MiS Series Seminar : Minimal Energetic Dynamics of Living Systems
Andres Mejia Ramon, OIST
Minimal Energetic Dynamics of Living Systems
Recent years have seen a major resurgence in the effort to bring together the natural and behavioral sciences under a coherent theoretical framework. Rather than beginning with axioms from the non-living sciences for granted and attempting to derive equations for life thereafter, I advocate for a life-centric approach. I set the stage by briefly describing major transitions in the evolutionary history of the Earth system—from the origins of multicellularity to the rise of global markets—describing periods of diversification followed by agglomeration resulting in an increase in the free thermodynamic energy available for biotic processes. I then present a novel theoretical framework I argue describes the minimal requisite dynamics of any system we can colloquially describe as ‘living,’ namely: (1) that it exchanges energy with its environment, (2) that it replicates, and (3) that it adapts its behavior such that it can continue to exist. In a thermodynamic context, the latter implies that over the long term, living systems cannot exceed the rate of free energy production/acquisition without seeing a decrease in the amount of life. I conclude with a case study of a hypothetical society of hunter-gatherers transitioning to agriculturalists, demonstrating a close association of the predicted dynamics with the observed archaeological record.