[R-SIG-Finance] Lisp as a Base for a Statistical Computing System

Dominick Samperi djsamperi at gmail.com
Thu Jan 27 00:53:12 CET 2011

On Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM, Andrew Piskorski <atp at piskorski.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:17:45AM -0500, Dominick Samperi wrote:
> Subject: Re: [R-SIG-Finance] R to common lisp translator
>> The paper by Ross Ihaka and Duncan Temple Lang titled "Back to the
>> Future: Lisp as a Base for a Statistical Computing System" discusses
>> building a new foundation for R on top of Common Lisp, but I don't know
>> if any work is being done in this direction.
> Btw, when I read that paper a few years ago, it was interesting, but
> it also sounded a lot like its authors largely picked their solution
> (Lisp) first, and then thought about how to justify it.  Lisp probably
> WOULD be a pretty good base for building a next-generation R-like
> tool, but their discussion of possible alternatives seemed quite
> cursory, as did their "Backward's compatibility?" section.

The solution (Lisp/Scheme) was picked a long time ago and
led to what we call R today. At its core R is still Lisp-based,
with some optimizations like replacing lists with vectors. The
Lisp-based foundation is well-hidden by the R language, a kind
of syntactic sugar for Lisp (according to the original creators of R).

What this paper suggests is that statisticians (and Wall Street
quants) could spend more time solving problems if they didn't have
to spend so much time reinventing the wheel by building and
tweaking a home-grown Lisp-like platform.

They were arguing for an engine replacement, not for a new car.


>  http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/3726
> If I had both the time (a lot of time!) and a real mandate to do R&D
> on something like that, I'd also look into LuaJIT, Erlang, and SciDB,
> and think hard about what R problems I really want to solve and what I
> could learn about solving them from those other tools.  However,
> despite these criticisms, I do hope that Ihaka and Lang proceed
> further with their ideas, and look forward to reading more about it.
> Of course, this is all pretty much off topic...
> For the original poster who sparked this thread:  Trying to speed up
> your R code by auto-translating it to Lisp is a crazy, totally
> impractical idea.  You are confusing someone's brief dead-end R&D
> exploration with something you could actually use for real.  Profile
> your R code and figure out what is really slowing it down, then
> proceed from there.  There isn't any magic Lisp bullet to solve things
> for you.
> --
> Andrew Piskorski <atp at piskorski.com>
> http://www.piskorski.com/

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