Agency of the Cell: Convergence between Origin of Life, Evolution, Cognition and Cancer

Presented at the American Association of Cancer Research “Evolutionary Dynamics” Conference, Tampa, Florida, 15 March 2022.

Poster Session PDF

Abstract: All cells exhibit agency and evolve purposefully. This is why cancer has outwitted doctors for 100 years and why Stage 3-4 patients are no better in 2022 than in 1930. Evolution was presumed to be random and purposeless, yet all cells possess cognition (Shapiro 2020). Cell behavior is normally algorithmic, but uniquely responds to novel situations. This is what makes evolution (and cancer) possible.

Cognition—sensing and responding to the environment—is the unifying principle behind the genetic code, origin of life, evolution, consciousness, artificial intelligence, and cancer. Thus the central question in biology is: What is the nature and origin of cognition?

A solution to the origin of the genetic code, for which the presenter’s organization offers a $10 million prize, announced at the Royal Society in 2019, is an unsolved cognition problem. This choice is a non-deterministic action of a free agent with sensory capacity and memory. It is not computable from prior states. As well as reading and reacting to its environment, it anticipates future threats, chooses goals and reasons inductively. Computers do none of these things.

This new model explains the futility of reducing most diseases to a single random or algorithmic component, and suggests we should treat cancer as an autonomous purposeful agent with unique identity and capacity to choose.

Poster Session PDF

Biology transcends the limits of computation (PubMed 2021)


American Association for Cancer Research -_Special Conference: Evolutionary Dynamics in Carcinogenesis and Response to Therapy – References

(Marshall 2021)
Marshall, P., 2021. Biology transcends the limits of computation. Prog.
Biophys. Mol. Biol. 2021.

(Shapiro 2020) Shapiro, James A. “All living cells are cognitive.” Biochemical
and Biophysical Research Communications 564 (2021): 134-149.

(McClintock 1953)
B. McClintock
Induction of instability at selected loci in maize
Genetics, 38 (1953), pp. 579-599

(McClintock 1984)
The significance of responses of the genome to challenge
Science, 226 (1984), pp. 792-801, 10.1126/science.15739260

(Torday & Rehan, 2012)
Rehan et al., 2012
V.K. Rehan, J. Liu, E. Naeem, J. Tian, R. Sakurai, K. Kwong, O. Akbari, J.S.
Perinatal nicotine exposure induces asthma in second generation offspring
BMC Med., 10 (2012), p. 129, 10.1186/1741-7015-10-129

(Heng 2019)
H.H. Heng
Genome Chaos: Rethinking Genetics, Evolution, and Molecular Medicine
Academic Press (2019)

(Marshall 2015)
P. Marshall
Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock between Darwin and Design
BenBella Books, Inc (2015)

(Ershova et al., 2015)
A.S. Ershova, I.S. Rusinov, S.A. Spirin, A.S. Karyagina, A.V. Alexeevski
Role of restriction-modification systems in prokaryotic evolution and ecology
Biochemistry Moscow, 80 (2015), pp. 1373-1386, 10.1134/S0006297915100193

(Vasu and Nagaraja, 2013)
K. Vasu, V. Nagaraja
Diverse functions of restriction-modification systems in addition to cellular
Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev., 77 (2013), pp. 53-72, 10.1128/MMBR.00044-12

(Baluška and Levin, 2016)
F. Baluška, M. Levin
On having No Head: cognition throughout biological systems
Front. Psychol., 7 (2016), 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00902

(Cronin and Walker, 2016)
L. Cronin, S.I. Walker
Beyond prebiotic chemistry
Science, 352 (2016), pp. 1174-1175, 10.1126/science.aaf6310

(Walker et al., 2017)
S.I. Walker, P.C.W. Davies, G.F.R. Ellis
From Matter to Life: Information and Causality
Cambridge University Press (2017)

(Floridi, 2005b, 2013)
L. Floridi
Is semantic information meaningful data?
Philos. Phenomenol. Res., 70 (2005), pp. 351-370, 10.1111/

(Liu, 2021)
Jinsong Liu, Seminars in Cancer Biology,

(Floridi and Taddeo, 2018; Nield, 2019)
L. Floridi, M. Taddeo
Romans would have denied robots legal personhood
Nature, 557 (2018), 10.1038/d41586-018-05154-5

(Daintith and Wright, 2008)
J. Daintith, E. Wright
A Dictionary of Computing
OUP, Oxford (2008)

(Raza, 2019) A. Raza
The First Cell: and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last
Basic Books (2019)

(Levin, 2020a)
M. Levin
Life, death, and self: fundamental questions of primitive cognition viewed through the
lens of body plasticity and synthetic organisms
Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. (2020), 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.10.077

(Levin, 2020b)
M. Levin
The biophysics of regenerative repair suggests new perspectives on biological causation
Bioessays, 42 (2020), Article 1900146

(Kauffman and Roli 2021)
Kauffman, Stuart, and Andrea Roli. “The world is not a theorem.” Entropy 23, no. 11
(2021): 1467.

(Levin 2021)
Levin, Michael. “Bioelectrical approaches to cancer as a problem of the scaling of the
cellular self.” Progress in biophysics and molecular biology 165 (2021): 102-113.

(Shannon 1948)
C.E. Shannon

A mathematical theory of communication
The Bell System Technical Journal, 27 (1948), pp. 379-423, 10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x
(Wagner 2014)
Wagner, Andreas. Arrival of the fittest: solving evolution’s greatest puzzle. Penguin, 2014.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: I have the following relevant financial relationships to disclose:

The presenter is founder and shareholder of Natural Code LLC, a firm offering $100,000 for discovery of a natural process that generates code from non-living material without direct human agency. The investment group offers $10 million to secure patent rights to said process. The prize specification is at
Author is founder of Science Research 2.0, a 501c3 funding research at Tufts University (Levin lab) and Columbia University (Raza lab)

Download The First 3 Chapters of Evolution 2.0 For Free, Here –

Where Did Life And The Genetic Code Come From? Can The Answer Build Superior AI? The #1 Mystery In Science Now Has A $10 Million Prize. Learn More About It, Here –

Leave a Reply

You must use your real first and last name. Anonymity is not allowed.
Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *