The Origin and Evolution of Information Handling

A major challenge when describing the origin of life is to explain "how instructional information control systems emerge naturally and spontaneously from mere molecular dynamics". So far, no one has clarified how information control emerged ab initio and how primitive control mechanisms in life might have evolved, becoming increasingly refined. Based on recent experimental results showing that chemical computation does not require the presence of life-related chemistry, we elucidate the origin and early evolution of information handling by chemical automata, from information processing (computation) to information storage (memory) and information transmission (communication) and later digital messengers, covering at the same time its syntactic, semantic and pragmatic flavors. In contrast to other theories that assume the existence of initial complex structures, our representation starts from trivial self-replicators whose interaction leads to the arising of more powerful molecular machines. By describing precisely the primordial transitions in chemistry-based computation, our framework is capable of explaining the above-mentioned gaps and can be translated to other models of computation, which allow us to explore biological phenomena at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Being compatible with the free energy principle, we have developed a computational enactivist theoretical framework that could be able to describe from the origin of life to high-level cognition, as if it were a purely constructivist narrative. At the end of our manuscript, we propose some ways to extend our ideas, including experimental validation of our theory (both in vitro and in silico).

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