Efficient CHAD

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We show how the basic Combinatory Homomorphic Automatic Differentiation (CHAD) algorithm can be optimised, using well-known methods, to yield a simple, composable, and generally applicable reverse-mode automatic differentiation (AD) technique that has the correct computational complexity that we would expect of reverse-mode AD. Specifically, we show that the standard optimisations of sparse vectors and state-passing style code (as well as defunctionalisation/closure conversion, for higher-order languages) give us a purely functional algorithm that is most of the way to the correct complexity, with (functional) mutable updates taking care of the final log-factors. We provide an Agda formalisation of our complexity proof. Finally, we discuss how the techniques apply to differentiating parallel functional array programs: the key observations are 1) that all required mutability is (commutative, associative) accumulation, which lets us preserve task-parallelism and 2) that we can write down data-parallel derivatives for most data-parallel array primitives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages29
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2024


  • automatic differentiation
  • functional programming
  • source transformation


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