Improving Software ‘Numbers’

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2021-09-26 14:00:09

Programming languages should expose a flexible variety of explicit types and operators for handling arithmetic overflow and related problems. As language design problems go, this might be relatively less difficult to achieve. Rust is closest to where programming languages need to be, but not all the way there yet.

I believe that software should be able to reliably compute arithmetic expressions. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

To represent an infinite set in finite space is problematic. This is not news to most software engineers. We always need a coherent policy for how to deal with our inability to represent some elements of infinite sets, or expressions that would evaluate to representable elements if only we had space.

We can consistently apply some policy (whatever it may be) using the language’s type system: by encoding policy in the set’s type, and operators on and functions of it, we can get (if nothing else) consistent representation of and behavior in error states. (I’ll call them representation errors generically.)

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