The Origins of Life: The Managed-Metabolism Hypothesis

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The ‘managed-metabolism’ hypothesis suggests that a ‘cooperation barrier’ must be overcome if self-producing chemical organizations are to undergo the transition from non-life to life. This dynamical barrier prevents un-managed autocatalytic networks of molecular species from individuating into complex, cooperative organizations. The barrier arises because molecular species that could otherwise make significant cooperative contributions to the success of an organization will often not be supported within the organization, and because side reactions and other ‘free-riding’ processes will undermine cooperation. As a result, the barrier seriously impedes the emergence of individuality, complex functionality and the transition to life. This barrier is analogous to the cooperation barrier that also impedes the emergence of complex cooperation at all levels of living organization. As has been shown at other levels of organization, the barrier can be overcome comprehensively by appropriate ‘management’. Management implements a system of evolvable constraints that can overcome the cooperation barrier by ensuring that beneficial co-operators are supported within the organization and by suppressing free-riders. In this way, management can control and manipulate the chemical processes of a collectively autocatalytic organization, producing novel processes that serve the interests of the organization as a whole and that could not arise and persist in an un-managed chemical organization. Management self-organizes because it is able to capture some of the benefits that are produced when its interventions promote cooperation, thereby enhancing productivity. Selection will therefore favour the emergence of managers that take over and manage chemical organizations so as to overcome the cooperation barrier. The managed-metabolism hypothesis demonstrates that if management is to overcome the cooperation barrier comprehensively, its interventions must be digitally coded. In this way, the hypothesis accounts for the two-tiered structure of all living cells in which a digitally-coded genetic apparatus manages an analogically-informed metabolism.GraphicalOpen image in new window.
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Archival date: 2018-08-25
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