Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Procedural Reflection in Programming Languages Volume 1

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Procedural Reflection in Programming Languages Volume 1

Brian Cantwell Smith’s dissertation that is the base document for reflection in programming languages.


We show how a computational system can be constructed to “reason”, effectively and consequentially, about its own inferential processes. The analysis proceeds in two parts. First, we consider the general question of computational semantics, rejecting traditional approaches, and arguing that the declarative and procedural aspects of computational symbols (what they stand for, and what behaviour they engender) should be analysed independently, in order that they may be coherently related. Second, we investigate self-referential behaviour in computational processes, and show how to embed an effective procedural model of a computational calculus within that calculus (a model not unlike a meta-circular interpreter, but connected to the fundamental operations of the machine in such a way as to provide, at any point in a computation, fully articulated descriptions of the state of that computation, for inspection and possible modification). In terms of the theories that result from these investigations, we present a general architecture for procedurally reflective processes, able to shift smoothly between dealing with a given subject domain, and dealing with their own reasoning processes over that domain.

An instance of the general solution is worked out in the context of an applicative language. Specifically, we present three successive dialects of LISP: 1-LISP, a distillation of current practice, for comparison purposes; 2-LISP, a dialect constructed in terms of our rationalised semantics, in which the concept of elevation is rejected in favour of independent notions of simplification and reference, and in which the respective categories of notation, structure, semantics, and behaviour are strictly aligned; and 3-LISP, an extension of 2-LISP endowed with reflective powers. (Warning: Hand copied from an image PDF. Tying errors may have occurred.)

I think reflection as it is described here is very close to Newcomb’s notion of composite subject identities, which are themselves composed of composite subject identities.

Has me wondering what a general purpose identification language with reflection would look like?

Martin Odersky: Reflection and Compilers

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Martin Odersky: Reflection and Compilers

From the description:

Reflection and compilers do tantalizing similar things. Yet, in mainstream, statically typed languages the two have been only loosely coupled, and generally share very little code. In this talk I explore what happens if one sets out to overcome their separation.

The first half of the talk addresses the challenge how reflection libraries can share core data structures and algorithms with the language’s compiler without having compiler internals leaking into the standard library API. It turns out that a component system based on abstract types and path-dependent types is a good tool to solve this challenge. I’ll explain how the “multiple cake pattern” can be fruitfully applied to expose the right kind of information.

The second half of the talk explores what one can do when strong, mirror-based reflection is a standard tool. In particular, the compiler itself can use reflection, leading to a particular system of low-level macros that rewrite syntax trees. One core property of these macros is that they can express staging, by rewriting a tree at one stage to code that produces the same tree at the next stage. Staging lets us implement type reification and general LINQ-like functionality. What’s more, staging can also be applied to the macro system itself, with the consequence that a simple low-level macro system can produce a high-level hygienic one, without any extra effort from the language or compiler.

Ignore the comments about the quality of the sound and video. It looks like substantial improvements have been made or I am less sensitive to those issues. Give it a try and see what you think.

Strikes me as being very close to Newcomb’s thoughts on subject identity being composed of other subject identities.

Such that you could have subject representatives that “merge” together and then themselves form the basis for merging other subject representatives.

Suggestions of literature on reflection, its issues and implementations? (Donated books welcome as well. Contact for physical delivery address.)