Cubical Agda

Last year I wrote a post about cubicaltt on this blog. Since then there have been a lot of exciting developments in the world of cubes. In particular there are now two cubical proof assistants that are currently being developed in Gothenburg and Pittsburgh. One of them is a cubical version of Agda developed by Andrea Vezzosi at Chalmers and the other is a system called redtt developed by my colleagues at CMU.

These systems differ from cubicaltt in that they are proper proof assistants for cubical type theory in the sense that they support unification, interactive proof development via holes, etc… Cubical Agda inherits Agda’s powerful dependent pattern matching functionality, and redtt has a succinct notation for defining functions by eliminators. Our goal with cubicaltt was never to develop yet another proof assistant, but rather to explore how it could be to program and work in a core system based on cubical type theory. This meant that many things were quite tedious to do in cubicaltt, so it is great that we now have these more advanced systems that are much more pleasant to work in.

This post is about Cubical Agda, but more or less everything in it can also be done (with slight modifications) in redtt. This extension of Agda has actually been around for a few years now, however it is just this year that the theory of HITs has been properly worked out for cubical type theory:

On Higher Inductive Types in Cubical Type Theory

Inspired by this paper (which I will refer as “CHM”) Andrea has extended Cubical Agda with user definable HITs with definitional computation rules for all constructors. Working with these is a lot of fun and I have been doing many of the proofs in synthetic homotopy theory from the HoTT book cubically. Having a system with native support for HITs makes many things a lot easier and most of the proofs I have done are significantly shorter. However, this post will not focus on HITs, but rather on a core library for Cubical Agda that we have been developing over the last few months:

The core part of this library has been designed with the aim to:

1. Expose and document the cubical primitives of Agda.

2. Provide an interface to HoTT as presented in the book (i.e. “Book HoTT”), but where everything is implemented with the cubical primitives under the hood.

The idea behind the second of these was suggested to me by Martín Escardó who wanted a file which exposes an identity type with the standard introduction principle and eliminator (satisfying the computation rule definitionally), together with function extensionality, univalence and propositional truncation. All of these notions should be represented using cubical primitives under the hood which means that they all compute and that there are no axioms involved. In particular this means that one can import this file in an Agda developments relying on Book HoTT and no axioms should then be needed; more about this later.

Our cubical library compiles with the latest development version of Agda and it is currently divided into 3 main parts:


The first of these contain various basic results from HoTT/UF, like isomorphisms are equivalences (i.e. have contractible fibers), Hedberg’s theorem (types with decidable equality are sets), various proofs of different formulations of univalence, etc. This part of the library is currently in flux as I’m adding a lot of results to it all the time.

The second one is the one I will focus on in this post and it is supposed to be quite stable by now. The files in this folder expose the cubical primitives and the cubical interface to HoTT/UF. Ideally a regular user should not have to look too closely at these files and instead just import Cubical.Core.Everything or Cubical.Core.HoTT-UF.

The third folder contains various HITs (S¹, S², S³, torus, suspension, pushouts, interval, join, smash products…) with some basic theory about these. I plan to write another post about this soon, so stay tuned.

As I said above a regular user should only really need to know about the Cubical.Core.Everything and Cubical.Core.HoTT-UF files in the core library. The Cubical.Core.Everything file exports the following things:

-- Basic primitives (some are from Agda.Primitive)
open import Cubical.Core.Primitives public

-- Basic cubical prelude
open import Cubical.Core.Prelude public

-- Definition of equivalences, Glue types and
-- the univalence theorem
open import Cubical.Core.Glue public

-- Propositional truncation defined as a
-- higher inductive type
open import Cubical.Core.PropositionalTruncation public

-- Definition of Identity types and definitions of J,
-- funExt, univalence and propositional truncation
-- using Id instead of Path
open import Cubical.Core.Id public

I will explain the contents of the Cubical.Core.HoTT-UF file in detail later in this post, but I would first like to clarify that it is absolutely not necessary to use that file as a new user. The point of it is mainly to provide a way to make already existing HoTT/UF developments in Agda compute, but I personally only use the cubical primitives provided by the Cubical.Core.Everything file when developing something new in Cubical Agda as I find these much more natural to work with (especially when reasoning about HITs).

Cubical Primitives

It is not my intention to write another detailed explanation of cubical type theory in this post; for that see my previous post and the paper (which is commonly referred to as “CCHM”, after the authors of CCHM):

Cubical Type Theory: a constructive interpretation of the univalence axiom

The main things that the CCHM cubical type theory extends dependent type theory with are:

  1. An interval pretype
  2. Kan operations
  3. Glue types
  4. Cubical identity types

The first of these is what lets us work directly with higher dimensional cubes in type theory and incorporating this into the judgmental structure is really what makes the system tick. The Cubical.Core.Primitives and Cubical.Core.Prelude files provide 1 and 2, together with some extra stuff that are needed to get 3 and 4 up and running.

Let’s first look at the cubical interval I. It has endpoints i0 : I and i1 : I together with connections and reversals:

_∧_ : I → I → I
_∨_ : I → I → I
~_ : I → I

satisfying the structure of a De Morgan algebra (as in CCHM). As Agda doesn’t have a notion of non-fibrant types (yet?) the interval I lives in Setω.

There are also (dependent) cubical Path types:

PathP : ∀ {ℓ} (A : I → Set ℓ) → A i0 → A i1 → Set ℓ

from which we can define non-dependent Paths:

Path : ∀ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) → A → A → Set ℓ
Path A a b = PathP (λ _ → A) a b

A non-dependent path Path A a b gets printed as a ≡ b. I would like to generalize this at some point and have cubical extension types (inspired by A type theory for synthetic ∞-categories). These extension types are already in redtt and has proved to be very natural and useful, especially for working with HITs as shown by this snippet of redtt code coming from the proof that the loop space of the circle is the integers:

def decode-square
  : (n : int)
  → [i j] s1 [
    | i=0 → loopn (pred n) j
    | i=1 → loopn n j
    | j=0 → base
    | j=1 → loop i
  = ...

Just like in cubicaltt we get short proofs of the basic primitives from HoTT/UF:

refl : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} (x : A) → x ≡ x
refl x = λ _ → x

sym : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {x y : A} → x ≡ y → y ≡ x
sym p = λ i → p (~ i)

cong : ∀ {ℓ ℓ'} {A : Set ℓ} {B : A → Set ℓ'} {x y : A}
         (f : (a : A) → B a)
         (p : x ≡ y) →
         PathP (λ i → B (p i)) (f x) (f y)
cong f p = λ i → f (p i)

funExt : ∀ {ℓ ℓ'} {A : Set ℓ} {B : A → Set ℓ'}
           {f g : (x : A) → B x}
           (p : (x : A) → f x ≡ g x) →
           f ≡ g
funExt p i x = p x i

Note that the proof of functional extensionality is just swapping the arguments to p!

Partial elements and cubical subtypes

[In order for me to be able to explain the other features of Cubical Agda in some detail I have to spend some time on partial elements and cubical subtypes, but as these notions are quite technical I would recommend readers who are not already familiar with them to just skim over this section and read it more carefully later.]

One of the key operations in the cubical set model is to map an element of the interval to an element of the face lattice (i.e. the type of cofibrant propositions F ⊂ Ω). This map is written (_ = 1) : I → F in CCHM and in Cubical Agda it is written IsOne r. The constant 1=1 is a proof that (i1 = 1), i.e. of IsOne i1.

This lets us then work with partial types and elements directly (which was not possible in cubicaltt). The type Partial φ A is a special version of the function space IsOne φ → A with a more extensional judgmental equality. There is also a dependent version PartialP φ A which allows A to be defined only on φ. As these types are not necessarily fibrant they also live in Setω. These types are easiest to understand by seeing how one can introduce them:

sys : ∀ i → Partial (i ∨ ~ i) Set₁
sys i (i = i1) = Set → Set
sys i (i = i0) = Set

This defines a partial type in Set₁ which is defined when (i = i1) ∨ (i = i0). We define it by pattern matching so that it is Set → Set when (i = i1) and Set when (i = i0). Note that we are writing (i ∨ ~ i) and that the IsOne map is implicit. If one instead puts a hole as right hand side:

sys : ∀ i → Partial (i ∨ ~ i) Set₁
sys i x = {! x !}

and ask Agda what the type of x is (by putting the cursor in the hole and typing C-c C-,) then Agda answers:

Goal: Set₁
x : IsOne (i ∨ ~ i)
i : I

I usually introduce these using pattern matching lambdas so that I can write:

sys' : ∀ i → Partial (i ∨ ~ i) Set₁
sys' i = \ { (i = i0) → Set
           ; (i = i1) → Set → Set }

This is very convenient when using the Kan operations. Furthermore, when the cases overlap they must of course agree:

sys2 : ∀ i j → Partial (i ∨ (i ∧ j)) Set₁
sys2 i j = \ { (i = i1) → Set
             ; (i = i1) (j = i1) → Set }

In order to get this to work Andrea had to adapt the pattern-matching of Agda to allow us to pattern-match on the faces like this. It is however not yet possible to use C-c C-c to automatically generate the cases for a partial element, but hopefully this will be added at some point.

Using the partial elements there are also cubical subtypes as in CCHM:

_[_↦_] : ∀ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) (φ : I) (u : Partial φ A) →
A [ φ ↦ u ] = Sub A φ u

So that a : A [ φ ↦ u ] is a partial element a : A that agrees with u on φ. We have maps in and out of the subtypes:

inc : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {φ} (u : A) →
        A [ φ ↦ (λ _ → u) ]

ouc : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {φ : I} {u : Partial φ A} →
        A [ φ ↦ u ] → A

It would be very nice to have subtyping for these, but at the moment the user has to write inc/ouc explicitly. With this infrastructure we can now consider the Kan operations of cubical type theory.

Kan operations

In order to support HITs we use the Kan operations from CHM. The first of these is a generalized transport operation:

transp : ∀ {ℓ} (A : I → Set ℓ) (φ : I) (a : A i0) → A i1

When calling transp A φ a Agda makes sure that A is constant on φ and when calling this with i0 for φ we recover the regular transport function, furthermore when φ is i1 this is the identity function. Being able to control when transport is the identity function is really what makes this operation so useful (see the definition of comp below) and why we got HITs to work so nicely in CHM compared to CCHM.

We also have homogeneous composition operations:

hcomp : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {φ : I}
          (u : I → Partial A φ) (a : A) → A

When calling hcomp A φ u a Agda makes sure that a agrees with u i0 on φ. This is like the composition operations in CCHM, but the type A is constant. Note that this operation is actually different from the one in CHM as φ is in the interval and not the face lattice. By the way the partial elements are set up the faces will then be compared under the image of IsOne. This subtle detail is actually very useful and gives a very neat trick for eliminating empty systems from Cubical Agda (this has not yet been implemented, but it is discussed here).

Using these two operations we can derive the heterogeneous composition

comp : ∀ {ℓ : I → Level} (A : ∀ i → Set (ℓ i)) {φ : I}
         (u : ∀ i → Partial φ (A i))
         (u0 : A i0 [ φ ↦ u i0 ]) → A i1
comp A {φ = φ} u u0 =
    (λ i → λ { (φ = i1) →
                 transp (λ j → A (i ∨ j)) i (u _ 1=1) })
    (transp A i0 (ouc u0))

This decomposition of the Kan operations into transport and homogeneous composition seems crucial to get HITs to work properly in cubical type theory and in fact redtt is also using a similar decomposition of their Kan operations.

We can also derive both homogeneous and heterogeneous Kan filling using hcomp and comp with connections:

hfill : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {φ : I}
         (u : ∀ i → Partial φ A)
         (u0 : A [ φ ↦ u i0 ])
         (i : I) → A
hfill {φ = φ} u u0 i =
  hcomp (λ j → λ { (φ = i1) → u (i ∧ j) 1=1
                 ; (i = i0) → ouc u0 })
        (ouc u0)

fill : ∀ {ℓ : I → Level} (A : ∀ i → Set (ℓ i)) {φ : I}
        (u : ∀ i → Partial φ (A i))
        (u0 : A i0 [ φ ↦ u i0 ])
        (i : I) → A i
fill A {φ = φ} u u0 i =
  comp (λ j → A (i ∧ j))
       (λ j → λ { (φ = i1) → u (i ∧ j) 1=1
                ; (i = i0) → ouc u0 })
       (inc {φ = φ ∨ (~ i)} (ouc {φ = φ} u0))

For historical reasons we are also exposing the Kan composition operation of CCHM:

compCCHM : ∀ {ℓ} (A : (i : I) → Set ℓ) (φ : I)
             (u : ∀ i → Partial (A i) φ)
             (u0 : A i0 [ φ ↦ u i0 ]) → A i1

However this is not recommended to use for various reasons. First of all it doesn’t work with HITs and second it produces a lot of empty systems (which anyone who tried cubicaltt can confirm). So using the hcomp and transp primitives has proved a lot better for practical formalization.

Using these operations we can do all of the standard cubical stuff, like composing paths and defining J with its computation rule (up to a Path):

compPath : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {x y z : A} →
             x ≡ y → y ≡ z → x ≡ z
compPath {x = x} p q i =
  hcomp (λ j → \ { (i = i0) → x
                 ; (i = i1) → q j })
        (p i)

module _ {ℓ ℓ'} {A : Set ℓ} {x : A}
         (P : ∀ y → x ≡ y → Set ℓ') (d : P x refl) where
  J : {y : A} → (p : x ≡ y) → P y p
  J p = transp (λ i → P (p i) (λ j → p (i ∧ j))) i0 d

  JRefl : J refl ≡ d
  JRefl i = transp (λ _ → P x refl) i d

The use of a module here is not crucial in any way, it’s just an Agda trick to make J and JRefl share some arguments.

Glue types and univalence

The file Cubical.Core.Glue defines fibers and equivalences (as they were originally defined by Voevodsky in his Foundations library, i.e. as maps with contractible fibers). Using this we export the Glue types of Cubical Agda which lets us extend a total type by a partial family of equivalent types:

Glue : ∀ {ℓ ℓ'} (A : Set ℓ) {φ : I} →
         (Te : Partial φ (Σ[ T ∈ Set ℓ' ] T ≃ A)) →
         Set ℓ'

This comes with introduction and elimination forms (glue and unglue). With this we formalize the proof of a variation of univalence following the proof in Section 7.2 of CCHM. The key observation is that unglue is an equivalence:

unglueIsEquiv : ∀ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) (φ : I)
                  (f : PartialP φ (λ o → Σ[ T ∈ Set ℓ ] T ≃ A)) →
                  isEquiv {A = Glue A f} (unglue {φ = φ})
equiv-proof (unglueIsEquiv A φ f) = λ (b : A) →
  let u : I → Partial φ A
      u i = λ{ (φ = i1) → equivCtr (f 1=1 .snd) b .snd (~ i) }
      ctr : fiber (unglue {φ = φ}) b
      ctr = ( glue (λ { (φ = i1) → equivCtr (f 1=1 .snd) b .fst }) (hcomp u b)
            , λ j → hfill u (inc b) (~ j))
  in ( ctr
     , λ (v : fiber (unglue {φ = φ}) b) i →
         let u' : I → Partial (φ ∨ ~ i ∨ i) A
             u' j = λ { (φ = i1) → equivCtrPath (f 1=1 .snd) b v i .snd (~ j)
                      ; (i = i0) → hfill u (inc b) j
                      ; (i = i1) → v .snd (~ j) }
         in ( glue (λ { (φ = i1) → equivCtrPath (f 1=1 .snd) b v i .fst }) (hcomp u' b)
            , λ j → hfill u' (inc b) (~ j)))

The details of this proof is best studied interactively in Agda and by first understanding the proof in CCHM. The reason this is a crucial observation is that it says that any partial family of equivalences can be extended to a total one from Glue [ φ ↦ (T,f) ] A to A:

unglueEquiv : ∀ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) (φ : I)
              (f : PartialP φ (λ o → Σ[ T ∈ Set ℓ ] T ≃ A)) →
              (Glue A f) ≃ A
unglueEquiv A φ f = ( unglue {φ = φ} , unglueIsEquiv A φ f )

and this is exactly what we need to prove the following formulation of the univalence theorem:

EquivContr : ∀ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) → isContr (Σ[ T ∈ Set ℓ ] T ≃ A)
EquivContr {ℓ} A =
  ( ( A , idEquiv A)
  , λ w i →
      let f : PartialP (~ i ∨ i) (λ x → Σ[ T ∈ Set ℓ ] T ≃ A)
          f = λ { (i = i0) → ( A , idEquiv A ) ; (i = i1) → w }
      in ( Glue A f , unglueEquiv A (~ i ∨ i) f) )

This formulation of univalence was proposed by Martín Escardó in (see also Theorem 5.8.4 of the HoTT Book):!msg/homotopytypetheory/HfCB_b-PNEU/Ibb48LvUMeUJ

We have also formalized a quite slick proof of the standard formulation of univalence from EquivContr (see Cubical.Basics.Univalence). This proof uses that EquivContr is contractibility of singletons for equivalences, which combined with subst can be used to prove equivalence induction:

contrSinglEquiv : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} (e : A ≃ B) →
                    (B , idEquiv B) ≡ (A , e)
contrSinglEquiv {A = A} {B = B} e =
  isContr→isProp (EquivContr B) (B , idEquiv B) (A , e)

EquivJ : ∀ {ℓ ℓ′} (P : (A B : Set ℓ) → (e : B ≃ A) → Set ℓ′)
           (r : (A : Set ℓ) → P A A (idEquiv A))
           (A B : Set ℓ) (e : B ≃ A) →
           P A B e
EquivJ P r A B e =
  subst (λ x → P A (x .fst) (x .snd))
        (contrSinglEquiv e) (r A)

We then use that the Glue types also gives a map ua which maps the identity equivalence to refl:

ua : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → A ≃ B → A ≡ B
ua {A = A} {B = B} e i =
  Glue B (λ { (i = i0) → (A , e)
            ; (i = i1) → (B , idEquiv B) })

uaIdEquiv : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} → ua (idEquiv A) ≡ refl
uaIdEquiv {A = A} i j =
  Glue A {φ = i ∨ ~ j ∨ j} (λ _ → A , idEquiv A)

Now, given any function au : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → A ≡ B → A ≃ B satisfying auid : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → au refl ≡ idEquiv A we directly get that this is an equivalence using the fact that any isomorphism is an equivalence:

module Univalence
         (au : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → A ≡ B → A ≃ B)
         (auid : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → au refl ≡ idEquiv A) where
  thm : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → isEquiv au
  thm {A = A} {B = B} =
    isoToIsEquiv {B = A ≃ B} au ua
      (EquivJ (λ _ _ e → au (ua e) ≡ e)
              (λ X → compPath (cong au uaIdEquiv)
                              (auid {B = B})) _ _)
      (J (λ X p → ua (au p) ≡ p)
         (compPath (cong ua (auid {B = B})) uaIdEquiv))

We can then instantiate this with for example the au map defined using J (which is how Vladimir originally stated the univalence axiom):

eqweqmap : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} → A ≡ B → A ≃ B
eqweqmap {A = A} e = J (λ X _ → A ≃ X) (idEquiv A) e

eqweqmapid : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} → eqweqmap refl ≡ idEquiv A
eqweqmapid {A = A} = JRefl (λ X _ → A ≃ X) (idEquiv A)

univalenceStatement : ∀ {ℓ} {A B : Set ℓ} →
                      isEquiv (eqweqmap {ℓ} {A} {B})
univalenceStatement = Univalence.thm eqweqmap eqweqmapid

Note that eqweqmapid is not proved by refl, instead we need to use the fact that the computation rule for J holds up to a Path. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that there is no problem with using J for Path’s and that the fact that the computation rule doesn’t hold definitionally is almost never a problem for practical formalization as one rarely use it as it is often more natural to just use the cubical primitives. However, in Section 9.1 of CCHM we solve this by defining cubical identity types satisfying the computation rule definitionally (following a trick of Andrew Swan).

Cubical identity types

The idea behind the cubical identity types is that an element of an identity type is a pair of a path and a formula which tells us where this path is constant, so for example reflexivity is just the constant path together with the fact that it is constant everywhere (note that the interval variable comes before the path as the path depends on it):

refl : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {x : A} → Id x x
refl {x = x} = ⟨ i1 , (λ _ → x) ⟩

These types also come with an eliminator from which we can prove J such that it is the identity function on refl, i.e. where the computation rule holds definitionally (for details see the Agda code in Cubical.Core.Id). We then prove that Path and Id are equivalent types and develop the theory that we have for Path for Id as well, in particular we prove the univalence theorem expressed with Id everywhere (the usual formulation can be found in Cubical.Basics.UnivalenceId).

Note that the cubical identity types are not an inductive family like in HoTT which means that we cannot use Agda’s pattern-matching to match on them. Furthermore Cubical Agda doesn’t support inductive families yet, but it should be possible to adapt the techniques of Cavallo/Harper presented in

Higher Inductive Types in Cubical Computational Type Theory

in order to extend it with inductive families. The traditional identity types could then be defined as in HoTT and pattern-matching should work as expected.

Propositional truncation

The core library only contains one HIT: propositional truncation (Cubical.Core.PropositionalTruncation). As Cubical Agda has native support for user defined HITs this is very convenient to define:

data ∥_∥ {ℓ} (A : Set ℓ) : Set ℓ where
  ∣_∣ : A → ∥ A ∥
  squash : ∀ (x y : ∥ A ∥) → x ≡ y

We can then prove the recursor (and eliminator) using pattern-matching:

recPropTrunc : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {P : Set ℓ} →
                 isProp P → (A → P) → ∥ A ∥ → P
recPropTrunc Pprop f ∣ x ∣          = f x
recPropTrunc Pprop f (squash x y i) =
  Pprop (recPropTrunc Pprop f x) (recPropTrunc Pprop f y) i

However I would not only use recPropTrunc explicitly as we can just use pattern-matching to define functions out of HITs. Note that the cubical machinery makes it possible for us to define these pattern-matching equations in a very nice way without any ap‘s. This is one of the main reasons why I find it a lot more natural to work with HITs in cubical type theory than in Book HoTT: the higher constructors of HITs construct actual elements of the HIT, not of its identity type!

This is just a short example of what can be done with HITs in Cubical Agda, I plan to write more about this in a future post, but for now one can look at the folder Cubical/HITs for many more examples (S¹, S², S³, torus, suspension, pushouts, interval, join, smash products…).

Constructive HoTT/UF

By combining everything I have said so far we have written the file Cubical.Core.HoTT-UF which exports the primitives of HoTT/UF defined using cubical machinery under the hood:

open import Cubical.Core.Id public
     using ( _≡_            -- The identity type.
           ; refl           -- Unfortunately, pattern matching on refl is not available.
           ; J              -- Until it is, you have to use the induction principle J.
           ; transport      -- As in the HoTT Book.
           ; ap
           ; _∙_
           ; _⁻¹
           ; _≡⟨_⟩_         -- Standard equational reasoning.
           ; _∎
           ; funExt         -- Function extensionality
                            -- (can also be derived from univalence).
           ; Σ              -- Sum type. Needed to define contractible types, equivalences
           ; _,_            -- and univalence.
           ; pr₁            -- The eta rule is available.
           ; pr₂
           ; isProp         -- The usual notions of proposition, contractible type, set.
           ; isContr
           ; isSet
           ; isEquiv        -- A map with contractible fibers
                            -- (Voevodsky's version of the notion).
           ; _≃_            -- The type of equivalences between two given types.
           ; EquivContr     -- A formulation of univalence.
           ; ∥_∥             -- Propositional truncation.
           ; ∣_∣             -- Map into the propositional truncation.
           ; ∥∥-isProp       -- A truncated type is a proposition.
           ; ∥∥-recursion    -- Non-dependent elimination.
           ; ∥∥-induction    -- Dependent elimination.

The idea is that if someone has some code written using HoTT/UF axioms in Agda they can just import this file and everything should compute properly. The only downside is that one has to rewrite all pattern-matches on Id to explicit uses of J, but if someone is willing to do this and have some cool examples that now compute please let me know!

That’s all I had to say about the library for now. Pull-requests and feedback on how to improve it are very welcome! Please use the Github page for the library for comments and issues:

If you find some bugs in Cubical Agda you can use the Github page of Agda to report them (just check that no-one has already reported the bug):

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29 Responses to Cubical Agda

  1. It is great that this has been done and that you have advertised and documented it here. Thanks!

    In order to test my examples in my existing HoTT/UF development, I will need to remove all uses of pattern matching on refl and replace them by J first. It would be great if pattern matching on refl could eventually be automatically translated to uses of J under the hood.

    You say that the main reason to use the HoTT/UF interface is to be able to use existing code. However, there are more (also important) reasons: (1) Code developed in the HoTT/UF interface applies to more models (including the simplicial model). (2) The details of cubical type theory are very complicated to newcomers (and perhaps also to experts). (3) Competing alternatives to cubical type theory may emerge with time, and code using the HoTT/UF interface is more likely to work on them. (4) There is a book for HoTT/UF, and there isn’t a book for cubical type theory yet.

    Having said that, a number of people may want to learn and understand cubical type theory, and cubical Agda without the HoTT/UF interface is a great tool to do this experimentally.

    • Steve Awodey says:

      I agree that it’s very cool to have an interpretation of Book HoTT with all the cubical machinery “under the hood”. But in order to know that we can use it to reason soundly in, say, simplicial sets, or other settings for Book HoTT, we still need to know that this interpretation is conservative, in a suitable sense. Otherwise it could be that the version of Book HoTT that is being simulated also proves some extra definitional equalities or inhabits some more types. I believe it can probably be done by comparing sSets and (DeMorgan) cSets as model categories — but there is some work to be done here.

      • I agree with the “but” in the second sentence and everything else.

      • (And perhaps, if this were possible, a true HoTT/UF interface should export only the HoTT Book definitional equalities. This should be possible, perhaps, by using the “abstract” mechanism, but I am not sure without thinking further.)

        • mortberg says:

          I’m not sure I understand what you are after. The version of
          HoTT/UF provided by our Agda code obviously satisfy
          more definitional equalities than Book HoTT, in particular it
          satisfies canonicity (any natural number is definitionally equal to a
          numeral). That’s the whole point of it… If we want Book HoTT in
          Agda then we can just postulate the axioms and HITs, so no need
          to use “abstract”.

          Having some conservativity results comparing the various cubical
          type theories to HoTT/UF would be extremely good. But as far as I
          know there is not even a proof in the literature that type theory
          with judgmental computation for J is conservative over the
          version with weak J. This seems like a good place to start
          before trying to approach the much harder question of
          conservativity of (some) cubical type theory over HoTT/UF…

          However, to justify that we can reason soundly in simplicial sets
          using cubical type theory (and hence using the HoTT/UF
          interface to it) we don’t need a full blown conservativity
          result? Don’t we just need to show that we have a sound semantics
          in sSet where for example the spheres are modelled by the
          traditional spheres? I don’t think we can get this to work for
          the De Morgan cubes, but if we drop reversals and work with cubes
          based on distributive lattices (so called “Dedekind cubes”)
          Christian and Thierry sketched an argument this summer:


          If we furthermore drop the computation rules for the Kan
          operations we get a version of cubical type theory (which can be
          modelled by simplicial sets (classically) as well as in Dedekind
          cubical sets (constructively)) for which Thierry has sketched full
          homotopy canonicity:

          I would love to have some flags to cubical agda that lets us
          easily switch to using these systems. The core library is in fact
          written carefully so that neither reversals nor the computation
          rules for the Kan operations are used in any crucial way,
          but it would of course be much more satisfactory if Agda
          could check this for us.

          • Martin Escardo says:

            I think what Steve is saying, and I agree with, is that with this cubically-implemented interface for HoTT/UF we may be able to prove more than HoTT/UF with an axiomatical implementation of the same interface can prove. So, with the cubical implementation of the interface, a side-effect of the ability to compute is (potentially) to be able to also prove more.

            Steve is asking for a conservativity result (saying that, even though me may have more definitional equalities than HoTT/UF has, in the cubical implementation of the interface, still we can’t prove anything new).

            Instead, I was asking for a means of blocking definitional equalities for proving (so that we only have the original HoTT/UF ones), but allowing them for computing a term that was constructed without the additional definitional equality (as far as I understand, this is what “abstract” in Agda does to some extent, but I don’t use abstract and so I don’t know for sure).

            • Martin Escardo says:

              This is in the spirit of the message by Thierry Coquand

              So instead of asking for canonicity of a type theory, we may ask for a sort of (generalized) “existence property”, which is what seems to be going on in Thierry’s result explained in the message.

              • Steve Awodey says:

                Part of the problem is to clarify exactly what is meant by “conservativity (up to homotopy)”. It can’t be just a matter of not proving more definitional equalities, because we’re actually happy to have some more of those! But we don’t want so many that the system is unsound with respect to models that we want to reason about, like Kan simplicial sets. The same is true with respect to inhabiting types, rather than definitional equalities: we don’t want to prove new judgements of either kind that will not hold in all the models we care about.
                Of course, we can’t just ask for conservativity of the cubical system over the “book” one — that’s too strong. A semantic approach would be to show that the model in cSets (where we do know that we have a sound interpretation) maps into the others, in a way that preserves the interpretation. This is something that’s nice about *Cartesian* cubes: it’s initial with respect to other toposes with an interval, like sSets (the same is true for Dedekind cubes, with respect to intervals with connections). *But* the canonical comparison functors determined by the universal property of cSets need to be shown to preserve the interpretation of type theory. This is what I meant by “there’s some work to be done”.

                • mortberg says:

                  Thanks for the clarification Steve! I was thinking of “conservativity” in more proof theoretic terms, i.e. can we find a translation between the systems that expands proofs relying on judgmental equalities into proofs using transports.

              • mortberg says:

                As I wrote in my comment


                I think the system proposed by Thierry has the best properties of all the known systems for doing univalent mathematics so far. It is also substantially simpler than full-blown cubical type theory as the Kan operations do not reduce, but this does not seem to be much of an obstacle for practical formalization judging from my experiment. I don’t think I can block things sufficiently in cubical agda using abstract so that I can work in this system (but maybe I’m wrong?), so there should probably be a flag that disables some of the computation rules internally.

                Another issue with this is that we probably want to generalize the Kan operations a little bit to let us do hcomp/transp “backwards” as well as “forward” (from 1->0 instead of just 0->1 in the language of cartesian cubical type theory) in order to compensate for the lack of reversals.

      • spitters37 says:

        There is this conservativity result by rafael bocquet

      • Mike Shulman says:

        I basically agree with Steve here, except that I don’t particularly care about interpreting in simplicial sets (and other known point-set model categories for Book HoTT) as such, only in the (\infty,1)-toposes that they present. So I would be satisfied in this regard (and maybe Steve would be too, I don’t know) if we knew that every (\infty,1)-topos could be presented by some model category in which cubical type theory can be interpreted. But at present, my understanding is that we don’t even know that the (\infty,1)-topos of \infty-groupoids (the one presented by the model category of simplicial sets) can be presented in such a way.

        • Steve Awodey says:

          Yes, of course, this is the point.

          • Mike Shulman says:

            I thought you would agree, but I was slightly unsure because the conversation has mentioned things like definitional equalities in simplicial sets, which are an artifact of that particular presentation rather than an intrinsic aspect of the (\infty,1)-topos. Glad we’re still on the same page. (-:

    • mortberg says:

      Thank you for your comments Martín. Regarding pattern matching on
      refl for Id types I discussed this with some Agda developers a
      while ago and it seems hard to add it in an ad hoc way for this
      type. What would make more sense is to add support for inductive
      families in cubical agda as I mentioned in my post. The subtle
      thing with this is figuring out how the Kan operations should
      compute, but luckily this has already been worked out by
      Cavallo/Harper in the context of their computational semantics of
      cartesian cubical type theory and I think it should be possible
      to directly adapt their techniques to cubical agda. Hopefully this
      can be implemented in the not too distant future (and no matter
      what we want to support inductive families in cubical agda, I’m
      expecting there to be some nice applications using cubical ideas
      to reason about for example vectors).

      I agree with your points (1)-(4), I’m hoping that providing a
      more familiar interface in the form of HoTT/UF will make the
      adaptation of cubical ideas easier for some people. It is quite
      liberating to work in a system when you can reason about equality
      in other ways than only using J. I’ll say something more
      about (1) soon.

      • Voevodsky wanted a version of HoTT/UF, or univalent type theory, to qualify as a foundation of mathematics, on a par with ZFC, with a better treatment of equality where the equality of the encoding of objects in the foundation coincides with the intended equality of the encoded objects in the mathematicians mind (e.g. equality of groups should be (not a proposition but instead a type in 1-1 correspondence with) group isomorphism, which it is in HoTT/UF).

        Although HoTT/UF may not be good computationally (because univalence is an axiom and because the fundamental HIT’s are specified (or axiomatized) rather than constructed), it is more canonical, in my view, than cubical type theory, which, on the other hand has the advantage of being good computationally, as opposed to HoTT/UF.

        I am an extreme advocate of constructive mathematics, as most of you know, to the extent that I think constructivity should be built in any foundation (even in a foundation which is prepared to accept and account for non-constructivity), but I am also an extreme advocate of regarding specifications as coming fundamentally before constructions (what we want to do comes before we do it).

        It seems to me that HoTT/UF is a good specification without a good construction, and that cubical type theory is a good construction without a good pre-existing specification (other than a secondary one of giving computational content to HoTT/UF without having to match it precisely).

        There is much more work to do to get a satisfactory balance, for people who care about constructive mathematics as fundamental, and who regard specifications as primary, in the sense of necessarily preceding constructions.

        But I take my hat off to cubical type theory, for being able to give computational content to HoTT/UF axioms/specifications. This is quite remarkable. And it is great to have this implemented in practice and incorporated in a real-life system such as Agda. I will be using it as the machine room for my HoTT/UF developement, as soon as I manage to replace pattern matching on refl by uses of J (which will take quite a while).

  2. Mike Shulman says:

    Thanks for posting this! I hope to try it out sometime. I have a question about this comment:

    As Agda doesn’t have a notion of non-fibrant types (yet?) the interval I lives in Setω.

    The point of non-fibrancy is to prevent eliminators of fibrant types (like HITs) from being able to use a non-fibrant type as a motive. Does living in Setω also have this effect? If so, would it not be appropriate to describe Setω as “a notion of non-fibrant types”?

    • Andrea Vezzosi says:

      In Cubical Agda only types that live in “Set i” for finite “i” have a composition structure. This has the effect that if you eliminate from an HIT into a type in Setω then Agda won’t be able to generate the extra clause for the hcomp constructor and so the definition is rejected.

      It’s still possible to eliminate from e.g. the naturals into the interval, as naturals do not have free compositions thrown in. It might be interesting to be more conservative, maybe under a flag, or letting datatype definitions choose if the compositions should be free or compute.

  3. gbd_628 says:

    Is there a version of dependent paths for `Id`? It seems like there should be, for completeness, but as far as I can tell there isn’t. You can’t define them because [something-something-set-omega], so if you want to use dependent paths, you can’t use identity types. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a dependent `Id` ought to be judgementally the same as Martin-Löf heterogenous equality, right? Will this be added to Cubical Agda?

    • mortberg says:

      I’m not sure I understand why you say that these can’t be defined. Why not just define them as in the HoTT book:

      DepId : ∀ {ℓ} {A : Set ℓ} {P : A → Set ℓ} {x y : A} (p : Id x y) (u : P x) (v : P y) → Set ℓ
      DepId {P = P} p u v = Id (transport P p u) v

      It might be useful to have a built-in dependent Id type analogous to the dependent Path types though. I don’t think these would be judgmentally the same as Martin-Löf’s heterogeneous equality, but they should be provably the same (up to a Path/Id). If you have some examples where DepId is not enough or not convenient to use let me know and I’ll think harder about how to add them.

      • gbd_628 says:

        What I meant was something that is to `PathP` what `Id` is to `Path`. So:

        IdP : ∀ {ℓ} (P : I → Set ℓ) (u : P i0) (v : P i1) → Set ℓ
        — IdP = DepId {A = I} {x = i0} {y = i1} ?

        This doesn’t work because `I` isn’t of type `Set ℓ` for any `ℓ`. Plus, this means you can’t have a proof that `Id i0 i1`, for the same reason.

        I’ve found `PathP` types to be useful, so I just figured that for completeness you might as well have `IdP`, right? I dunno if they’d actually be useful though, just something that occurred to me when messing around with cubes.

  4. ice1000 says:

    Copied this blog and created a syntax-highlighted and clickable HTML:

    (Slightly modified, there’re some typos in this post)

  5. gbd_628 says:

    So when I try to actually compile cubical stuff with `agda -c`, I’m told that `primTransp` isn’t implemented. Any idea when that will be done? (Or is something wrong with my setup?)

    • mortberg says:

      Are you importing Cubical.Core.Everything from ?

      Also, are you using the latest development version of Agda? (This is *not* the version you get from running cabal install Agda) I wrote some detailed install instructions at:

      • gbd_628 says:

        Yes to both. I have my computer setup so that at login, it `git pull`’s the latest commit of agda’s master branch that passes all travis tests and installs both it and the emacs mode. It also `git pull`’s the latest version of the Cubical library.

        To be clear, no problems arise when typechecking. The problem only occurs when I actually try to compile it. Both the emacs mode (C-c C-x C-c) and the command line (agda -c) give the same message: “Not implemented: primTransp”.

        Are you saying that this is a problem with my setup? I dunno how pertinent it is, but I’m on Arch Linux, which has consistent issues with stack (and all things Haskell, really).

        • mortberg says:

          Oh, I misunderstood what you meant. It does indeed look like the compiler back-end hasn’t been extended to support the cubical features yet, so what you’re seeing is the expected behavior. I never compiled any Agda programs and I have no clue how hard it would be to extend the compiler to support the cubical features.

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