Adrian Adrian - 3 months ago 7
Scala Question

Type inference fails on Set made with .toSet?

Why is type inference failing here?

scala> val xs = List(1, 2, 3, 3)
xs: List[Int] = List(1, 2, 3, 3)

scala> xs.toSet map(_*2)
<console>:9: error: missing parameter type for expanded function ((x$1) => x$1.$times(2))
xs.toSet map(_*2)


However, if
xs.toSet
is assigned, it compiles.

scala> xs.toSet
res42: scala.collection.immutable.Set[Int] = Set(1, 2, 3)

scala> res42 map (_*2)
res43: scala.collection.immutable.Set[Int] = Set(2, 4, 6)


Also, going the other way, converting to
Set
from
List
, and mapping on
List
complies.

scala> Set(5, 6, 7)
res44: scala.collection.immutable.Set[Int] = Set(5, 6, 7)

scala> res44.toList map(_*2)
res45: List[Int] = List(10, 12, 14)

Answer

I agree it would be nice to infer "the only possible" type, even when calls are chained, but there are technical limitations.

You can think of inference as a breadth-first sweep over the expression, collecting constraints (which arise from subtype bounds and required implicit arguments) on type variables, followed by solving those constraints. This approach allows, e.g., implicits to guide type inference. In your example, even though there is a single solution if you only look at the xs.toSet subexpression, later chained calls could introduce constraints that make the system unsatisfiable. The downside of leaving the type variables unsolved is that type inference for closures requires the target type to be known, and will thus fail (it needs something concrete to go on -- the required type of the closure and the type of its argument types must not both be unknown).

Now, when delaying solving the constraints makes inference fail, we could backtrack, solve all the type variables, and retry, but this is tricky to implement (and probably quite inefficient).