Implicit self-adjusting computation for purely functional programs

Journal of Functional Programming

Yan Chen, Jana Dunfield, Matthew A. Hammer and Umut A. Acar


Computational problems that involve dynamic data, such as physics simulations and program development environments, have been an important subject of study in programming languages. Building on this work, recent advances in self-adjusting computation have developed techniques that enable programs to respond automatically and efficiently to dynamic changes in their inputs. Self-adjusting programs have been shown to be efficient for a reasonably broad range of problems but the approach still requires an explicit programming style, where the programmer must use specific monadic types and primitives to identify, create and operate on data that can change over time.

We describe techniques for automatically translating purely functional programs into self-adjusting programs. In this implicit approach, the programmer need only annotate the (top-level) input types of the programs to be translated. Type inference finds all other types, and a type-directed translation rewrites the source program into an explicitly self-adjusting target program. The type system is related to information-flow type systems and enjoys decidable type inference via constraint solving. We prove that the translation outputs well-typed self-adjusting programs and preserves the source program's input-output behavior, guaranteeing that translated programs respond correctly to all changes to their data. Using a cost semantics, we also prove that the translation preserves the asymptotic complexity of the source program.

Reader’s guide

This is an expanded and corrected version of our ICFP 2011 paper.

Accepted manuscript (March 2014)

BibTeX entry

  author =     {Yan Chen and Jana Dunfield and Matthew A. Hammer and Umut A. Acar},
  title =      {Implicit Self-Adjusting Computation for Purely Functional Programs},
  journal =    {J. Functional Programming},
  volume =     {24},
  number =     {1},
  pages =      {56--112},
  year =       {2014}


Copyright held by Cambridge University Press.

J. Dunfield