What is the Secret of Life?
Solve the #1 Question in all of Science
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.
“Evolution 2.0 is a sign of a shifting emphasis in biology from regarding
life primarily as a chemical system, to looking at the flow of information.”
-Financial Times Science Editor Clive Cookson
Where did life come from? Where did the genetic code come from? The Evolution 2.0 Prize offers $10 million to the first person to self-organise chemicals into code.
At the Royal Society in Great Britain 31 May 2019, Perry Marshall tells the story behind the prize. Hosted by Oxford Professor Denis Noble FRS CBE.
The discussion was facilitated and chaired by Dr Paul Flather, President of The Forum for Philosophy, based at the London School of Economics, and Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford.
Origin of Information is the central question in Origin Of Life (“Abiogenesis”). It’s critical to evolution itself. It is the most fundamental scientific question that can be precisely defined. A breakthrough may be as valuable as Einstein’s E=MC^2 or the invention of the transistor.
Perry Marshall is author of “Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design.”
Is $10 million too much or too little? Oxford professor Denis Noble in conversation with Perry Marshall, prize founder from Chicago; and Dr. Kevin Ham, a Medical Doctor and investor from Vancouver. What is a proper incentive for solving one of science’s most stubborn and thorny questions? The group discusses the sparse attention that “Origin Of Information” has received as compared to the chemistry aspects. They highlight the book “Matter to Life” by Walker and Davies, of which Noble is a contributor. Filmed right after the Royal Society prize announcement, here they explore the possibilities of raising the prize amount. For full details on the prize, see http://www.naturalcode.org or http://www.evo2.org.
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 out.
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.
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.
What You Can Do To Trigger A Breakthrough
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- Leave a comment in our Comments Thread to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.
Who can participate
The Challenge is open to all individuals and organizations who are legally allowed to participate, and who comply with all the terms of the Challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.
Selection of Winner
Based on the winning criteria, one prize will be awarded for a total of $100,000. If the discovery is defensibly patentable, the full amount of the prize will be awarded for a total of $10 million. In case of a tie, the winner will be selected at the discretion of the Judging Panel.
Registration and Submissions
All submissions must be received online, via the Challenge website, and all uploads can be in PDF format only. Submission reporting requirements are detailed in Judging.
Challenge Guidelines are subject to change. Registered competitors will receive notification when changes are made, however, we highly encourage you to visit the Challenge Site often to review updates.
Duration of Challenge
The Evolution 2.0 Prize will be open through November 17, 2026. Natural Code LLC reserves the right to end, extend or modify the contest at that time at its sole discretion.
Further details about the prize are available at https://herox.com/evolution2.0/guidelines
**IMPORTANT NOTE** General essays presenting a ‘Theory Of Everything’ and metaphysical constructions about the history of life, unfortunately, cannot be considered. Please do not submit materials of this kind. We are looking for entries that offer quantifiable technological progress.
Perry Marshall announced the $10 Million Evolution 2.0 Prize at the Royal Society on May 31, 2019, hosted by two Oxford professors. The story ran in the Financial Times two days later. Serial Entrepreneur Jerry Jones asks Perry to explain his hugely improbable reception by the world’s top scientists – especially given the controversial nature of evolution. Perry responds with a time-honored poetic formula from 700AD.