Archive for December, 2010

Rambling Thoughts about Comonads

December 18, 2010

[Slightly revised since first posted.]

This entire post is, or is intended to be, a Literate Haskell file. You can copy-paste the whole thing into an .lhs file and run it with ghc (I vouch for it only in version 6.12.3). Some caveats: I am not a Haskell programmer. At worst you should suspect everything I say of being, well, wrong, and at best I’m comfortably certain the code in here is not as elegant as it ought to be. Apologies for all the references that I neglected to include either out of ignorance or out of laziness. And as will be clear I’ve been awfully sloppy throughout.

A while back I started thinking about comonads. I now have little idea why—“a while” is nearly two years—but I think I must have been troubled by the apparent lack of symmetry between monads and comonads in functional programming. It seemed somehow ufair that monads are so useful and get so much attention, while their poor duals are neglected. Really I just wondered whether some of the standard monad constructions and connections—monad notation, most obviously, and the connection with Applicative Arrows—had any dual consructions, and whether they might be useful. It turns out they there are indeed dual constructions, although I suppose I can’t truly swear to the usefulness part. Herein are most of my collected thoughts on the subject.

BTW, I have little idea how much of what follows is original, but a couple of things way down below the fold might be. You can easily find a fair bit about comonads and examples thereof, but I haven’t seen either real proposals for comonad notation (not that I’m claiming there’s one of those here either) or anything about “Coapplicative Arrows” elsewhere.