Origin of Life is the hardest question in science. No one knows how the first cell came about. But there’s a simpler, more fundamental question: Where did the information come from? An answer will trigger a quantum leap in Aritifical Intelligence. This may be as big as the transistor or the discovery of DNA itself. A new $5 million prize seeks a definitive answer.
Our judges are: George Church of Harvard & MIT; Denis Noble of Oxford; and Michael Ruse of Florida State University. (Scroll down for their profiles.)
Every cell reproduces itself from digital instructions, stored in DNA. DNA has the same features as modern digital devices: Layers of digital encoding, decoding and data storage; error detection, error correction and repair. Plus an ability to adapt that beggars the imagination.
How do living things repair and heal themselves, adapt to any situation you can imagine, and make choices? The genetic engineering capabilities of cells, which are discussed in the book Evolution 2.0, are not known to most people. But an answer suggests staggering implications for medicine, technology and the environment.
Cells re-engineer themselves, in real time, in hours... even minutes. The reason you have to finish your antibiotics is, germs can hyper-mutate at terrifying speed - then kill you with a vengeance.
How do cells “know” how to evolve? No human software does that. Give software millions of chances and billions of years and all it will do is crash. But life adapts relentlessly. How does it do this? What do cells know that we don’t?
And what about consciousness? In the human realm, only conscious beings create and modify code. Where does consciousness come from? Are cells self aware?
The Evolution 2.0 Prize focuses these issues down to one central question:
How do you get from chemicals to code? How do you get a code without designing one?
Perry Marshall and private equity investment group Natural Code LLC have issued a technology prize to find out.
Does life harness undiscovered laws of physics? Are there unknown emergent properties in nature?
With CRISPR gene editing technology and exponentially accelerating AI, these are questions of burning importance.
If we can unearth the underlying forces that create and propel life, we stand to reap enormous benefits in Artificial Intelligence, engineering, computer science, nutrition, aging, health, cancer research, disease treatment and prevention.
Watch Perry's prize announcement at Arizona State University, hosted by Physicist Paul Davies, director of ASU's BEYOND program, HERE.
Natural Code LLC is a Private Equity Investment group formed to identify a naturally occurring code. Our mission is to discover, develop and commercialize core principles of nature which give rise to information, consciousness and intelligence.
Natural Code LLC will pay the researcher $100,000 for the initial discovery of such a code. If the newly discovered process is defensibly patentable, we will secure the patent(s). Once patents are granted, we will pay the full prize amount to the discoverer in exchange for the rights. Our investment group will locate or develop commercial applications for the technology.
The discoverer will retain a percentage of ongoing ownership of the technology, sharing in future profits of the company, while benefitting from the extensive finance, marketing and technology experience of our investment group. Prize amount as of Summer 2017 is $5 million. The prize caps at $10 million.
Code is absolutely necessary for replication and for life. Code is needed for cells to have instructions to build themselves; code is required for reproduction. Code that has the ability to re-write itself is essential for any kind of evolution to occur.
So… where did the information in DNA come from? This is one of the most important and valuable questions in the history of science. Currently, no one knows the answer.
A solution to this problem will become one of the most pivotal scientific and technical discoveries of the 21st century. The winner will receive substantial recognition.
The Challenge Breakthrough
To solve this problem is far more than an object of abstract religious or philosophical discussion. It would demonstrate a mechanism for producing novel, naturally forming information systems, thus opening new channels of scientific discovery.
Such a find would have sweeping implications for Artificial Intelligence research. This would provide a solution to the most perplexing transition currently faced by the Origin Of Life field, namely the origin of coded information.
How could the genetic code (or any coding system) come into being? This would represent a landmark discovery in the history of science and alter our fundamental understanding of the universe.
What You Can Do To Cause A Breakthrough
George Church is a geneticist, molecular engineer, and chemist. He is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT, and was a founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Developed methods for the first genome sequence. Director, BRAIN Project & PersonalGenomes.org. He is co-author of 425 papers, 95 patents & the book Regenesis.
(photo By Steve Jurvetson from
Menlo Park, USA - Life, Synthetic Life!)
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
We have Oxford Professor Denis Noble on board as prize judge and technical advisor. He’s one of the top 100 scientists in the UK. Denis was the first person to build a computer model of an organ. It was the heart. He did this in 1960 using punch cards. His discoveries made pacemakers possible. He is a fellow of the Royal Society. He is editor of the society's journal Interface Focus and he holds a Commander of the British Empire medal from Queen Elizabeth. He organized the Royal Society’s 2016 conference “New Trends in Biological Evolution” in conjunction with the British Academy. He is president of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. Denis is an accomplished musician and pioneer of the field of Systems Biology. He is author of The Music of Life and Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity.
Dr. Denis Noble
Michael Ruse is a philosopher of science who specializes in the philosophy of biology. He is director of the Program in the Philosophy of the History of Science at Florida State University and author of numerous books including "Darwinism and Design,” “Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know” and “Science, Evolution and Religion.” He is well known for his work on the relationship between science and religion, the creation–evolution controversy, and the demarcation problem within science. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Bergen, McMaster University, the University of New Brunswick and University College London.
Dr. Michael Ruse
Who can participate
The Challenge is open to all individuals and organizations who are legally allowed to participate, and who comply with all the terms of the Challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.
Selection of Winner
Based on the winning criteria, one prize will be awarded for a total of $100,000. If the discovery is defensibly patentable, the full amount of the prize will be awarded for a total of $5 million. In case of a tie, the winner will be selected at the discretion of the Judging Panel.
Registration and Submissions
All submissions must be received online, via the Challenge website, and all uploads can be in PDF format only. Submission reporting requirements are detailed in Judging.
Challenge Guidelines are subject to change. Registered competitors will receive notification when changes are made, however, we highly encourage you to visit the Challenge Site often to review updates.
Duration of Challenge
The Evolution 2.0 Prize will be open through November 17, 2026. Natural Code LLC reserves the right to end, extend or modify the contest at that time at its sole discretion.
Further details about the prize are available at https://herox.com/evolution2.0/guidelines
Perry Marshall is an author, speaker, engineer and world-renowned business consultant in Chicago. With a decade of research, he brings a fresh perspective to the 150-year old evolution debate. Bill Gates of Microsoft and the founders of Google revolutionized software and the Internet through their status as outsiders. Similarly, Perry’s book Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design harnesses a communication engineer’s outsider’s perspective to reveal a century of unrecognized research and discoveries. Perry’s books include 80/20 Sales & Marketing, Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, and Industrial Ethernet. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering. He’s consulted in over 300 industries, from computer hardware and software to biotech and health care.