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Why immutability matters

June 28, 2015

I’m reading Erlang book and there is a brilliant explanation why immutability matters.

Using immutable variables simplifies debugging. To understand why this is true, we must ask ourselves what an error is and how an error makes itself known.

One rather common way that we discover that a program is incorrect is when we find that a variable has an unexpected value. Once we know which variable is incorrect, we just have to inspect the program to find the place where the variable was bound. Since Erlang variables are immutable, the code that produced the variable must be incorrect. In an imperative language, variables can be change many times, so every place where the variable was changed might be the place where the error occured. In Erlang there is only one place to look.

At this point, you might wondering how it’s possible to program without mutable variables. How can we express something like X = X + 1 in Erlang? The Erlang way is to invent new variable whose name hasn’t been used before (say X1) and to write X1 = X + 1.

— Joe Armstrong, "Programming Erlang"

In state we trust,
Your mutable Vladimir Starkov