On Jun 18, 2019, at 12:43, nate lust <natelust@linux.com> wrote:

I have been following this discussion for a long time, and coincidentally I recently started working on a project that could make use of assignment overloading. (As an aside it is a configuration system for a astronomical data analysis pipeline that makes heavy use of descriptors to work around historical decisions and backward compatibility). Our system makes use of nested chains of objects and descriptors and proxy object to manage where state is actually stored. The whole system could collapse down nicely if there were assignment overloading. However, this works OK most of the time, but sometimes at the end of the chain things can become quite complicated. I was new to this code base and tasked with making some additions to it, and wished for an assignment operator, but knew the data binding model of python was incompatible from p.

This got me thinking. I didnt actually need to overload assignment per-say, data binding could stay just how it was, but if there was a magic method that worked similar to how __get__ works for descriptors but would be called on any variable lookup (if the method was defined) it would allow for something akin to assignment.

What counts as “variable lookup”? In particular:

For example:

class Foo:
    def __init__(self):
        self.value = 6
        self.myself = weakref.ref(self)
    def important_work(self):

… why doesn’t every one of those “self” lookups call self.__get_self__()? It’s a local variable being looked up by name, just like your “foo” below, and it finds the same value, which has the same __get_self__ method on its type.

The only viable answer seems to that it does. So, to avoid infinite circularity, your class needs to use the same kind of workaround used for attribute lookup in classes that define __getattribute__ and/or __setattr__:

    def important_work(self):
    def __get_self__(self):
        return object.__get_self__(self).myself

But even that won’t work here, because you still have to look up self to call the superclass method on it. I think it would require some new syntax, or at least something horrible involving locals(), to allow you to write the appropriate methods.

    def __get_self__(self):
        return self.myself

Besides recursively calling itself for that “self” lookup, why doesn’t this also call weakref.ref.__get_self__ for that “myself” lookup? It’s an attribute lookup rather than a local namespace lookup, but surely you need that to work too, or as soon as you store a Foo instance in another object it stops overloading.

For this case there’s at least an obvious answer: because weakref.ref doesn’t override that method, the variable lookup doesn’t get intercepted. But notice that this means every single value access in Python now has to do an extra special-method lookup that almost always does nothing, which is going to be very expensive.

    def __setattr__(self, name, value):
        self.value = value

You can’t write __setattr__ methods this way. That assignment statement just calls self.__setattr__(‘value’, value), which will endlessly recurse. That’s why you need something like the object method call to break the circularity.

Also, this will take over the attribute assignments in your __init__ method. And, because it ignores the name and always sets the value attribute, it means that self.myself = is just going to override value rather than setting myself.

To solve both of these problems, you want a standard __setattr__ body here:

    def __setattr__(self, name, value):
        object.__setattr__(self, name, value)

But that immediately makes it obvious that your __setattr__ isn’t actually doing anything, and could just be left out entirely.

foo = Foo() # Create an instance
foo # The interpreter would return foo.myself
foo.value # The interpreter would return foo.myself.value
foo = 19 # The interpreter would run foo.myself = 6 which would invoke foo.__setattr__('myself', 19)

For this last one, why would it do that? There’s no lookup here at all, only an assignment.

The only way to make this work would be for the interpreter to lookup the current value of the target on every assignment before assigning to it, so that lookup could be overloaded. If that were doable, then assignment would already be overloadable, and this whole discussion wouldn’t exist.

But, even if you did add that, __get_self__ is just returning the value self.myself, not some kind of reference to it. How can the interpreter figure out that the weakref.ref value it got came from looking up the name “myself” on the Foo instance? (This is the same reason __getattr__ can’t help you override attribute setting, and a separate method __setattr__ is needed.) To make this work, you’d need a __set_self__ to go along with __get_self__. Otherwise, your changes not only don’t provide a way to do assignment overloading, they’d break assignment overloading if it existed.

Also, all of the extra stuff you’re trying to add on top of assignment overloading can already be done today. You just want a transparent proxy: a class whose instances act like a reference to some other object, and delegate all methods (and maybe attribute lookups and assignments) to it. This is already pretty easy; you can define __getattr__ (and __setattr__) to do it dynamically, or you can do some clever stuff to create static delegating methods (and properties) explicitly at object-creation or class-creation time. Then foo.value returns foo.myself.value, foo.important_work() calls the Foo method but foo.__str__() calls foo.myself.__str__(), you can even make it pass isinstance checks if you want. The only thing it can’t do is overload assignment.

I think the real problem here is that you’re thinking about references to variables rather than values, and overloading operators on variables rather than values, and neither of those makes sense in Python. Looking up, or assigning to, a local variable named “foo” is not an operation on “the foo variable”, because there is no such thing; it’s an operation on the locals namespace.