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Some Useful Agda

Posted on June 28, 2014
Tags: agda, types

I’ve been using Agda for a few months now. I’ve always meant to figure out how it handles IO but never have.

Today I decided to change that! So off I went to the related Agda wiki page. So hello world in Agda apparently looks like this

    open import IO

    main = run (putStrLn "test")

The first time I tried running this I got an error about an IO.FFI, if you get this you need to go into your standard library and run cabal install in the ffi folder.

Now, on to what this actually does. Like Haskell, Agda has an IO monad. In fact, near as I can tell this isn’t a coincidence at all, Agda’s primitive IO seems to be a direct call to Haskell’s IO.

Unlike Haskell, Agda has two IO monads, a “raw” primitive one and a higher level pure one found in IO.agda. What few docs there are make it clear that you are not intended to write the “primitive IO”.

Instead, one writes in this higher level IO monad and then uses a function called run which converts everything to the primitive IO.

So one might ask: what exactly is this strange IO monad and how does it actually provide return and >>=? Well the docs don’t actually seem to exist so poking about the source reveals

    data IO {a} (A : Set a) : Set (suc a) where
      lift   : (m : Prim.IO A)  IO A
      return : (x : A)  IO A
      _>>=_  : {B : Set a} (m :(IO B)) (f : (x : B) (IO A))  IO A
      _>>_   : {B : Set a} (m₁ :(IO B)) (m₂ :(IO A))  IO A

Wow.. I don’t know about you, but this was a bit different than I was expecting.

So this actually just forms a syntax tree! There’s something quite special about this tree though, those ∞ annotations mean that it’s a “coinductive” tree. So we can construct infinite IO tree. Otherwise it’s just a normal tree.

Right below that in the source is the definition of run

    run :  {a} {A : Set a}  IO A  Prim.IO A
    run (lift m)   = m
    run (return x) = Prim.return x
    run (m  >>= f) = Prim._>>=_ (run (♭ m )) λ x  run ((f x))
    run (m₁ >> m₂) = Prim._>>=_ (run (♭ m₁)) λ _  run (♭ m₂)

So here’s where the evilness comes in! We can loop forever transforming our IO into a Prim.IO.

Now I had never used Agda’s coinductive features before and if you haven’t either than they’re not terribly complicated.

is a prefix operator that stands for a “coinductive computation” which is roughly a thunk. is a prefix operator that delays a computation and forces it.

There are reasonably complex rules that govern what qualifies as a “safe” way to force things. Guarded recursion seems to always work though. So we can write something like

    open import Coinduction
    open import Data.Unit

    data Cothingy (A : Set) : Set where
      conil  : Cothingy A
      coCons : A (Cothingy A)  Cothingy A

    lotsa-units : Cothingy ⊤
    lotsa-units = coCons tt (♯ lotsa-units)

Now using ♯ we can actually construct programs with infinite output.

    forever : IO ⊤
    forever = ♯ putStrLn "Hi" >> ♯ forever

    main = run forever

This when run will output “Hi” forever. This is actually quite pleasant when you think about it! You can view you’re resulting computation as a normal, first class data structure and then reify it to actual computations with run.

So with all of this figured out, I wanted to write a simple program in Agda just to make sure that I got it all.


I decided to write the fizz-buzz program. For those unfamiliar, the specification of the program is

For each of the numbers 0 to 100, if the number is divisible by 3 print fizz, if it’s divisible by 5 print buzz, if it’s divisible by both print fizzbuzz. Otherwise just print the number.

This program is pretty straightforward. First, the laundry list of imports

    module fizzbuzz where

    import Data.Nat        as N
    import Data.Nat.DivMod as N
    import Data.Nat.Show   as N
    import Data.Bool       as B
    import Data.Fin        as F
    import Data.Unit       as U
    import Data.String     as S
    open import Data.Product using (_,_ ; _×_)
    open import IO
    open import Coinduction
    open import Relation.Nullary
    open import Function

This seems to be the downside of finely grained modules.. Tons and tons of imports.

Now we need a function which takes to ℕs and returns true if the first mod the second is zero.

    congruent : N. N. B.Bool
    congruent n    = B.false
    congruent n (N.suc m) with N.__ 0 $ F.toℕ (N._mod_ n (N.suc m) {})
    ... | yes _ = B.true
    ... | no  _ = B.false

Now from here we can combine this into the actual worker for the program

    _and_ : {A B : Set}  A  B  A × B
    _and_ = _,_

    fizzbuzz : N. S.String
    fizzbuzz    = "fizzbuzz"
    fizzbuzz n with congruent n 3 and congruent n 5
    ... | B.true  , B.true   = "fizzbuzz"
    ... | B.true  , B.false  = "fizz"
    ... | B.false , B.true   = "buzz"
    ... | B.false , B.false  = n

Now all that’s left is the IO glue

    worker : N. IO U.
    worker    = putStrLn $ fizzbuzz
    worker (N.suc n) = ♯ worker n >> ♯ putStrLn (fizzbuzz $ N.suc n)

    main = run $ worker 100

There. A somewhat real, IO based program written in Agda. It only took me 8 months to figure out how to write it :)

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