A Swiss Pocket Knife for Computability

Neil D. Jones
(University of Copenhagen)

This research is about operational- and complexity-oriented aspects of classical foundations of computability theory. The approach is to re-examine some classical theorems and constructions, but with new criteria for success that are natural from a programming language perspective.

Three cornerstones of computability theory are the S-m-ntheorem; Turing's "universal machine''; and Kleene's second recursion theorem. In today's programming language parlance these are respectively partial evaluation, self-interpretation, and reflection. In retrospect it is fascinating that Kleene's 1938 proof is constructive; and in essence builds a self-reproducing program.

Computability theory originated in the 1930s, long before the invention of computers and programs. Its emphasis was on delimiting the boundaries of computability. Some milestones include 1936 (Turing), 1938 (Kleene), 1967 (isomorphism of programming languages), 1985 (partial evaluation), 1989 (theory implementation), 1993 (efficient self-interpretation) and 2006 (term register machines).

The "Swiss pocket knife'' of the title is a programming language that allows efficient computer implementation of all three computability cornerstones, emphasising the third: Kleene's second recursion theorem. We describe experiments with a tree-based computational model aiming for both fast program generation and fast execution of the generated programs.

In Anindya Banerjee, Olivier Danvy, Kyung-Goo Doh and John Hatcliff: Semantics, Abstract Interpretation, and Reasoning about Programs: Essays Dedicated to David A. Schmidt on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday (Festschrift for Dave Schmidt), Manhattan, Kansas, USA, 19-20th September 2013, Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science 129, pp. 1–17.
Published: 19th September 2013.

ArXived at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4204/EPTCS.129.1 bibtex PDF
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