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Say that your function is pure, that is, given the same inputs it always produces the same outputs and it doesn't produce any other effects like printing to the screen. Then, once you execute the function for a given input, you could save (or cache) the result, so the next time you need you don't compute it again. The general technique of saving outputs to avoid double computation of pure functions is known as memoization.

MemoizedDeepRecursiveFunction recommended

The techniques in this section are quite low-level, and require careful attention when used in recursive functions. MemoizedDeepRecursiveFunction is an easier-to-use alternative, which also provides more options for configuring the caching policy.

Simple memoization

Arrow Core contains a small utility called memoize which transforms any function into one that keep a cache of computed results.

import arrow.core.memoize

fun expensive(x: Int): Int {
// fake it by sleeping the thread
Thread.sleep(x * 100L)
return x

val memoizedExpensive = ::expensive.memoize()

The first time you call memoizeExpensive, it needs to compute the value. From that moment on, the call returns immediately.

fun example() {
val result1 = memoizedExpensive(3)
val result2 = memoizedExpensive(3)
result1 shouldBe result2
Memoization takes memory

If you define the memoized version of your function as a val, as we've done above, the cache is shared among all calls to your function. In the worst case, this may result in memory which cannot be reclaimed throughout the whole execution, so you should apply this technique carefully.

There's some literature about eviction policies for memoization, but at the moment of writing memoize doesn't offer any type of control over the cached values. Aedile is a Kotlin-first caching library which you can use to manually tweak your memoization.


The technique outline above can be applied to any function, regardless of its provenance. However, one needs to be aware of the limitations of memoize with respect to recursive functions.

Let's say we define a recursive Fibonacci function, and call memoize with the intention of avoiding computing the same values over and over.

fun fibonacciWorker(n: Int): Int = when (n) {
0 -> 0
1 -> 1
else -> fibonacciWorker(n - 1) + fibonacciWorker(n - 2)

val fibonacci = ::fibonacciWorker.memoize()

This solution falls short, though, because recursion goes through fibonacciWorker, which is not memoized.

One way to avoid this problem is making fibonacciWorker call fibonacci instead. Our recommendation, however, is to use MemoizedDeepRecursiveFunction, which avoids the weird mutually-recursive definition, and has the additional benefit of avoiding stack overflows.