work, and that therefore some form of general intermediate representation or language will be required.
But does one really need a language that has the kind of sequential grammatical structure of ordinary human language? Graphical user interfaces for computer systems certainly often use somewhat different schemes. And in simple situations these can work well. But my uniform experience has been that if one wants to specify processes of any significant complexity in a fashion that can reasonably be understood then the only realistic way to do this is to use a language—like Mathematica—that has essentially an ordinary sequential grammatical structure.
Quite why this is I am not certain. Perhaps it is merely a consequence of our familiarity with traditional human languages. Or perhaps it is a consequence of our apparent ability to pay attention only to one thing at a time. But I would not be surprised if in the end it is a reflection of fairly fundamental features of human thinking.
And indeed our difficulty in thinking about many of the patterns produced by systems in this book may be not unrelated. For while ordinary human language has little trouble describing repetitive and even nested patterns, it seems to be able to do very little with more complex patterns—which is in a sense why this book, for example, depends so heavily on visual presentation.
At the outset, one might have imagined that human thinking must involve fundamentally special processes, utterly different from all other processes that we have discussed. But just as it has become clear over the past few centuries that the basic physical constituents of human beings are not particularly special, so also—especially after the discoveries in this book—I am quite certain that in the end there will turn out to be nothing particularly special about the basic processes that are involved in human thinking.
And indeed, my strong suspicion is that despite the apparent sophistication of human thinking most of the important processes that underlie it are actually very simple—much like the processes that seem to be involved in all the other kinds of perception and analysis that we have discussed in this chapter.