Relating partial evaluation, multi-stage programming and macros

Here is some quick fact on two metaprogramming techniques. $$ \begin{array}{l} \mathsf{letrec}\ \mathtt{pow}\ =\ \lambda n : \mathsf{Int}. \lambda x : \mathsf{Int}. \\ \quad \mathsf{if}\ (\mathsf{eqInt}\ n\ 0)\ 1\ (x\ * (\mathtt{pow}\ (n - 1)\ x)) \end{array} $$

What can we do with an expression $\mathtt{pow}\ 3$?

Partial evaluation

The "partial evaluation" answer is to inline the definition, and evaluate what can be evaluated, yielding a residual program. $$ \begin{array}{l} \lambda x : \mathsf{Int}. \mathsf{if}\ (\mathsf{eqInt}\ 3\ 0)\ 1\ (x * (\mathtt{pow}\ (3 - 1)\ x)\\ \lambda x : \mathsf{Int}. x * (\mathtt{pow}\ 2\ x)\\ \ldots\\ \lambda x : \mathsf{Int}. x * (x * (x * 1)) \end{array} $$


The multi-stage programming answer (or staging) is to rethink $\mathtt{pow}$ as a transformation of code. $$ \newcommand{\qquote}[1]{\color{blue}{[|}#1\color{blue}{|]}} \begin{array}{l} \mathsf{letrec}\ \mathtt{pow}\ =\ \lambda n : \mathsf{Int}. \lambda x : \mathsf{\color{blue}{Code[Int]}}. \\ \quad \mathsf{if}\ (\mathsf{eqInt}\ n\ 0)\ \color{blue}{[|}1\color{blue}{|]}\ \color{blue}{[|}($x * $(\mathtt{pow}\ (n - 1)\ x)\color{blue}{|]} \\ \mathsf{let}\ \mathtt{mkpow}\ =\ \lambda n : \mathsf{Int}. \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. $(\mathtt{pow}\ n \qquote{y})}\\ \end{array} $$

The notation was (probably) not designed to scare you:

  • $\qquote{\ldots}$ is quasi-quotation. What is between these brackets is code
  • $\$(\ldots)$ is used within a quasi-quoted expression to splice code.

Now $\mathtt{mkpow}\ 3$ is going to give us the code of the desired power function: $$ \begin{array}{l} \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. $(\mathtt{pow}\ 3\ \qquote{y})}\\ \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. $(\mathsf{if}\ (\mathsf{eqInt}\ 3\ 0)\ \qquote{1}\ \qquote{($\qquote{y} * $(\mathtt{pow}\ (3 - 1)\ \qquote{y})})}\\ \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. $\qquote{($\qquote{y} * $(\mathtt{pow}\ 2\ y)})}\\ \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. $\qquote{y} * $(\mathtt{pow}\ 2\ y)}\\ \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. y * $(\mathtt{pow}\ 2\ y)}\\ \qquote{\ldots}\\ \qquote{\lambda y : \mathsf{Int}. y * (y * (y * 1))} \end{array} $$

There can be nested levels of $\color{blue}{\mathsf{Code}}$ and this explains the term multi-stage programming. For objects of this type to be really useful, there should be a method $\mathsf{run}: \color{blue}{\mathsf{Code}[T]} \rightarrow T$.

Macros are very related to the above: a macro gives the programmer a way to give a definition that is elaborated at compile time. This is similar to what is going on in splicing. The special case is that it is the compiler that calls $\mathsf{run}$; in other words,the context in which a macro is elaborated is the "compile-time stage". The design of Scala's metaprogramming facilities is consistent with all this, and I picked this up from "A practical unification of multi-stage programming and macros" by Stucki, Biboudis, Odersky.

That's all; this is shallow as all my posts and there would be more to say; "Modal analysis of staged computation" by Davies and Pfenning would be a good place to continue for the curious and/or impatient. I'd like to connect these views on staging and macros and modal logic, but that's for another day.

No comments: