Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUCSF

Stochastic innovation: functional self-organization in simple systems

  • Author(s): Bradford, Justin Allen
  • Advisor(s): Dill, Ken A
  • et al.

Our proposal is concerned with the organization of simple chemical catalysts into coordinated, complex catalytic systems. Theories regarding the origin of life must answer the question of how a pre-biotic, primordial soup of chemicals could organize into a structured system capable of supporting the origin of biological life. We are proposing a new conceptual principle to provide this organization.

Organization and complexity at a biological scale is driven by generally understood evolutionary principles. However, biological evolution requires a substantial infrastructure of chemical complexity: concrete information storage molecules capable of self-replication to provide a selective criteria. Information molecules describing a more stable, robust, or efficient method of replication become more common in succeeding generations. Furthermore, this process of development is intrinsically dependent on the environmental history it experiences. The information molecule becomes a reflection of the patterns of uncertainty and reliability inherent in the environment.

Other forms of addressing the problem of chemical organization have either taken the form of extremely simplified biological evolution (``polymer worlds'') or innate chemical consequences of the form of self-organized criticality. We propose a novel, generalized concept: evolutionary organizing principles acting on simple chemical environments. These systems are simpler than, and proceed, any ``genetic system'' of evolutionary organization. Quite simply, we suggest a general evolutionary approach, devoid of the conventional biological infrastructure, and ask how simple chemistry and physics could accomplish this: a chemical evolution.

Our primary contribution is this idea and approaches to studying it. However, we focus our research by proposing a single physically plausible model that serves as the basis of evolutionary action. While this may not be the model -- or even one of many necessary models -- underlying chemical evolution, we expect our work to provide a guide to further understanding this component of the origin of life.

Main Content
Current View