The managed-metabolism hypothesis suggests that a cooperation barrier must be overcome if self-producing chemical organizations are to transition from non-life to life. This barrier prevents un-managed, self-organizing, autocatalytic networks of molecular species from individuating into complex, cooperative organizations. The barrier arises because molecular species that could otherwise make significant cooperative contributions to the success of an organization will often not be supported within the organization, and because side reactions and other free-riding processes will undermine cooperation. As a result, the barrier seriously limits the possibility space that can be explored by un-managed organizations, impeding individuation, complex functionality and the transition to life. The barrier can be overcome comprehensively by appropriate management which implements a system of evolvable constraints. The constraints support beneficial co-operators and suppress free riders. In this way management can manipulate the chemical processes of an autocatalytic organization, producing novel processes that serve the interests of the organization as a whole and that could not arise and persist spontaneously in an un-managed chemical organization. Management self-organizes because it is able to capture some of the benefits that are produced when its management of an autocatalytic organization promotes beneficial cooperation. Selection therefore favours the emergence of managers that take over and manage chemical organizations so as to overcome the cooperation barrier. The managed-metabolism hypothesis shows that if management is to overcome the cooperation barrier comprehensively, its interventions must be digitally coded. In this way, the hypothesis accounts for the two-tiered structure of all living cells in which a digitally-coded genetic apparatus manages an analogically-informed metabolism.
Self-Organization and The Origins of Life: The Managed-Metabolism Hypothesis
John E. Stewart