Type checking as a form of pattern matching

Created 2021-7-21

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Word of warning: I'm mainly talking about Python's type checking landscape. Things I talk about might or might not apply to your programming language of choice.

With that out of the way... What exactly do I mean by pattern matching? I mean pattern matching as found in Elixir and other cool languages. Basically:

# this is just a map
variable = %{
    "a" => "b",
    "c" => "d",

# pattern matching!
    "a" => n
} = variable

# at this point, `n` has `"b"`:

Now then, type-checking being similar to pattern-matching may seem obvious -- after all, int = int and list[int] = list[int]! But it goes a little bit deeper than that when you consider generics.

Take for example, this function:

def f(x):
    return x.y

In this case, I want to "pattern match" the y property out of the x value! Looking at the Elixir code above may yield a clue on how this can be done, but first -- how would this be done in TypeScript?

In TypeScript, this would be done using operators. In this case, the operator to use is the indexing operator:

function f<T extends {y: any}>(x: T): T["y"] {
    return x.y

But in Python, there's no indexing operator: pattern matching to the rescue!

from typing import Protocol, TypeVar

T = TypeVar("T")

class ExtractY(Protocol[T]):
    y: T

def f(x: ExtractY[T]) -> T:
    return x.y

To me, this has an odd sense of symmetry. Just a cool observation!

(Also I'll try to post more short-but-interesting things...)

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