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Re: [std-proposals] Extend std::type_info with more information

From: Mihail Mihaylov <mihail.mihailov_at_[hidden]>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2024 12:33:46 +0300
On Wed, Apr 10, 2024 at 7:34 PM Jason McKesson via Std-Proposals <
std-proposals_at_[hidden]> wrote:

> `std::any` is a type-safe, object-based `void*`. It is intended to
> replace the usage of `void*` in code that needs to hide types between
> interfaces. The main point of the type is to check for mistakes, to
> turn undetectable runtime UB into detectable runtime errors. As such,
> it should be able to do whatever you could do with a `void*` (minus
> the fact that it's object-based). But also, it shouldn't be able to do
> anything you *couldn't* do with a `void*` (again, minus being
> object-based).

I strongly disagree with this statement. `Std::any` has value semantics. It
is very different from `void*`. `Any` is an "open" discriminated union,
whereas `void *` is a type-erased pointer. Therefore, their use cases are
quite different.

> The standard is very clear on this point: if you cast a `T*` to a
> `void*`, the *only* viable cast is to *exactly* `T*` (outside of
> `char*` shenanigans). Casting to a `B*` which is a base class of `T*`
> is UB, unless you cast to a `T*` between the `void*` and the `B*`. So
> the thing you want is impossible with `void*`.
> And owing to `any`'s design, it should be impossible to do this with
> `any` too. This is not a matter of implementability; this is a
> question of "what is the intended purpose of this object?".

The intended use of `any` is just like with any discriminated union - the
receiver tests the discriminator against one or more options that it knows
how to handle and performs a cast if it turns out to be one of them. And so
it actually makes sense for a test against a base class to succeed when the
`any` contains an instance of a derived class. Of course, as you pointed
out, the actual cast should pass through the derived type, before it gets
to the base type.

> If you want to change this, then you're asking to change what `any` is
> for. And that requires more than just that you want to do it. You need
> to argue that this is broadly usable in various use cases that many
> programmers encounter and have no viable alternatives. And you also
> need to argue that a different type would not be more appropriate,
> that `std::any` is the appropriate type for this use case.

As I argued above, yes, the ability for `any_cast` to return a base class
instance if the contained value is of a derived class is in line with the
expected use of `any`.

Practical implementability is another story.

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> Std-Proposals_at_[hidden]
> https://lists.isocpp.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/std-proposals
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Received on 2024-04-11 09:33:59