λ Tony's blog λ
The weblog of Tony Morris

Continuation monad in Scala

Posted on December 28, 2008, in Programming

Here is how a continuation data type might look in Scala:

sealed trait Continuation[R, +A] {
  def apply(f: A => R): R

  import Continuation.continuation

  def map[B](k: A => B) =
    continuation[R, B](z => apply(z compose k))

  def flatMap[B](k: A => Continuation[R, B]) =
    continuation[R, B](z => apply(k(_)(z)))

Note that there are map and flatMap functions that satisfy the functor and monad laws. Continuation[R, _] is a monad.

Now let’s add some construction functions:

object Continuation {
  def continuation[R, A](g: (A => R) => R) = new Continuation[R, A] {
    def apply(f: A => R) = g(f)

  def unit[R] = new {
    def apply[A](a: A) = continuation[R, A](f => f(a))

  def callcc[R, A, B](f: (A => Continuation[R, B]) => Continuation[R, A]) =
    continuation[R, A](k => f(a => continuation(x => k(a)))(k))

The continuation function is a straight-forward construction. The unit function constructs a continuation is such a way as to satisfy the monad laws against the flatMap method. The callcc function (call with current continuation) is to allow “escaping” from the current continuation.

Here is some example client code that squares a number using a continuation (see squarec):

object Square {
  import Continuation._

  def square(n: Int) = n * n

  // Continuation for square
  def squarec[R](n: Int) = unit[R](square(n))

  // Continuation for effect (Unit) on square.
  // This is simply to help the type inferencer by applying a type argument.
  def squareE(n: Int) = squarec[Unit](n)

  def main(args: Array[String]) {
    val k = squareE(args(0).toInt)

A slightly more complicated example for modelling exceptions. Let’s divide where the denominator must be 0 or an “exception” is thrown:

object Divide {
  import Continuation._

  // Division
  def div[R](c: String => Continuation[R, Int])
            (n: Int, // numerator
             d: Int) // denominator
                    : Continuation[R, Int] =
    callcc[R, Int, String](ok =>
      callcc[R, String, String](err =>
        if(d == 0) err("Denominator 0")
        else ok(n / d)
      ) flatMap c)

  def main(args: Array[String]) {
    def divError[R] = div[R](error(_)) _
    println(divError(7, 3)(x => x))
    println(divError(7, 0)(x => x)) // throws error