The variety of natural patterns makes it difficult to analyze and compare them in a systematic manner. We address this problem by focusing on the computational aspects of pattern formation processes. They are characterized in terms of the number of morphogenetic agents, the computing capability of each agent, and the forms of information transfer between the agents and their environment. This computational analysis can be applied to a wide range of patterns. It highlights the fundamental, algorithmic similarities between processes that may be implemented using different physical or physiological mechanisms in nature. It also confirms earlier observations that similar or identical patterns can be created by fundamentally different processes. The tradeoffs between computational characteristics of these processes lend themselves to a formal analysis, which could lead to the formulation of a "computational theory of morphogenesis" on the basis of the theory of algorithms.
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