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Very much the same answer to the riddle of life:
Given a particular energy source, some arrangements of atoms will be better at absorbing and spending it than others. These arrangements are more likely to undergo an irreversible transformation. What if some systems get better at doing this than others over time? Then the series of irreversible transformations become an effect that compounds, pulling itself up by its bootstraps [...]

Of course, a system of atoms isn't trying to do anything -- it's just blindly, randomly, shuffling itself around. And yet, through its journey from one shape to another, a constellation of chemical stories, it self-organizes into something that looks to us like it has adapted [...]

[...] Darwinian natural selection could be recast as a special case of the more generalized phenomenon of dissipative adaptation, a dialect of a more fundamental language. Whereas dissipative adaptation occurs on the micro-scale, natural selection takes place in the world of macroscopic self-replicators. And self-replication is an excellent way to consume and dissipate energy. In the language of dissipative adaptation, words like "fitness" take on new meaning. "Fitness is defined here not in terms of a set of optimal functionalities, but rather as its 'give and take' relationship with available energy from the environment,"

by das monde on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 06:45:16 AM EST
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