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Dynamic typing and programming distributed systems

Coming from Scala (and Akka), I recently began looking at other languages that were designed with distributed computing in mind, namely Erlang (and a tiny bit of Oz and Bloom). Both Erlang and Oz are dynamically typed, and if I remember correctly (will try to find link) people have tried to add types to Erlang and managed to type a good portion of it, but could not successfully coerce the system to make it fit the last bit?

Oz, while a research language, is certainly interesting to me, but that is dynamically typed as well.

Bloom's current implementation is in Ruby, and is consequently dynamically typed.

To my knowledge, Scala (and I suppose Haskell, though I believe that was built initially more as an exploration into pure lazy functional languages as opposed to distributed systems) is the only language that is statically typed and offer language-level abstractions (for lack of a better term) in distributed computing.

I am just wondering if there are inherent advantages of dynamic typing over static typing, specifically in the context of providing language level abstractions for programming distributed systems.

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adelbertc Avatar asked Apr 11 '13 15:04


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1 Answers

Not really. For example, the same group that invented Oz later did some work on Alice ML, a project whose mission statement was to rethink Oz as a typed, functional language. And although it remained a research project, I'd argue that it was enough proof of concept to demonstrate that the same basic functionality can be supported in such a setting.

(Full disclosure: I was a PhD student in that group at the time, and the type system of Alice ML was my thesis.)

Edit: The problem with adding types to Erlang isn't distribution, it simply is an instance of the general problem that adding types to a language after the fact never works out well. On the other hand, there still is Dialyzer for Erlang.

Edit 2: I should mention that there were other interesting research projects for typed distributed languages, e.g. Acute, which had a scope similar to Alice ML, or ML5, which used modal types to enable stronger checking of mobility characteristics. But they have only survived in the form of papers.

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Andreas Rossberg Avatar answered Oct 18 '22 14:10

Andreas Rossberg