Your points are very well taken - there is most certainly a trade off in computation and pay off. But let's ask ourselves: how do real world people make this trade-off? Having just done some consulting work, I know that organizations routinely make such computations. Before hiring a consultant or devoting resources to solving a problem, managers frequently ask: will the cost of finding the solution get me a pay-off? The managers have the collective intelligence of the organization (other workers, books, reports, corporate archives, etc) that will help them answer this question.
But in other cases, framing the issue as a computational cost issue is misleading because it assumes that actors will engage in an even harder computation. Most beginning chess players seem to learn in a fashion similar to a nueral net. For example, they aim to acheive a state ("win") by doing certain actions ("control the center"). If they fail to control the center, they loose a bunch and then shape up. In a broad sense, they are utility maximizers, but in a narrow sense they are not doing anything resembling the actors depicted in, say, Krep's Microeconomics text. They are in a feed back loop with their environment, not engaged in an utility maximization computation. Fabio