Prebiotic geochemical automata at the intersection of radiolytic chemistry, physical complexity, and systems biology

Zachary R. Adam, Albert C. Fahrenbach, Betul Kacar, Masashi Aono

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Abstract

The tractable history of life records a successive emergence of organisms composed of hierarchically organized cells and greater degrees of individuation. The lowermost object level of this hierarchy is the cell, but it is unclear whether the organizational attributes of living systems extended backward through prebiotic stages of chemical evolution. If the systems biology attributes of the cell were indeed templated upon prebiotic synthetic relationships between subcellular objects, it is not obvious how to categorize object levels below the cell in ways that capture any hierarchies which may have preceded living systems. In this paper, we map out stratified relationships between physical components that drive the production of key prebiotic molecules starting from radiolysis of a small number of abundant molecular species. Connectivity across multiple levels imparts the potential to create and maintain far-from-equilibrium chemical conditions and to manifest nonlinear system behaviors best approximated using automata formalisms. The architectural attribute of "information hiding" of energy exchange processes at each object level is shared with stable, multitiered automata such as digital computers. These attributes may indicate a profound connection between the system complexity afforded by energy dissipation by subatomic level objects and the emergence of complex automata that could have preceded biological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9376183
JournalComplexity
Volume2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1

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