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An introduction to functional programming

Functional programming is a programming paradigm that treats computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions and avoids changing state and mutable data. It emphasizes the application of functions, in contrast to the imperative programming style, which emphasizes changes in state.

Core concepts of functional programming

Functional programming is based on a few core concepts that are used to solve problems in a functional way. Some of these concepts are explained below, but I strongly encourage you to read the linked articles for a more in-depth explanation.

Pure functions

A pure function is a function that always returns the same output for the same input and has no side effects. This means that a pure function will not modify any external state or data. Pure functions are the building blocks of functional programming.

// Pure function
const concat = (arr, val) => [...arr, val];

// Impure function
const push = (arr, val) => arr.push(val);


Immutability means that once a value is created, it cannot be changed. This is in contrast to mutable data, which can be changed after it's created. Immutability is a core concept in functional programming and is closely related to pure functions.

// Mutable data
let arr = [1, 2, 3];
arr.push(4); // `arr` is now [1, 2, 3, 4]

// Immutable data
const otherArr = [1, 2, 3];
const newArr = [...otherArr, 4];
// `newArr` is [1, 2, 3, 4], `otherArr` is still [1, 2, 3]

Higher-order functions

A higher-order function is a function that either takes a function as an argument or returns a function. Higher-order functions are very common in functional programming and are used to create more complex functions.

const isEven = num => num % 2 === 0;

// Higher-order function
const inverse = fn => (...args) => !fn(...args);
const isOdd = inverse(isEven);


Recursion is a technique where a function calls itself. It's a very powerful technique that can be used to solve many problems in functional programming.

// Recursive function
const factorial = num => {
  if (num === 0) return 1;
  return num * factorial(num - 1);

Benefits of functional programming

Functional programming has many benefits. The main one that people often talk about is that it's easier to reason about code written in a functional style. This is because pure functions don't have any side effects and immutable data can't be changed after it's created. This makes it easier to test and debug code.

Additionally, functional programming produces reusable code that can be easily composed into larger programs. This means that functions can be combined and used in different contexts, making it easier to build complex programs from a handful of smaller, simpler building blocks.

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