The Power of Functional Programming

As I have started to learn some about Javascript, I am very intrigued by the new territory and the strangeness that comes with it, at least for someone like myself, with most of my experience coming from object oriented programming languages like Java and C. As I now know, Javascript is a functional programming language, which has some fundamentally different structures and uses. For this reason, I have started to looked into the usefulness of functional programming, as languages like Javascript and Python are quickly on the rise. I found an article on Xiaoyun Yang’s personal blog entitled Why Functional Programming From A Developer Productivity Perspective which has helped me make some more sense of the intent and uses of functional programming. The article starts with basic info on FP, stating how object oriented programming came to popularity in the 80s with the use of GUIs and how, “it’s easier to program things that use a fixed number of operations for an unlimited number of operation,” but how now, “stateful programming is more of a liability” since, “there is an increasing emphasis on asynchronous, distributed, multi-core and cloud computing.” The article then dives into FP design patterns, which explain its usefulness. The intent is for functions to act as, “pipes for data to travel through,” with Higher Order Functions taking functions as input, and polymorphic function adding to reusability and versatility. The first pattern is the Loop Pattern. The emphasis is on abstraction. In the example, for loops are used for arrays of different types, and the goal is to get rid of the type by, “[parameterizing] the loop action as a function parameter and the initial value as a data parameter.” This provides for the reusability of the function in different contexts. The next pattern is Types. The article compares Scala being type-safe to Javascript. This means, “you can impose the argument type and return type when you first define your function in Scala.” This means for non-type-safe languages like Javascript, the onus is on the programmer to ensure clashing types do not lead to errors. While sometimes type inference in Javascript can be convenient, it can create problems when working with different types. The third pattern is Monads. This means that one can use monads instead of, “hard coding error handlers,” with a monad essentially being a wrapper. There are so many errors to worry about when handling user input, so this is advantageous. The last pattern is Monoid. An example is given for a function to find is any strings in array(s) are not empty. It shows that whatever order the arrays are given to the function, or wherever the unempty string exists, the function still works, preserving associativity and commutativity. Monoid laws help verify correctness. The article finishes by stating that FP promotes reusability and modularity through abstracting functions. This is all new to me and I hope this knowledge helps me soon, as the next language I intend to learn will be a FP language like Javascript or Python. It is essential to keep up with the fast-paced world of computer science.

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