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LIL: CLOS reaches higher-order, sheds identity, and has a transformative experience

François-René Rideau
Proceedings of the International Lisp Conference 2012 (to appear)


LIL, the Lisp Interface Library, is a data structure library based on Interface-Passing Style. This programming style was designed to allow for parametric polymorphism (abstracting over types, classes, functions, data) as well as ad-hoc polymorphism (incremental development with inheritance and mixins). It consists in isolating algorithmic information into first-class interfaces, explicitly passed around as arguments dispatched upon by generic functions. As compared to traditional objects, these interfaces typically lack identity and state, while they manipulate data structures without intrinsic behavior. This style makes it just as easy to use pure functional persistent data structures without identity or state as to use stateful imperative ephemeral data structures. Judicious Lisp macros allow developers to avoid boilerplate and to abstract away interface objects to expose classic-looking Lisp APIs. Using on a very simple linear type system to model the side-effects of methods, it is even possible to transform pure interfaces into stateful interfaces or the other way around, or to transform a stateful interface into a traditional object-oriented API.