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Monad as control of the sequencing

In a lazy functional programming language like Haskell, the order of evaluation
does not matter. It does not mean you cannot control the order of evaluation. It
means you can abstract it and build your own sequencing, your own control.
In imperative languages (like C), you need to extend the language to support new
control statements.
In less elegant functional languages (like LISP) you need to have special forms
which do not follow the normal rules for evaluation.
In Haskell, you "just" build your own control operators. Let's see some examples
1.1. Control in IO monad
repeatN 0 a = return ()
repeatN n a = a >> repeatN (n-1) a
test = repeatN 3 $ do
putStrLn "TEST"
And, if you want to pass the loop index to the loop body, you may write:
repeatN 0 a = return ()
repeatN n a = (a n) >> repeatN (n-1) a
test = repeatN 3 $ \i -> do
putStrLn $ "TEST : " ++ (show i)
1.2. Indeterminism monad also known as List monad
Another example of control of the sequencing is the indeterminism monad:
import Control.Monad.List
-- f is a function returning several possible results
f :: Int -> [Int]
f x = [1+x,2*x]
test :: IO ()
test = putStrLn . show $ do
a <- return 5
b <- f a
return b
Here we apply a function f to the value 5. The function f is returning several p
ossible results.
It is possible to chain indeterminate functions like f:
test2 :: IO ()
test2 = putStrLn . show $ do
a <- return 5
b <- f a
c <- f b
return c
but we do not need to give a name to the intermediate results, so let's write it
test2 :: IO ()
test2 = putStrLn . show $ return 5 >>= f >>= f
The Maybe and Either monads are special cases
2. Monad as control of side effects
2.1. IO Monad
It is the standard example so I won't write about it
2.2. Reader monad
A reader monad is used to maintain an environment.
import Control.Monad.Reader

-- The data type for my environment

data MyState = MyState { vara :: Int
, varb :: Int
-- The initial environment
initState = MyState { vara = 10
, varb = 20
-- Computation in the initial environment
test = do theVarA <- asks vara
lift . putStrLn $ show theVarA
`runReaderT` initState
We create a Reader monad to have access to the environment defined by initState.
Then in the monad, we can access the fields of initState.
This state is available whenever we need it in the monad and we do not need to p
ass it as argument.
runReaderT and lift are explained later. They are not important to understand th
is example. You just have to know that the line with lift is used to display a v
alue and the runReaderT is used to initialize the environment.
Now, we can temporarily change the value of one variable and work in this modifi
ed environment.
-- Increment vara from the environment
incrementVarA :: Int -> MyState -> MyState
incrementVarA x p = p {vara = (vara p) + x}
test = do theVarA <- asks vara
lift . putStrLn $ show theVarA
-- computation in the new modified environment
local (incrementVarA 5) $ do
theVarA <- asks vara
lift . putStrLn $ show theVarA
theVarA <- asks vara
lift . putStrLn $ show theVarA
`runReaderT` initState
We have a side effect since the environment is modified and this change is visib
le in a non local way. But this change is nevertheless restricted by the local f
The previous examples are in fact using the Reader monad and the IO monad hence
the use of the monad transformer ReaderT and runReaderT.
You may use runReader. With runReader the type of test is no more IO () but Int:
test = do theVarA <- asks vara
return theVarA
`runReader` initState
So, an equivalent code (with IO) is:
test = putStrLn . show $ do theVarA <- asks vara
return theVarA
`runReader` initState
runReader has type : Reader r a -> r -> a
It is applying a Reader monad to an initial environment (r).
runReaderT is just a bit more complex. It has type: ReaderT r m a -> r -> m a
So, when you're working in ReaderT r IO a, you need to specify if you are workin
g with values of type ReaderT r IO a or IO a. The lift function is used for this
. Its type is m a -> t m a. So it will transform IO a values to ReaderT r IO a.
A different way to look at this (probably a wrong way) is:
If you have a value v of type a, you use return v to inject it in the ReaderT r
IO a monad.
return v would not work if v was of type IO a since you would get a value of typ
e ReaderT r IO (IO a).
So, lift is used to inject the value in the monad.
3. Monad as container
In each monad, you have the return function which is injecting an element into t
he monad. So, any monad can be seen as a kind of container. For the List monad i
t is obvious. Seeing a monad as a container can be very useful.
Assume you want to add an integer to the result of a computation which could ret
urn no result. You may have to do something like that
result = Just 20
test = case result of
Just a -> Just (a + 10)
_ -> Nothing
So, you need to extract the value from the container (if there is something to e
xtract), apply your function and package the result in the same container.
Or you can just write:
test = (+10) `fmap` result
fmap is a kind of generalization of map. map is lifting a function a -> b to the
container [a] -> [b]
fmap is doing the same for a container m (a monad). So, fmap is transforming the
type a -> b to m a -> m b
4. Deriving monad (you have to use -fglasgow-exts)
In a same code you may have to use different Reader monads even if they have the
same type since they may be for different uses.
You may create a type synonym :
type MyEnvironment a = Reader Int a -- (here the environment is just an Int)
But it would not prevent from mixing two different Reader monads if they have th
e same type.
So, you need to create a new type:
newtype MyEnvironment a = MyEnvironment {runMyEnvironment :: Reader Int a}
Then, you want the same behavior. This is just a reader monad (from a behavior p
oint of view) like newtype Meter = Meter Int is just a number (from a behavior p
oint of view).
So, instead of having to write several instance declarations, you just write:
import Control.Monad.Reader
import Control.Monad.Identity
newtype MyEnvironment a = MyEnvironment {runMyEnvironment :: Reader Int a}
deriving (Monad, MonadReader Int)
Then you create an environment . It is just a Reader monad contained in your new
r :: MyEnvironment Int
r = do
r <- MyEnvironment $ ask -- This is packaging the result of ask
-- in MyEnvironment. Hence the work is done
return r -- in the MyEnvironment monad and not in a
-- simple Reader monad r is an Int but
-- return r is a MyEnvironment Int and not
-- a Reader Int Int
Then, you extract the reader monad and apply it to the initial state
test = putStrLn . show $ (runMyEnvironment r) `runReader` 4
5. What's common ?
What do the previous monads have in common ? Nothing ! Or not a lot. Indeed, bei
ng a monad is a very general concept and focusing on the part they have in commo
n (return, >>=) is not the interesting part nor the difficult one. What is inter
esting is how different they are : a Reader monad is providing ask and local fun
ctions ; an IO monad is providing putStrLn etc...
Each monad has its own personality. Of course, >>= will not be the same in each
monad but from a user point of view, it will respect the same monadic laws :
return a >>= k == k a -- return is a "neutral element" on
m >>= return == m -- return is a "neutral element" on
m >>= (\x -> k x >>= h) == (m >>= k) >>= h -- a kind of associativity of >>=
The only things shared by all monads : the monadic laws.
(This post was imported from my old blog. The date is the date of the import. Th
e comments where not imported.)