A unification of probabilistic choice within a design-based model of reversible computation

Bill Stoddart, Frank Zeyda

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    We see reversible computing as a generalisation of sequential computation obtained by revoking the law of the excluded miracle. Our execution language includes naked guarded commands and non-deterministic choice. Choices which lead to miraculous continuations invoke reverse computation, and non-deterministic choice plays the rôle of provisional choice within a backtracking context. We require probabilistic choice for symmetry breaking and sampling large search spaces, but must formulate it differently from previous approaches to obtain the required interactions between probabilistic choice and non-deterministic choice and between probabilistic choice and feasibility. Our formulation allows us to derive the post-distributions which characterise a program, and we use these to construct a relational model. We consider refinement as containment of convex closures within distribution space, qualified with additional conditions to avoid over-refinement. We link the non-probabilistic and probabilistic versions of the model with a Galois connection and show that classical designs are a retract of our probabilistic designs. We consider the interaction between probabilistic and non-deterministic choice and find the same initially counter-intuitive results that have been noted by other investigators. We provide an alternative formulation, within the same model, of oblivious non-determinism, which allows all non-deterministic choices to be moved to the start of a computation. We consider the interaction between probabilistic choice and feasibility that is required to match an operational interpretation in which infeasible commands provoke reverse execution, and we present a small case study to show how the interaction between probabilistic choice and feasibility can be exploited in a practical program. All programming structures described here are supported by our implementation platform, the Reversible Virtual Machine, whose development has accompanied our theoretical investigations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)107-131
    JournalFormal Aspects of Computing
    Issue number1
    Early online date13 Nov 2007
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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    Author can archive post-print (ie final draft post-refereeing). For full details see http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/ [Accessed 18/01/2010]


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