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Higher Forms of Perception and Analysis

In the course of this chapter we have discussed in turn each of the major methods of perception and analysis that we in practice use. And if our goal is to understand the actual experience that we get of the world then there is no reason to go further. But as a matter of principle one can ask whether the methods of perception and analysis that we have discussed in a sense cover what is ultimately possible—or whether instead there are higher and fundamentally more powerful forms of perception and analysis that for some reason we do not at present use.

As we discussed early in this chapter, any method of perception or analysis can at some level be viewed as a way of trying to find simple descriptions for pieces of data. And what we might have assumed in the past is that if a piece of data could be generated from a sufficiently simple description then the data itself would necessarily seem to us quite simple—and would therefore have many regularities that could be recognized by our standard methods of perception and analysis.

But one of the central discoveries of this book is that this is far from true—and that actually it is rather common for rules that have extremely simple descriptions to give rise to data that is highly complex, and that has no regularities that can be recognized by any of our standard methods.

But as we discussed earlier in this chapter the fact that a simple rule can ultimately be responsible for such data means that at some level the data must contain regularities. So the point is that these regularities are just not ones that can be detected by our standard methods of perception and analysis.

Yet the fact that there are in the end regularities means that at least in principle there could exist higher forms of perception and analysis that would succeed in recognizing them.

So might one day some new method of perception and analysis be invented that would in a sense manage to recognize all possible regularities, and thus be able to tell immediately if any particular piece of data could be generated from any kind of simple description?

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]