Time for more monads. In this article, I’m going to show you how to implement a very simple

*state monad* – it’s a trivial monad which allows you to use a mutable state

consisting of a single integer. Then we’ll expand it to allow a more interesting

notion of state.

Let’s get the trivial stuff out of the way. To start off, we’ll use a simple fixed

state type which is just a wrapper for a single integer

>data State = State Int deriving (Show)

A monad over that would be written:

>data SimpleStateMonad a = SSMon (State -> (a,State))

To understand that, just remember that the monad is really a *transition function* for

executing a sequence of computations that use a state. In fact, we’ll describe the sequence of steps

chained together that way as a single monad operation as a *monadic sequence*. In a monadic sequence, each step of the computation is going to take the current state, do something with it, and return both a value and an updated state.

Given the monad type – the basic type of the step function for the sequences we want to build – the first thing that we need to do is implement the fundamental monadic operators. There are two of them: the sequencing operator `(>>=)`

, and the `return`

function that brings a non-monadic value into a monad.

We’ll implement the `(>>=)`

operator, which we’ll implement as a function named *chain*:

>chain :: (SimpleStateMonad a) -> (a -> SimpleStateMonad b) > -> SimpleStateMonad b >chain (SSMon state) stepfun = > SSMon (s -> let (carried, stateBefore) = state s > SSMon stateMonadAfter = stepfun carried > in stateMonadAfter stateBefore)

The way that `chain`

works is crucial, and so we’ll take some time and tease it apart. Chain is a function that takes the result of the previous computation step of the sequence, and

chains it into the next step of the sequence. The way to understand the code is to look at the basic

pieces, and how they’re put together:

- The first binding of the let:
`(carried,stateBefore) = state s`

. This looks

mysterious – so we’ll take the time to look at it carefully.`state`

is the

function inside of the monad that carries hidden monadic state and the result of the previous

step. So all we’re really doing here is unwrapping the results of the*previous*step – extracting the state and the return values, and binding them to separate variables.`carried`

is the result of the previous step, and`stateBefore`

is the

state returned by the previous step – that is, the state*before*we chain in

the next step of the monadic sequence. - The second binding of the let:
`SSMon stateMonadAfter = stepfun carried`

. Again,

it looks mysterious, but it’s really pretty simple. The monad is a step function – we’re

creating a step function*from*the result of the previous step, so that we can

use that to run the next step.`stepfun carried`

is just a function which

passes the state and return value of the first step into the second step of our

chain. - The main expression of the let:
`stateMonadAfter stateBefore`

. This just

runs the step function we generated on the result of the previous step. - The λ wrapping the whole shebang: monads are a bit of a trap – you don’t

get to get out of them without using a type-specific operation that isn’t part of the

monad class. The monadic chain operator needs to result in a monad value – the wrapping

lambda expression just encapsulates the stepping sequence we’ve built into a monadic

function wrapper.

Return is trivial, so we’ll just write it inline in the declaration of our monad type as an instance of the monad typeclass. The typeclass declaration looks like:

>instance Monad SimpleStateMonad where > statemonad >>= statefun = chain statemonad statefun > return nonMonadValue = SSMon (state -> (nonMonadValue, state))

Nothing complicated there. The next thing we need to do is to write some functions usable

*inside* of a monadic computation to access and update the state hidden inside the

monad. Let’s start with retrieving the state value:

>getState :: SimpleStateMonad Int >getState = SSMon (s@(State i) -> (i,s))

That’s it! It’s just a monadic step function that takes the value hidden in the state,

and puts it into the “return value” slot of the monad result. So the monadic state is

unmodified, and the result passed to the next state is the value that was wrapped up in the monad.

Updating is almost as easy:

>putState :: (Int -> Int) -> SimpleStateMonad () >putState updateFun = > let stateUpdateFun = ((State i) -> State (updateFun i)) > in SSMon (s -> ((), stateUpdateFun s))

`putState`

takes a function that performs a modification of the state value. Since

we want people to treat the state as an integer, we do a little bit of wrapping, to translate an `Int -> Int`

function to a `State -> State`

function. The real meat is just

executing the state update function to produce the new state value, and wrapping it up in a monad

that returns the unit value and the updated state.

Finally, we need a function that takes an initial state value, and a monadic sequence of operations, and executes the monadic sequence starting with the state value.

>runWithState :: Int -> SimpleStateMonad a -> (a,State) >runWithState f (SSMon c) = c (State f)

And voila! We have a state monad. Let’s try a simple test of it. Here’s

a monadic sequence that plays with the state a bit.

>testState :: SimpleStateMonad Int >testState = do > putState (3*) > putState (1+) > i return (i+2)

Running that in GHCI gives us:

*Main> runWithState 3 testState (12,State 10) *Main> runWithState 10 testState (33,State 31) *Main>

I ran it twice, with different values for the initial state. The code takes whatever the initial

state is, multiplies it by three, and adds one. That’s the final value of the state. And then the do

block finishes with a value of the current state plus two. What’s actually returned at the end of the

do block is a pair of the return value of the last statement in the block, and the final state. As you can see, it does exactly the right thing. It looks almost like a piece of imperative code,

except that the “assignment” operator, `putState`

takes a function on the current

value of the state instead of just a new value.

So, now we’ve seen the basic method that we can use t make a monad that can encapsulate a kind of

state. But so far, it’s a pretty trivial kind of state: how much good is one integer? Suppose we

wanted something more than that. In fact, suppose we wanted an arbitrary set of named variables

encapsulated in a state. We do almost the same thing as the simple state monad; we just use a more

complicated value inside the monad, and a different set of functions for working with the value in

the state. We’ll start by just building a trivial *non-monadic* implementation of a name/value

list.

>type NameValueMap = [(String,Int)] > >getValueFromList :: NameValueMap -> String -> Int >getValueFromList ((n,v):rest) name > | n == name = v > otherwise = getValueFromList rest name >getValueFromList [] name = -1 > >setValueInList :: NameValueMap -> String -> Int -> [(String,Int)] >setValueInList ((n,v):rest) name newval > | n == name = ((n,newval):rest) > | otherwise = ((n,v):(setValueInList rest name newval)) >setValueInList [] name newval = [(name,newval)]

Now, we’re going to wrap that as a monad. The declaration of the monad type

and the chain and return functions are going to be essentially identical to the integer

state monad.

>data MapStateMonad a = MapMon (NameValueMap -> (a,NameValueMap)) > >mchain :: (MapStateMonad a) -> > (a -> MapStateMonad b) -> > MapStateMonad b >mchain (MapMon state) stepfun = > MapMon (s -> let (carried, stateBefore) = state s > MapMon stateMonadAfter = stepfun carried > in stateMonadAfter stateBefore) > > >instance Monad MapStateMonad where > statemonad >>= statefun = mchain statemonad statefun > return nonMonadValue = > MapMon (state -> (nonMonadValue, state))

Here’s where we do something a little bit different. Instead of having “getState” and “putState” functions for working on the state in the monad, we need operations that fit the new name-map state.

>getFromState :: String -> MapStateMonad Int >getFromState name = > MapMon (statemap -> (getValueFromList statemap name, > statemap)) > >setInState :: String -> Int -> MapStateMonad () >setInState name newval = > MapMon (statemap -> > ((), setValueInList statemap name newval))

And, just as in the case of the simple integer state monad, we need a way of running a monadic sequence with a particular initial state. And while we’re at it, we’ll write a test sequence.

>runWithMapState :: NameValueMap -> > MapStateMonad a -> > (a,NameValueMap) >runWithMapState f (MapMon c) = c f > >testMapMonad = do > setInState "x" 3 > setInState "y" 5 > z x return (x*z)

Now, aside from a bit of syntax, *that* looks like an imperative program, doesn’t it? Except that we’ve implemented it in a pure functional way – using a hidden state parameter. That’s the basic idea of what we do with monads – they allow us to create mini-languages with different

semantics based on the idea of chaining things together into monadic sequences. We write most of the program in the general functional language; but when we need to, we have multiple custom languages at our disposal in the form of the monad system. We can easily use monads for IO, for imperative programming, for Prolog-style backtracking, for non-determinism… All there, in Monads.

Next up, we’ll look at the theory of monads: what they are in category theory, and how that relates to what we’ve seen in programming, and what rules are required by the monadic semantics to make a new monad work correctly.

Neil BartlettHi Mark,

Really good post, thanks. But please, please, could you make your blog posts a little bit more print-friendly? This one is particularly problematic, because the wide code samples have pushed the content of the post below all the ads and banners and navigation bars and search bars and links and more ads and yet more ads 😉

In fact this is simply unprintable in IE – I get half a page of truncated content and then 7 pages of gunk. Maybe Firefox will work better…

Regards

Neil

Mark C. Chu-CarrollNeil:

Sorry about that; I keep forgetting about how the side-banners can interact with page formatting if I’m not careful. I just did a quick edit to reformat so that the code should not overflow into the banners in a normal-sized window – is it better now?

Neil BartlettIt’s a little better, in that I can now read the first 90% (or thereabouts) of each line of text. Generally I can infer the rest.

Xanthir, FCDI regularly have problems viewing GM in my IE-derived browser. I get the same problems with, say, Pharyngula whenever PZ quotes something. However, it always appears perfectly for Firefox.

My guess is that Scienceblogs doesn’t give a damn about IE’s retarded quirks, and just throws out proper code so that browsers which know what the hell they’re doing can render it appropriately.

Brentjust remember that the monad is really a transition function for executing a sequence of computations that use a state.

When I read that sentence, suddenly everything made sense! =)

Joe JonesA couple errors in the post when trying to use it in a literate haskell file:

> otherwise = getValueFromList rest name

should be (missing bar)

> | otherwise = getValueFromList rest name

and

>setValueInList :: NameValueMap -> String

-> Int -> [(String,Int)]

should be (missing > at beginning of statement)

>setValueInList :: NameValueMap -> String

> -> Int -> [(String,Int)]

JustinGood article overall – the parallels between the initial State monad with an Int and the next with a NameValue pair make it obvious there is a generalization coming – at least I hope there is!

However, in the first portion, I think you should really emphasize that state is a function, and the signature is (State -> (a,State)) – from the SSMon constructor. Showing that connection would help make chain a bit clearer.

Rev. BigDumbChimpOT but the uber power shell left out of the Vista release is called “Monad”.

and that’s all my non-math brain can add

PseudonymAs Mark will no doubt mention next time, “monad” in this sense is a conflation of the words “monoid” and “triad”. The term comes from category theory, where a monad is a kind of generalisation of a monoid.

The Vista shell thingy takes its name directly from philosophy. Wordnet defines it as “a singular metaphysical entity from which material properties are said to derive”. I think they’re reaching a bit.