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Plain Functional Programming by Martin Odersky

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Published on Nov 9, 2017

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In a short time, functional programming went from an obscure academic endeavor to the technology "du jour" of the software industry. On the one side, this is great, because functional programming holds real promise to simplify the construction of highly reliable software. On the other hand, it is also frightening because the current hype might lead to over-selling and sometimes too uncritical adoption of concepts that have not yet been sufficiently validated in practice. In particular I see with worry the trend to over-abstract, which often leads to cargo-cult technology.

In this talk I give my opinion of what the core of functional programming is that we can and should use today, why that core matters, and where we currently face challenges. I argue for combining functional programming with the principle of least power, for eschewing fancy abstractions, and for being modest in what we can and should express in our programs. I also show how some of these approaches are reflected in our work on the next version of Scala.

Martin Odersky is the inventor of the Scala language, a professor at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a founder of Lightbend. His work concentrates on the fusion of functional and object-oriented programming. He believes the two paradigms are two sides of the same coin, to be unified as much as possible. To prove this, he has worked on a number of language designs, from Pizza to GJ to Functional Nets. He has also influenced the development of Java as a co-designer of Java generics and as the original author of the current javac reference compiler.

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