Our paper for the Artificial Life 13 conference has been published by the MIT Press.
Tom Froese, Takashi Ikegami and Nathaniel Virgo
Most researchers in the science of the origin of life assume that the process of living is nothing but computation in the chemical domain, i.e. information processing of a genetic code. This has had the effect of restricting research to the problem of stability, as epitomized by the concept of the hypercycle and its potential vulnerability against parasites. Stability is typically assumed to be ensured by a rigid compartment, but spatial self-structuring is a viable alternative. We further develop this alternative by proposing that some instability can actually be beneficial under certain conditions. We show that instability can lead to adaptive behavior even in the case of simple prebiotic reaction-diffusion systems. We demonstrate for the first time that a parasitic sidereaction on the metabolic level can lead to self-motility on the behavioral level of the chemical system as a whole. Moreover, self-motility entails advantages on an evolutionary level, thus constituting a symbiotic, behavior-based hypercycle. We relate this novel finding to several issues in the science of the origin of life, and conclude that more attention should be given to the possibility of a movement-first scenario.