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A Structural Approach to Reversible Computation Samson Abramsky

Summary: A Structural Approach to Reversible Computation
Samson Abramsky
Oxford University Computing Laboratory
Reversibility is a key issue in the interface between computation and physics, and of grow-
ing importance as miniaturization progresses towards its physical limits. Most foundational
work on reversible computing to date has focussed on simulations of low-level machine mod-
els. By contrast, we develop a more structural approach. We show how high-level functional
programs can be mapped compositionally (i.e. in a syntax-directed fashion) into a simple
kind of automata which are immediately seen to be reversible. The size of the automaton is
linear in the size of the functional term. In mathematical terms, we are building a concrete
model of functional computation. This construction stems directly from ideas arising in
Geometry of Interaction and Linear Logic|but can be understood without any knowledge
of these topics. In fact, it serves as an excellent introduction to them. At the same time,
an interesting logical delineation between reversible and irreversible forms of computation
emerges from our analysis.
1 Introduction
The importance of reversibility in computation, for both foundational and, in the medium term,
for practical reasons, is by now well established. We quote from the excellent summary in the
introduction to the recent paper by Buhrman, Tromp and Vitanyi [18]:


Source: Abramsky, Samson - Computing Laboratory, University of Oxford


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences