# A Moment of Monoids

## What’s functional programming and why should I care?

- Understanding functional programming will make you a better programmer
- Dropping FP jargon in conversations will make you seem smarter than you really are
- FP isn’t trivial, and learning it will expand your mind

There’s been a lot written about functional programming, most of it in languages like Haskell or Scala.

So let’s do some Python.

## Semigroups

A semigroup is a nonempty set G with an associative binary operation.

Here’s a secret. You probably already know what a semigroup is.

You use them every time you add two numbers together or concatenate strings.

Following the definition of a semigroup above, let `G`

be the set of all numbers and `+`

(addition) be our binary operation.

Binary operation simply means a function that acts on two separate objects.

Since we know addition over numbers to be associative i.e. `a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c`

, this means the set of numbers under addition is a semigroup.

Let’s look at some concrete examples in python.

```
import functools
import operator
# A semigroup is a nonempty set G...
stuff = [2, 3, 4]
# ...with an associative binary operation
multiply = operator.mul
# meaning we can compose those elements together
# almost as if we fold them one on top of another
# until we're left with a single thing
# that's what we're doing when we call `reduce` in this example
total = functools.reduce(multiply, stuff)
assert total == 24
letters = ['h', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o']
greeting = functools.reduce(operator.add, letters)
assert greeting == 'hello'
# more often, we use the built-in sum function to reduce
# sets under addition
numbers = [1, 2, 3]
assert sum(numbers) == functools.reduce(operator.add, numbers)
```

## Monoids

Definition I.1.1. For a multiplicative binary operation on G × G, we define the following properties: (i) Multiplication is associative if a(bc) = (ab)c for all a, b, c, ∈ G. (ii) Element e ∈ G is a two-sided identity if ae = ea = a for all a ∈ G.

A monoid is a semigroup with an identity.

Let’s say we were part of an e-commerce site and we had a csv that contained per-customer order totals for a given month.

We want to add up all the money each customer spent to figure out the total spent that month.

```
import csv
import io
january_order_totals = """
customer,order_total
sam,54.71
john,
andrea,72.11
""".strip()
reader = csv.DictReader(io.StringIO(january_order_totals))
cash_spent_per_customer = [row["order_total"] for row in reader]
print(cash_spent_per_customer)
```

```
['54.71', '', '72.11']
```

We have a minor problem in that we have an empty value – john didn’t spend any money in January.

We solve this by replacing the empty value with an **identity**.

By identity, we mean a value (a) that when combined with another value (b) will simply return the latter value (b).

For example, for the set of numbers under addition, the identity is `0`

because for any number `x`

, `x + 0 = x`

.

The same is true for `1`

for numbers under multiplication i.e. `x * 1 = x`

for any number `x`

.

For the set of strings under the concatenation operation, the identity is simply an empty string.

```
string = "hello, world"
identity = ""
string + identity == string
```

```
# cash_spent_per_customer is currently a collection of strings
# this comprehension attempts to convert each string to a floating point number UNLESS it is an empty string, in which case it evaluates to 0, the identity for numbers under addition
cash_spent_per_customer = [
float(s) if s else 0 for s in cash_spent_per_customer
]
total = sum(cash_spent_per_customer)
print(f"The total spent in january was: {total}")
```

```
The total spent in january was: 126.82
```

We solved our data validation error by creating a monoid.

Cool.

Now you know what semigroups and monoids are.

Drop those terms at the next masquerade ball you attend and you will be the LIFE of the PARTY ;)

Just make you’re you’re actually wearing your mask to hide your identity when you do.