Origin of Life is the hardest question in science. No one knows how the first cell came about. But there’s a simpler, more fundamental question: Where did the information come from? An answer will trigger a quantum leap in Artificial Intelligence. This may be as big as the transistor or the discovery of DNA itself. A new $10 million prize seeks a definitive answer.
Every cell reproduces itself from digital instructions, stored in DNA. DNA has the same features as modern digital devices: Layers of digital encoding, decoding and data storage; error detection, error correction and repair. Plus an ability to adapt that beggars the imagination.
How do living things repair and heal themselves, adapt to any situation you can imagine, and make choices? The genetic engineering capabilities of cells, which are discussed in the book Evolution 2.0,are not known to most people. But an answer suggests staggering implications for medicine, technology and the environment.
Cells re-engineer themselves, in real time, in hours… even minutes. The reason you have to finish your antibiotics is, germs can hyper-mutate at terrifying speed – then kill you with a vengeance.
How do cells “know” how to evolve? No human software does that. Give software millions of chances and billions of years and all it will do is crash. But life adapts relentlessly. How does it do this? What do cells know that we don’t?
And what about consciousness? In the human realm, only conscious beings create and modify code. Where does consciousness come from? Are cells self aware?
The Evolution 2.0 Prize focuses these issues down to one central question:
How do you get from chemicals to code? How do you get a code without designing one?
Perry Marshall and private equity investment group Natural Code LLC have issued a technology prize to find a person who can solve this.
What You Must Do to Win The Prize
You must arrange for a digital communication system to emerge or self-evolve without “cheating.” The diagram below describes the system. Without explicitly designing the system, your experiment must generate an encoder that sends digital code to a decoder. Your system needs to transmit at least five bits of information. (In other words it has to be able to represent 32 states. The genetic code supports 64.)
You have to be able to draw an encoding and decoding table and determine whether or not the data has been transmitted successfully.
So, for example, an RNA based origin of life experiment will be considered successful if it contains an encoder, message and decoder as described above. To our knowledge, this has never been done.
Does life harness undiscovered laws of physics? Are there unknown emergent properties in nature?
With CRISPR gene editing technology and exponentially accelerating AI, these are questions of burning importance.
If we can unearth the underlying forces that create and propel life, we stand to reap enormous benefits in Artificial Intelligence, engineering, computer science, nutrition, aging, health, cancer research, disease treatment and prevention.
Natural Code LLC is a Private Equity Investment group formed to identify a naturally occurring code. Our mission is to discover, develop and commercialize core principles of nature which give rise to information, consciousness and intelligence.
Natural Code LLC will pay the researcher $100,000 for the initial discovery of such a code. If the newly discovered process is defensibly patentable, we will secure the patent(s). Once patents are granted, we will pay the full prize amount to the discoverer in exchange for the rights. Our investment group will locate or develop commercial applications for the technology.
The discoverer will retain a percentage of ongoing ownership of the technology, sharing in future profits of the company, while benefitting from the extensive finance, marketing and technology experience of our investment group. Prize amount as of May 31, 2019 is $10 million.
Code is absolutely necessary for replication and for life. Code is needed for cells to have instructions to build themselves; code is required for reproduction. Code that has the ability to re-write itself is essential for any kind of evolution to occur.
We define code as a symbolic information passed between an encoder and a decoder (Claude Shannon 1948).
So… where did the information in DNA come from? This is one of the most important and valuable questions in the history of science. Currently, no one knows the answer.
A solution to this problem will become one of the most pivotal scientific and technical discoveries of the 21st century. The winner will receive substantial recognition.
The Challenge Breakthrough
To solve this problem is far more than an object of abstract religious or philosophical discussion. It would demonstrate a mechanism for producing novel, naturally forming information systems, thus opening new channels of scientific discovery.
Such a find would have sweeping implications for Artificial Intelligence research. This would provide a solution to the most perplexing transition currently faced by the Origin Of Life field, namely the origin of coded information.
How could the genetic code (or any coding system) come into being? This would represent a landmark discovery in the history of science and alter our fundamental understanding of the universe.
Application Deadline: November 17, 2026
Watch the $10 million prize announcement at the Royal Society of Great Britain with Professor Denis Noble, Courtesy of Voices From Oxford
Source: European Commission
Space Robotics Technologies
Sunset in Mars’ Gale Crater NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol, from the rover’s location in Gale Crater. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ
This Martian “postcard” comes after Mars Curiosity drilled its eighth hole on the Red Planet.
Listen To Martian Wind Through NASA Insight Lander’s Sensors
I don’t think people realise how historically relevant this is. We are hearing wind in another planet for the first time ever! Awesome, I never thought I’d live to hear noise from another planet. I hope we will land there one day. We take this stuff for granted, but now we are listening to the wind on Mars which is nearly 34 million miles away.
NASA Releases New Amazing Images Of Mars – Surreal Montage
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