position 100%. However, to play devil's
advocate here, let me summarize what I think Haravikk is saying:

I think the "synthesized" part of this is a red herring, if I understand
Haravikk's argument correctly. Instead, it is this:

(1) In principle, it is possible to have a default implementation for a
protocol requirement that produces the correct result--though not
necessarily in the most performant way--for all possible conforming types,
where by conforming we mean that the type respects both the syntactic
requirements (enforced by the compiler) and the semantic requirements
(which may not necessarily be enforceable by the compiler) of the protocol
in question.

(2) However, there exist *some* requirements that, by their very nature,
cannot have default implementations which are guaranteed to produce the
correct result for all conforming types. In Haravikk's view, no default
implementations should be provided in these cases. (I don't necessarily
subscribe to this view in absolute terms, but for the sake of argument
let's grant this premise.)

(3) Equatable, Hashable, and Codable requirements are, by their very
nature, such requirements that cannot have default implementations
guaranteed to be correct for all conforming types. Therefore, they should
not have a default implementation. It just so happens that a default
implementation cannot currently be written in Swift itself and must be
synthesized, but Haravikk's point is that even if they could be written in
native Swift through a hypothetical reflection facility, they should not
be, just as many other protocol requirements currently could have default
implementations written in Swift but should not have them because they
cannot be guaranteed to produce the correct result.

My response to this line of argumentation is as follows:

For any open protocol (i.e., a protocol for which the universe of possible
conforming types cannot be enumerated a priori by the protocol designer)
worthy of being a protocol by the Swift standard ("what useful thing can
you do with such a protocol that you could not without?"), any sufficiently
interesting requirement (i.e., one for which user ergonomics would
measurably benefit from a default implementation) either cannot have a
universally guaranteed correct implementation or has an implementation
which is also going to be the most performant one (which can therefore be a
non-overridable protocol extension method rather than an overridable
protocol requirement with a default implementation).

> Reflective/synthesised default implementations *must by their very nature* make
> assumptions about a concrete type that are *not* cannot be guaranteed to
> be correct. The properties and methods they may end up interacting with*may
> have nothing at all to do with the protocol*. Equatable remains by far
> the simplest example; just because a developer has used equatable
> properties does *not* guarantee that all of them should be compared
> during a check for equality.
> In the same way that you might consider synthesized conformances to
> overreach into a type and touch things which are not related to a protocol,
> default implementations can be considered *underreach* in that they don’t
> know anything about properties which are necessary for providing a correct
> implementation.
> If more information is necessary to provide a correct implementation, then
> a default implementation shouldn't be provided. This is what unimplemented
> properties and methods are for; either getting the developer to provide the
> missing information, or getting them to implement the correct behaviour.
> I agree, but you can’t selectively argue this.
> _______________________________________________
> swift-evolution mailing list
> swift-evolution at swift.org
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
> _______________________________________________
> swift-evolution mailing list
> swift-evolution at swift.org
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/attachments/20170908/7b87feaf/attachment.html>

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list