any generality almost inevitably requires computational resources far greater than one would normally consider reasonable in a practical method of perception or analysis.

And in fact there is really no reason to consider such a sophisticated procedure. For in a sense any program—including one that is very simple and runs very quickly—can be thought of as implementing a method of perception or analysis. For if one gives a piece of data as the input to the program, then the output one gets—whatever it may be—can be viewed as corresponding to some kind of description of the data.

But the problem is that under most circumstances this description will not be particularly useful. And indeed what typically seems to be necessary to make it useful is that somehow one is already familiar with similar descriptions, and knows their significance.

A description based on output from a cellular automaton rule that one has never seen before is thus for example not likely to be useful. But a description that picks out a feature like repetition that is already very familiar to us will typically be much more useful.

And potentially therefore our lack of higher forms of perception and analysis might in the end have nothing to do with any difficulty in implementing such forms, but instead may just be a reflection of the fact that we only have enough context to make descriptions of data useful when these descriptions are fairly close to the ones we get from our own built-in human methods of perception.

But why is it then that these methods themselves are not more powerful? After all, one might think that biological evolution would inevitably have made us as good as possible at handling data associated with any of the systems that we commonly encounter in nature.

Yet as we have seen in this book almost whenever there is significant complexity our powers of human perception end up being far from adequate to find any kind of minimal summaries of data.

And with the traditional view that biological evolution is somehow a process of infinite power this seems to leave one little choice but to conclude that there must be fundamental limitations on possible methods of perception that can be useful.

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