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Searching

Sometimes you need to find the first element of an array that satisfies some property. This can be done with a map-reduce composition, where the map tags each element with its index and whether it is the element we are looking for, and then a reduction operator op that picks the match with the lowest index one. While I know that op is commutative, the compiler cannot figure this out on its own, so I use reduce_comm to tell it explicitly. This permits slightly more efficient code generation for the reduction.

let find_index 'a [n] (p: a -> bool) (as: [n]a): i32 =
  let op (x, i) (y, j) =
    if x && y then if i < j
                   then (x, i)
                   else (y, j)
    else if y then (y, j)
    else (x, i)
  in (reduce_comm op (false, -1) (zip (map p as) (iota n))).2

Note that if no element is acceptable, we return the index -1. An alternative could be to use a sum type to return the actual element we found:

type found 'a = #found a | #not_found

let find_elem 'a [n] (p: a -> bool) (as: [n]a) : found a =
  let tag x = if p x then #found x else #not_found
  let op x y =
    match (x,y)
    case (#found _, _) -> x
    case (_, #found _) -> y
    case _             -> x
  in reduce_comm op #not_found (map tag as)

Both of these solutions share a potential problem: they will always look at the entire array, even if the element we are looking for is near the beginning. When searching in parallel, some redundant (or “speculative”) work is necessary. But can we constrain it? We can of course always just write a sequential search:

let find_elem_seq 'a [n] (p: a -> bool) (as: [n]a) : found a =
  (loop (_res, i) = (#not_found, 0)
   while i < n do
     if p as[i]
     then (#found as[i], n)
     else (#not_found, i+1)).1

No parallelism here. We can combine the sequential and the parallel approaches by writing a function that sequentially iterates through large chunks of the input, searches each chunk in parallel, and stops at the first match.

let find_elem_chunked 'a [n] (k: i32) (p: a -> bool) (as: [n]a) : found a =
  (loop (_res, chunk_offset) = (#not_found, 0)
   while chunk_offset < n do
     match find_elem p as[chunk_offset: i32.min n (chunk_offset+k)]
     case #found x -> (#found x, n)
     case #not_found -> (#not_found, chunk_offset+k)).1

In most cases, the original find_index and find_elem will be fast enough, as these simple map-reduce compositions are quire efficient. While find_elem_chunked can in some cases be faster, we now have the chunk size, k, as a tunable parameter that we have to worry about, and the compiler cannot help us figure out the best value.