The Evolution 2.0 Prize
EVOLUTION 2.0 $10 MILLION PRIZE
WHAT IT IS:
Code is essential for replication and for life. Code is needed for cells to have instructions to build themselves; for reproduction. Code that has the ability to rewrite itself is essential for any kind of evolution to occur. No one knows where the first code, the genetic code, came from.
The mission of this international scientific challenge – the Evolution 2.0 Prize — is to solve that riddle: to discover, develop and commercialize core principles of nature which give rise to the information and cognition that enable evolution of cells. A winning solution will become one of the most pivotal scientific and technical discoveries of the 21st century.
Contest Entry Page: www.herox.com/evolution2.0
EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE KEY FACTS:
- Evolution 2.0 is a $10 million technology prize backed by a private equity investment group formed to identify a naturally occurring code.
- The Prize came about from the group’s inaugural meeting May 31, 2019, at The Royal Society of Great Britain.
- The judges are:
One of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2017… Geneticist, molecular engineer, chemist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School… Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT… developer of methods for the first genome sequence… Director of the BRAIN Project and PersonalGenomes.org.
One of the top 100 scientists in the UK… Oxford professor and first person to build a computer model of an organ, the heart, which made pacemakers possible… a Fellow of the Royal Society… holds a Commander of the British Empire medal from Queen Elizabeth… past president of the International Union of Physiological Sciences… pioneer in the field of Systems Biology.
Philosopher of science specializing in the philosophy of biology. Well known for his work on the relationship between science and religion… director of the Program in the Philosophy of the History of Science at Florida State University… well known atheist / agnostic. a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- The Prize is open to all individuals and organizations who meet the submission guidelines.
- The Prize will be open through 2026.
WHAT QUESTIONS DOES EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE SEEK TO ANSWER?
How could the genetic code come into being? How do you get from chemicals to this code that both builds the cell and is acted upon by the cell – DNA? Where did the information in DNA come from? How do living things repair and heal themselves, adapt to any situation and act purposefully? How do cells “know” how to evolve? What do cells know that we don’t? These are central questions in the history of science. Currently, no one has answers.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SUCH A BREAKTHROUGH?
Solving this problem would yield self-creating information systems, opening new channels of scientific discovery. This would have sweeping implications for Artificial Intelligence research. It would provide a solution to the most perplexing transition currently faced by the Origin Of Life field, namely the origin of coded information.
If we can unearth the underlying forces that create and propel life, we stand to reap enormous benefits in numerous fields, engineering, computer sciences, cancer research, disease treatment and prevention, aging, health, and so much more.
WHAT ARE THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IMPLICATIONS?
Medicine: Cancer is evolution run amok. The cell’s capacity to evolve turns against the host as cancer develops a ‘mind of its own.’ We currently do not understand the source of cancer’s self-determining behavior. Understanding the natural origin of code will give us a much deeper understanding of cancer – as well as many other kinds of diseases.
Technology: Siri knows every word you say but has no idea what you mean. Your dog doesn’t understand a word you say but knows exactly what you mean. What if we could develop technology that understands both what you say, and what you mean? No human technology processes language successfully. A solution to the Evolution 2.0 Challenge will bridge the gap between AI and biological intelligence.
Genetics: “CRISPR” technology makes it possible to edit genes as easily as a blog post. Humans tamper with our own self-evolving, self-correcting code, but we do not understand how or why it evolves as it does. Bonnie Bassler’s TED talk “How Bacteria Talk” reveals the linguistic tools of nature. The Evolution 2.0 Challenge seeks a true understanding of these tools. This will help us avoid unintended consequences.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT THE EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE
“The three overarching mysteries are: How did the universe come to be? What is consciousness? What is life? Evolution 2.0 honors the last question and adds a further question: How did coding come to exist?”
–Stuart Kauffman, MacArthur Fellow, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
“What is life? How did life first arise from the inorganic world? How can we find life elsewhere in the Universe? These are deep questions but to address them I think we need to look at what life uniquely does. Life generates complex system such as ecosystems, computers, and social structures. How does life work? The genetic code drives this machinery that helps life work, and holds the key. Evolution 2.0 encapsulates these key ideas and provides inspiration and motivation to help bring others to explore these questions.”
–Lee Cronin, Regius Chair of Chemistry, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow, UK
“The largest basic research science prize in history is still on offer for the demonstration of a natural origin of genetic code from chemical organization.”
–Nature Evolution and Ecology, “The early origin of cooperation” by Joana Xavier
“Evolution 2.0 has the support of some major figures in the scientific community.”
–Spectrum Magazine, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
“By re-examining Darwin, Marshall asks us to reconsider the most important questions we face – what is life?”
–Dr. John S. Torday, professor, Evolutionary Medicine Program, UCLA
“Many companies already successfully exploit evolution, so a breakthrough of this magnitude could have a large return on investment.”
–Professor George Church, Geneticist, Harvard & MIT, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential in 2017
“The biggest problems in science today are: how life got going in the first place and what is the origin of the genetic code. We want to know whether the way information is encoded in DNA is the result of chance or whether there are good chemical reasons why the code is the way it is.”
–Professor Denis Noble, Oxford University Physiologist, and first to model the human heart on a computer, leading to the development of pacemakers
“Evolution 2.0 is a sign of a shifting emphasis in biology from regarding life primarily as a chemical system, to looking at the flow of information.”
–Financial Times Science Editor Clive Cookson
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT PERRY MARSHALL
“It is remarkable that we seem to know more about the origin of the universe than we do about the origin of life. Drawing on his background as an electrical engineer, Perry Marshall asks how code can arise spontaneously. He brings new insight into the concept of life as information management.”
–Andrew Briggs, professor, Nanomaterials, University of Oxford
“Evolution 2.0 is engaging, thought provoking, and challenges us to ‘reboot’ the riddle of evolutionary biology.”
–John S. Torday, MSc, PhD, Evolutionary Medicine Program, UCLA, professor and director for Cellular-Molecular Biology at Harbor-UCLA
“Perry has a dogged focus in the finest tradition of science’s founders. He’s fair and honest with facts that few assess calmly. He explains complex evolutionary systems with clear and understandable illustrations. He’s superbly crafted an engaging narrative and is presentation, absolutely compelling.”
–D. Bnonn Tenent, ThinkingMatters.org.nz
“Perry shows that there are processes in the cell which suggest that the cell itself is sufficiently smart to rearrange its genome and direct its own evolution.”
–Crofton Brierley, MS, Biochemistry, Oxford University, former department head, Marconi Optical
“Perry dares to bring new disciplines to the Evolution debate, namely computer science and electrical engineering. These fields bring light and innovative problem-solving to biology. While most scientists submit to self-censorship and dare not question cherished assumptions, the boldest scientists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking never feared such taboos. Whether agnostics, atheists or believers, they never shrank back from big questions or unconventional solutions. Evolution and design are not either/or, but both/and.”
–Jean-Claude Perez, author, Codex Biogenesis; former IBM Biomathematics and AI Interdisciplinary Researcher
ABOUT PERRY MARSHALL
Concerning the prize, Perry says: “The last 50 years of biology have shown us that evolution is the result if immensely sophisticated self-adapting systems which manifest a level of ingenuity that would be the envy of any engineer at Google or Microsoft.
This is why I call it ‘Evolution 2.0.’ It barely resembles the description you were given in school. It is absolutely essential for the success of modern medicine, cancer treatment and our war on disease. Yet one-fifth into the 21st Century, we barely understand what makes it tick.
Charles Darwin was studying for the ministry when he sailed to the Galapagos Island aboard the HMS Beagle. Albert Einstein was a patent clerk. Thomas Edison had no degree in anything. Industries are always disrupted by outsiders. Innovations almost never come from within.
The question ‘where did information in cells come from?’ is a central question in biology and is not the sole domain of biologists, but also medical doctors, physiologists, engineers, philosophers, and all talented creative people.”
Perry Marshall is endorsed in FORBES and INC Magazine and is one of the most sought-after business consultants in the world. His Evolution 2.0 Challenge, announced at the Royal Society in London, is the world’s largest science research prize. His book Evolution 2.0 harnesses a communication engineer’s outsider’s perspective to reveal a century of unrecognized discoveries.
His reinvention of the Pareto Principle is published in Harvard Business Review; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs uses his 80/20 Curve as a productivity tool. He wrote the world’s best-selling book on digital advertising, Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and has consulted in over 300 industries. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and lives with his family in Chicago.
EVOLUTION 2.0 INVESTOR TEAM
American Investor, Managed $60 billion for Mesirow Financial, former US director of Berenberg, the world’s 2nd oldest bank
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Founder of data firm purchased by Google
American Entrepreneur in Publishing, Economic Development & Finance
Canadian Entrepreneur & Investor in health & biotech
American Serial Entrepreneur; Software, eCommerce and real estate
Dr. Kevin Ham
Medical Doctor & Serial Entrepreneur, Vancouver BC
William G. Hammond, JD
American Attorney and Serial Entrepreneur
Q AND A WITH EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE INVESTORS
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS INITIATIVE AND WHAT DO YOU FIND COMPELLING ENOUGH TO FUND A $10 MILLION PRIZE, AN AWARD LARGER THAN THE NOBEL AND THE LARGEST RESEARCH AWARD IN SCIENCE TODAY?
DENNIS SANCHE: “In our modern world where technology plays such an important role in life, computer programs require software engineers to write their code. Cells on the other hand are able to mutate and modify their behavior depending on their environment; to write their own code, a truly incredible feat. The question is how and why?
The answer would help bridge the gap between biology and technology and unlock so many different possibilities both for science and technological progress. If this problem is solved the resulting IP would have dramatic implications for breakthroughs in medicine and AI. A large prize gives teams around the world regardless of their funding constraints the opportunity to bring their best ideas and thinking to bear. If the team can show a quantifiable technical solution the inventors will directly benefit from the IP. The prize provides an amazing incentive as well as the option to participate in the future upside of the IP.”
WILLIAM HAMMOND: “I am not a scientist. I am an attorney and an entrepreneur, but I have always been open-minded. Fast forward to the autumn of my life when I read Perry Marshall’s Evolution 2.0. As I dug deeper into Perry’s work, I began to see that there might actually be the opportunity to solve the seminal question in all of science, ‘How do we go from chemicals to code without designing the code?’
Over time I began having conversations about this with Perry Marshall. He’s a brilliant engineer and I am at best an ersatz historian. And Perry was proposing a very big ask . . . nothing less than solving the mystery of the very origins of life. Could we even allow ourselves to dream and answer a question this big?
Then I realized that the journey toward the answer had value in and of itself. It took me back to my days as a youngster when we were collectively shooting for the stars. Nothing of value would be easy, it never is. Per aspera, ad astra. ‘Through hardships to the stars.’
So what if the venture falls short and the question defies an answer? Even so, if this were like the Space Race, the spinoff technologies would be amazing.”
ROBERT SKROB: “I’m not sure the Nobel Prize is comparable. That’s a lagging indicator of something chosen as important after the fact. EVO2.0 has been identified as an opportunity and we are creating an incentive to create an explanation.
For too long this question has been obscured by religion versus science. The religious expect you to accept “God of the gaps” to key questions. Many scientists peddle their own theories with no more evidence than the religious. The two sides are so focused on destroying each other neither is open to exploring fundamental questions as to where we came from and how we are made.
A few centuries ago, we’d be branded as heretics for suggesting these questions may have scientific answers not already explained within the book of Genesis. To be part of this contest is to help open the discussion, create an enlightened conversation and be open to the possibility of a discovery.
Many people will say this is an impossible prize to win, that the solution lies beyond our ability. If we are so focused on tearing apart the other side we will never know.
But, if we clarify the open questions, and work together on finding possible answers we’ll have a much more interesting conversation than we are today.”
GARY KLOPFENSTEIN: “Being part of this is clearly a great opportunity to be part of a world-changing discovery, and a great business opportunity. I see there being little downside to being a backer of the prize, and I get to have a front-row seat to history.”
CAN YOU PROVIDE CONTEXT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SUCH A DISCOVERY? WHAT CAN YOU COMPARE THIS TO? WHAT DOES THE VALIDATION OF TOP SCIENTISTS FROM HARVARD AND OXFORD MEAN TO THE CREDIBILITY AND WEIGHT OF THIS ENDEAVOR?
DENNIS SANCHE: “Having top scientists from Harvard and Oxford as judges will ensure that the proposed solutions to the problem and even potential ancillary offshoots that develop from attempts to a solution will contribute to quantifiable technical progress. Such a discovery would have many consequences for medicine and technology. All three judges are esteemed in their respective disciplines which shows the high caliber and seriousness of this prize.
WILLIAM HAMMOND: “In 1979 Robert Heinlein appeared before Congress and testified that four NASA spinoff technologies made his own vascular bypass surgery possible.
What else came from the Space Race? From JFK stating that we were going to put a man on the moon in that decade, we developed technology that led to artificial limbs, the water purifier, satellite TV, freeze-dried food, memory foam and tires five times stronger than steel (the fabric of which was used for parachute shrouds to aid the soft landing of the Viking Lander Spacecraft on the surface of Mars).
Merely striving to solve the question Perry poses will, I believe, improve our world in ways we can scarcely imagine. And I want to be part of that revolution. That’s why I have pledged my own money to support this endeavor.”
ROBERT SKROB: “So far human code primarily exists within electronics. Sure, we interact with code on the television, radio or computer. But, not in the real world. No living thing has human created code.
This result of this contest could unlock the possibility of creating new living beings. Rather than build a robot of metal, it could be code and stem cells. This could create new cures for disease, plants that consume more CO2 than normal to clean the environment or millions of other items. It’s a platform, similar to how the iPhone is a platform for apps. In 2007 no one imagined the apps that are available today. Same with this discovery, once the technology exists to create code in the real world, in the meat world, the applications will be as diverse as the individuals using it.
While Harvard and Oxford are good, it’s Florida State University that I’m most impressed with. The judges and their background demonstrate this is a serious prize, judged fairly by the best in the world to solve one of the most fundamental questions humans have pondered since before recorded history.”
GARY KLOPFENSTEIN: “I believe this discovery, if it happens will set the stage for the next 50 years’ of innovation and transformation of the world as we currently understand it. It seems to me this would be comparable to some of the great scientific discoveries of history. Having top scientists on board gives credence to the project and takes the posturing out of the debate surrounding evolution.”
WHY SHOULD THE GENERAL PUBLIC BE INTERESTED IN THIS CHALLENGE? WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS TO INFORMATION LEARNED BY SCIENTIFIC TEAMS ENTERING? WHAT IS THE TOP TAKEAWAY FOR VARIOUS AUDIENCES ABOUT EVOLUTION 2.0?
DENNIS SANCHE: “Very often breakthroughs in science and technology come from unexpected places. We don’t know where the “eureka” moment will come from but this prize incentivizes bright teams and individuals to find solutions and be well rewarded if they find an answer. Even if this problem is only partially solved it has potential major implications for medicine and AI. Admittedly there is so much about nature we don’t know. Acknowledging this and working on solutions will go a long way to seeing both science and technology progress and ultimately lead to better human flourishing.”
WILLIAM HAMMOND: “The stakes may be nothing less than the survival of life on our fragile planet. In a world under assault from climate change, pollution and the stripping of our national resources, a project that promises to help us uncover the forces that create and propel life may allow us to reap unheard of, perhaps even unimaginable, benefits in science, disease treatment and prevention, and nutrition, all while perhaps cleaning up our polluted world. That is a project worthy of the attention of our Best and our Brightest.”
ROBERT SKROB: “For anyone who has ever wondered, “How did I get here?” “How does nature work the way it does?” and/or “Why am I here, at this point in history?” this contest is for you. For centuries these questions answered through stories, fables or pseudo science myth. This contest clearly defines the open questions, where does the code come from that creates a living creature? This has the potential to solve disease, hunger, pollution and possibly even death itself. For the first time in human history, this contest creates an open dialog, free from dogma, to study possible answers to life’s most fundamental questions.
And here is the benefit of holding this competition for three specific audiences:
For Christians…For more than six thousand years since the Book of Genesis, our ancestors have explained the origin of life as created by God. And, you know what, there’s a darn good possibility that this contest proves it true. This contest could finally be the “proof” that God does exists, He created life and there is an intelligent programmer of life in this world.
For Scientists… Since Darwin, religious zealots have demonized scientists who challenged their fragile beliefs based on a particular interpretation of the Bible. Today, scientists can have an open debate about the origin of life, the source and creation of the code. This contest represents tremendous respect for science to answer life’s most basic questions.
For those Agnostic…Although you may not care about questions around origin of life, understanding the code that powers living things can be the source of technology that can make life better for everyone. No doubt there’s a slim chance this contest gets solved. Who cares? Finally, the fundamentalist true believers have put down their ‘pitch forks’ to approach this question with as an optimist in search of real answers rather than merely looking for a crutch to support what they already believe is true.”
GARY KLOPFENSTEIN: “This is not just an interesting initiative for a small sector of the scientific community, but should be watched by the public in general. This is a quest for the discovery of a naturally occurring creation event.”
EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE SCIENTIFIC ADVISORS
Harvard University, Department of Genetics; visiting professor at MIT
University of Oxford, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
Florida State University, Department of Philosophy
EVOLUTION 2.0 PRIZE TIMELINE
August 1, 2015: Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design published by Benbella. Book describes the prize in chapter 23.
August 7, 2015: First prize submission received from William Sikkema, a PhD candidate at Rice University in Houston TX.
November 28, 2016: The most intriguing submission thus far, from Christian Linhart, an entrepreneur and computer programmer from Austria, is entered. See www.evo2.org/submissions for a complete submission list.
August 28, 2017: Official $5 million prize announcement at Arizona State University, hosted by Dr. Paul Davies, director of ASU’s BEYOND Program. Challenge is posted on HeroX, the world’s largest crowdsourcing site for science and technology prizes.
May 31, 2019: Inaugural European meeting to establish a $10 million prize award at the Royal Society in London, hosted by Dr. Denis Noble and Dr. Paul Flather of Oxford. Documented on video by Voices From Oxford.
December 16, 2019: The first citation of the Evolution 2.0 Prize in a scientific journal, by University of Dusseldorf Origin Of Life specialist Joana Xavier: The early origin of cooperation, Joana C. Xavier, Nature Ecology & Evolution volume 4, pages18–19 (2020)
Photos of Perry Marshall: