Chapter 10: Processes of Perception and Analysis

Section 13: Higher Forms of Perception and Analysis

Familiar features [of perceived data]

What makes features familiar to us is that they are common in our typical environment and are readily recognized by our built-in human powers of perception. In the distant past humans were presumably exposed only to features generated by ordinary natural processes. But ever since the dawn of civilization humans have increasingly been exposed to things that were explicitly constructed through engineering, architecture, art, mathematics and other human activities. And indeed as human knowledge and culture have progressed, humans have ended up being exposed to new kinds of features. For example, while repetition has been much emphasized for several millennia, it is only in the past couple of decades that precise nesting has had much emphasis. So this may make one wonder what features will be emphasized in the future. The vast majority of forms created by humans in the past—say in art or architecture—have had basic features that are either directly copied from systems in nature, or are in effect built up by using extremely simple kinds of rules. On the basis of the discoveries in this book I thus tend to suspect that almost any feature that might end up becoming emphasized in the future will already be present—and probably even be fairly common—in the behavior of the kinds of simple programs that I have discussed in this book. (When future technology is routinely able to interact with individual atoms there will presumably quickly be a new class of quantum and other features that become familiar.)

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