The search for a search: Measuring the information cost of higher level search

Many searches are needle-in-the-haystack problems, looking for small targets in large spaces. In such cases, blind search stands no hope of success. Success, instead, requires an assisted search. But whence the assistance required for a search to be successful? To pose the question this way suggests that successful searches do not emerge spontaneously but need themselves to be discovered via a search. The question then naturally arises whether such a higher-level “search for a search” is any easier than the original search. We prove two results: (1) The Horizontal No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that average relative performance of searches never exceeds unassisted or blind searches. (2) The Vertical No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that the difficulty of searching for a successful search increases exponentially compared to the difficulty of the original search.
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