Coalgebra for the working software engineer

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Luís Soares Barbosa
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Often referred to as ‘the mathematics of dynamical, state-based systems’, Coalgebra claims to provide a compositional and uniform framework to specify, analyse and reason about state and behaviour in computing. This paper addresses this claim by discussing why Coalgebra matters for the design of models and logics for computational phenomena. To a great extent, in this domain one is interested in properties that are preserved along the system’s evolution, the so-called ‘business rules’ or system’s invariants, as well as in liveness requirements, stating that e.g. some desirable outcome will be eventually produced. Both classes are examples of modal assertions, i.e. properties that are to be interpreted across a transition system capturing the system’s dynamics. The relevance of modal reasoning in computing is witnessed by the fact that most university syllabi in the area include some incursion into modal logic, in particular in its temporal variants. The novelty is that, as it happens with the notions of transition, behaviour, or observational equivalence, modalities in Coalgebra acquire a shape. That is, they become parametric on whatever type of behaviour, and corresponding coinduction scheme, seems appropriate for addressing the problem at hand. In this context, the paper revisits Coalgebra from a computational perspective, focussing on three topics central to software design: how systems are modelled, how models are composed, and finally, how properties of their behaviours can be expressed and verified. © 2022, College Publications. All rights reserved.