Show, Eq not necessary for Num [Was: Revamping the numeric classes]

William Lee Irwin III [email protected]
Sun, 11 Feb 2001 02:01:02 -0800


Sun, 11 Feb 2001 13:37:28 +1300, Brian Boutel <[email protected]> pisze:
>> Can you demonstrate a revised hierarchy without Eq? What would
>> happen to Ord and the numeric classes with default class method
>> definitions that use (==) either explicitly or in pattern matching
>> against numeric literals?

I anticipate that some restructuring of the numeric classes must be
done in order to accomplish this. I am, of course, attempting to
contrive such a beast for my own personal use.

On Sun, Feb 11, 2001 at 07:59:38AM +0000, Marcin 'Qrczak' Kowalczyk wrote:
> OK, then you can't write these default method definitions.
> I'm against removing Eq from the numeric hierarchy, against making Num
> instances for functions, but I would probably remove Show. I haven't
> seen a sensible proposal of a replacement of the whole hierarchy.

Well, there are a couple of problems with someone like myself trying
to make such a proposal. First, I'm a bit too marginalized and/or
committed to a radical alternative. Second, I don't have the right
associations or perhaps other resources.

Removing Eq sounds like a good idea to me, in all honesty, though I
think numeric instances for functions (at least by default) aren't
great ideas. More details follow:

Regarding Eq, there are other types besides functions which might
not be good ideas to define equality on, either because they're not
efficiently implementable or are still inappropriate. Matrix types
aren't good candidates for defining equality, for one. Another one
you might not want to define equality on are formal power series
represented by infinite lists, since equality tests will never
terminate. A third counterexample comes, of course, from graphics,
where one might want to conveniently scale and translate solids.
Testing meshes and surface representations for equality is once
again not a great idea. Perhaps these counterexamples are a little
contrived, but perhaps other people can come up with better ones.

As far as the function instances of numeric types, there are some
nasty properties that they have that probably make it a bad idea.
In particular, I discovered that numeric literals' fromInteger
property creates the possibility that something which is supposed
to be a scalar or some other numeric result might accidentally be
applied. For instance, given an expression with an intermediate
numeric result like:

	f u v . g x y $ h z

which is expected to produce a number, one could accidentally apply
a numeric literal or something bound to one to some arguments, creating
a bug. So this is for at least partial agreement, though I think it
should be available in controlled circumstances. Local module
importations and/or scoped instances might help here, or perhaps
separating out code that relies upon them into a module where the
instance is in scope, as it probably needs control which is that tight.

Sun, 11 Feb 2001 13:37:28 +1300, Brian Boutel <[email protected]> pisze:
>> In an instance declaration, if a method requires operations of
>> another class which is not a superclass of the class being instanced,
>> it is sufficient to place the requirement in the context,

On Sun, Feb 11, 2001 at 07:59:38AM +0000, Marcin 'Qrczak' Kowalczyk wrote:
> Better: it is sufficient if the right instance is defined somewhere.

Again, I'd be careful with this idea. It's poor design to unnecessarily
restrict the generality of code. Of course, it's poor design to not try
to enforce necessary conditions in the type system, too, which is why
library design is nontrivial. And, of course, keeping it simple enough
for use by the general populace (or whatever semblance thereof exists
within the Haskell community) might well conflict with the desires of
persons like myself who could easily fall prey to the accusation that
they're trying to turn Haskell into a computer algebra system, and adds
yet another constraint to the library design making it even tougher.


Cheers,
Bill