Named extensible effects

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Monad transformers are the standard way to extend monads. The transformers package defines monad transformers.

StateT, one of the representative monad transformers, has three parameters:

newtype StateT s m a = StateT { runStateT :: s -> m (a, s) }

The second parameter m allows you to add a new type of effect while preserving the original monad. This is characterised by MonadTrans:

class MonadTrans t where
  lift :: Monad m => m a -> t m a

instance MonadTrans (StateT s) where
  lift m = StateT $ \s -> (\a -> (a, s)) <$> m

As a monad transformer stack gets deeper, it gets more inconvenient to apply lifts. mtl provides type classes in order to avoid this.

MonadState s is such a class; this is the class of monads which have an access to a state s.

class MonadState s m | m -> s where
  get :: m s
  put :: s -> m ()
  state :: (s -> (a, s)) -> m a

StateT s m is an instance of MonadState s.

instance Monad m => MonadState s (StateT s m) where
  get = StateT $ \s -> return (s, s)
  put s = StateT $ const $ return ((), s)

Also, other monad transformers are also instances, when their inner monads are MonadState. Their methods are just lifted.

instance MonadState s m => MonadState (ReaderT r m) where
  get = lift get
  put = lift . put

instance (Monoid w, MonadState s m) => MonadState (WriterT w m) where
  get = lift get
  put = lift . put

This way you don't have to care about the number of lifts, and you can define polymorphic functions using these classes.

However, for library designers, this is a big pain. Basically this kind of class can be defined for each monad; this means adding a monad transformer has a quadratic development cost. It also makes packaging significantly harder.

Extensible effects

Extensible effects is a solution to this problem. The extensible effects framework provides a monad parameterised by a type-level list of effects.

One recent implementation is freer-effects.

In this framework, you don't have to deal with other monads in order to define a new type of effect.

send makes a big difference; it can be thought of as universal lift. As long as t is a member of r, you can embed an action to Eff.

send :: Member t r => t v -> Eff r v

A state monad can be defined as follows:

data State s v where
  Get :: State s s
  Put :: !s -> State s ()

get :: Member (State s) r => Eff r s
get = send Get

put :: Member (State s) r => s -> Eff r ()
put = send . Put

handleRelayS decomposes Eff in a stateful manner.

handleRelayS :: s
  -> (s -> a -> Eff r w)
  -> (forall v. s -> t v -> (s -> v -> Eff r w) -> Eff r w)
  -> Eff (t ': r) a
  -> Eff r w

The following example interprets the State actions.

runState :: Eff (State s ': r) a -> s -> Eff r (a, s)
runState m s0 = handleRelayS s0 (\s a -> return (a, s))
  (\s t k -> case t of
    Get -> k s s
    Put s' -> k s' ()) m

While this seems very good, it leaves one issue.

Unlike MonadState, In a constraint Member (State s) r, r doesn't determine the type of s. This means that you can't use a polymorphic effect without a type signature:

increment :: (Num a, Member (State a) r) => Eff r ()
increment = get >>= put . (+1)

This is annoying, and I think this is one reason why extensible effects are not popular.

Named extensible effects

My extensible library solves this problem by giving names to effects.

liftEff :: forall s t xs a. Associate s t xs
  => Proxy s
  -> t a
  -> Eff xs a

liftEff is like send, but Proxy s specifies the name. Associate s t xs requires that the effect corresponding to name s is t in xs. This version doesn't suffer from the ambiguity problem because s and xs determines t.

Various operations take names:

getEff :: forall k s xs. Associate k (State s) xs => Proxy k -> Eff xs s
putEff :: forall k s xs. Associate k (State s) xs => Proxy k -> s -> Eff xs ()

Eff in extensible is also an instance of MonadState so you can simply write

increment :: (Num a, MonadState a m) => m ()
increment = get >>= put . (+1)

The equivalent of handleRelayS is peelEff. Note that the order of arguments is different.

peelEff1 :: (a -> b -> Eff xs r) -- ^ return the result
  -> (forall x. t x -> (x -> b -> Eff xs r) -> b -> Eff xs r) -- ^ Handle the foremost type of an action
  -> Eff (k >: t ': xs) a -> b -> Eff xs r
peelEff1 = peelEff rebindEff1

Here's an example. You can use TypeApplications extension to specify a name.

runStateEff :: forall k s xs a. Eff (k >: State s ': xs) a -> s -> Eff xs (a, s)
runStateEff = peelEff1 (\a s -> return (a, s))
  (\m k s -> let (a, s') = runState m s in k a $! s')

It's also possible to handle multiple effects which have the same type.

{-# LANGUAGE DataKinds, FlexibleContexts, OverloadedLabels #-}
import Data.Extensible

test :: (Associate "foo" ((,) String) xs
  , Associate "bar" ((,) String) xs) => Eff xs ()
test = do
  tellEff #foo "Hello "
  tellEff #bar "foo"
  tellEff #foo "world"
  tellEff #bar "bar"
> leaveEff $ runWriterEff @ "foo" $ runWriterEff @ "bar" test
(((),"foobar"),"Hello world")


I did some benchmarks on RWS equivalents. Unfortunately, it's much slower than monad transformers.



The idea of extensible effects is promising to avoid the issue of quadratic monad class instances. However, the performance is sluggish. For time being, there is a trade-off between convenience and performance.