Category Archives: Programming

Derivations as computations

I have a keynote talk "Derivations as Computations" at ICFP 2019.

Abstract: According to the propositions-as-types reading, programs correspond to proofs, i.e., a term t of type A encodes a derivation D whose conclusion is t : A. But to be quite precise, D may have parts which are not represented in t, such as subderivations of judgmental equalities. In general, a term does not record an entire derivation, but only its proof relevant part. This is not a problem, as long as the missing subderivations can be reconstructed algorithmically. For instance, an equation may be re-checked, as long as we work in a type theory with decidable equality checking.

But what happens when a type theory misbehaves? For instance, the extensional type theory elides arbitrarily complex term through applications of the equality reflection principle. One may take the stance that good computational properties are paramount, and dismiss any type theory that lacks them – or one may look into the matter with an open mind.

If there is more to a derivation than its conclusion, then we should not equate the two. Instead, we can adopt a fresh perspective in which the conclusion is the result of a derivation. That is, we think of a derivation as a computation tree showing how to compute its conclusion. Moreover, the computation encoded by the derivation is effectful: proof irrelevance is the computational effect of discarding data, while checking a side condition is the effect of consulting an oracle. Where there are two computational effects, surely many others can be found.

Indeed, we may set up type theory so that any terminating computation represents a derivation, as long as the computational steps that construct type-theoretic judgments are guaranteed to be validated by corresponding inference rules. Common techniques found in proof assistants (implicit arguments, coercions, equality checking, etc.) become computational effects. If we allow the user to control the effects, say through the mechanism of Plotkin and Pretnar’s handlers for algebraic effects, we obtain a very flexible proof assistant capable of dealing with a variety type theories.

Algebraic effects and handlers at OPLSS 2018

I have had the honor to lecture at the Oregon Programming Language Summer School 2018 on the topic of algebraic effects and handlers. The notes, materials and the lectures are available online:

I gave four lectures which started with the mathematics of algebraic theories, explained how they can be used to model computational effects, how we make a programming language out of them, and how to program with handlers.

A HoTT PhD position in Ljubljana

I am looking for a PhD student in mathematics. Full tuition & stipend will be provided for a period of three years, which is also the official length of the programme. The topic of research is somewhat flexible and varies from constructive models of homotopy type theory to development of a programming language for a proof assistant based on dependent type theory, see the short summary of the Effmath project for a more detailed description.

The candidate should have as many of the following desiderata as possible, and at the very least a master’s degree (or an equivalent one):

  1. a master’s degree in mathematics, with good knowledge of computer science
  2. a master’s degree in computer science, with good knowledge of mathematics
  3. experience with functional programming
  4. experience with proof assistants
  5. familiarity with homotopy type theory

The student will officially enrol in October 2015 at the University of Ljubljana. No knowledge of Slovene is required. However, it is possible, and even desirable, to start with the actual work (and stipend) earlier, as soon as in the spring of 2015. The candidates should contact me by email as soon as possible. Please include a short CV and a statement of interest.

Update 2015-03-28: the position has been taken.

TEDx “Zeroes”

I spoke at TEDx University of Ljubljana. The topic was how programming influences various aspects of life. I showed the audence how a bit of simple programming can reveal the beauty of mathematics. Taking John Baez’s The Bauty of Roots as an inspiration, I drew a very large image (20000 by 17500 pixels) of all roots of all polynomials of degree at most 26 whose coefficients are $-1$ or $1$. That’s 268.435.452 polynomials and 6.979.321.752 roots. It is two degrees more than Sam Derbyshire’s image,  so consider the race to be on! Who can give me 30 degrees?

Continue reading TEDx “Zeroes”

How to implement dependent type theory III

I spent a week trying to implement higher-order pattern unification. I looked at couple of PhD dissertations, talked to lots of smart people, and failed because the substitutions were just getting in the way all the time. So today we are going to bite the bullet and implement de Bruijn indices and explicit substitutions.

The code is available on Github in the repository andrejbauer/tt (the blog-part-III branch).

Continue reading How to implement dependent type theory III

How to implement dependent type theory II

I am on a roll. In the second post on how to implement dependent type theory we are going to:

  1. Spiff up the syntax by allowing more flexible syntax for bindings in functions and products.
  2. Keep track of source code locations so that we can report where the error has occurred.
  3. Perform normalization by evaluation.

Continue reading How to implement dependent type theory II