The Algorithmic Origins of Life

Presenter: Sara Walker, Arizona State University
When: October 23, 2012 3PM PDT

The origin of life is arguably one of the greatest unanswered questions in science. A primary challenge is that without a proper definition for life – a notoriously challenging problem in its own right – the problem of how life began is not well posed. Here we propose that the transition from non-life to life may correspond to a fundamental shift in causal structure, where information gains direct, and context-dependent, causal efficacy over matter, a transition that may be mapped to a nontrivial distinction in how living systems process information. We discuss potential measures of such a transition, which may be amenable to laboratory study, and how the proposed mechanism corresponds to the onset of the unique mode of (algorithmic) information processing characteristic of living systems.

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