Parallel Minds, 127–130


Life and Information


The ability to self-replicate is often regarded as the single most definitive feature of living matter. For a chemical system to be able to replicate itself, as we have already seen, it must be able to perform a function that in chemistry is known as autocatalysis: this is the ability of a certain molecule to reproduce itself starting from its own components, using itself as a model for a copy of itself. In carrying out this process of autocatalysis there must be some kind of transfer of information from model molecule to daughter molecule, which is achieved through the physico-chemical interactions that guide the copying process. This process is typical of biological molecules, but it is not exclusively limited to them: some artificial molecules capable of manifesting self-replicating behaviour have been synthesised, and the search for new chemical systems capable of self-replication is constantly expanding.…