As advances in biology and artificial intelligence complicate the question of what constitutes sentient life, "The Demon In The Machine" experiments with an understanding of life as a phenomenon of information storage.
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Paul Davies is a Regents' Professor of Physics and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. The author of some 30 books, his many awards include the Templeton Prize and the Faraday Prize of The Royal Society. He is a Member of the Order of Australia and has an asteroid named after him.
Davies succeeds not only in being provocative and controversial, but in maintaining the rigorous scientific approach of the physicist... a classic example of how to present a scientific case, and an insight into the way good scientists work -- John Gribbin * Independent * Praise for The Origin of Life: One of a handful of first-rate scientists who are popular writers. If you are going to read only one book on the origin of life, seriously consider this one * The New York Times * Paul Davies takes us on a fascinating tour of what is known about what life is. Along the way he speculates interestingly about what may become known. His theme, drawn from Darwin, Schroedinger, Turing, Goedel, Shannon and von Neumann, is that what separates life from non-life is information. But how? Exploring that question illuminates biology by revealing its deep roots in physics, mathematics and computer science. -- David Deutsch A tour-de-force of a fascinating and frontier topic: information as a distinguishing, central aspect of those physical systems known as living ones. The Demon in the Machine is simultaneously rigorous, state-of-the-art, and highly readable - very hard to put down -- Michael Levin, Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University Paul Davies narrates a gripping new drama in science, in which the plot is the story of life and the leading actor is information. With his characteristic blend of erudition and clarity, he brings together some of the most rapidly advancing knowledge in physics and technology to show how information controls biology. If you want to understand how the concept of life is changing, read this. -- Professor Andrew Briggs, University of Oxford, author of The Penultimate Curiosity and It Keeps Me Seeking. The Demon in the Machine encompasses some of the most intriguing and unsolved mysteries of the universe: the existence of an arrow of time imprinted on the cosmos, and the emergence of life itself. Davies' crisp but rich narrative succeeds in untangling various highly complex ideas and processes, while fluently and intelligently setting out its own arrow of argument. -- Mikhail Prokopenko, The University of Sydney This creative demon shadows DNA and the promise of quantum computing, answering some basic questions. What is consciousness, why is life so good at predicting where it might go next? The bridge connecting fundamental physics, biology and the most advanced labs of computation is what Davies calls information patterns. He shows how it organizes for top-down creativity, and thereby holds off the grim reaper of entropy. With striking insight, and metaphors that illuminate the landscape of science today, Davies once again becomes a guide to the near future. -- Charles Jencks, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation Paul Davies always probes the deepest questions in science. Here, addressing the deepest of all -- Schroedinger's What is Life? -- he tells us what life is: matter plus information - beyond the laws of physics, but compatible with them. To elaborate this thesis, he deploys his trademark talent: getting to the heart of the most abstruse and technical aspects of science (biology as well as physics), without jargon and with down-to-earth analogies -- Michael Berry, HH Wills Physics Laboratory The molecular biology revolution has led to extraordinary understandings of how life emerges from physical processes. But comprehension of the nuts and bolts of these processes omits a key feature of what is going on: what separates life from non-life is information. In this characteristically clearly written and engaging book, ranging from physics to biology and evolutionary theory to neuroscience, Paul Davies strongly makes the case that at its core, life is about information flows. There is much food for thought here. Highly recommended. -- George F.R. Ellis, University of Cape Town, co-author of The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time This is one of the most exciting books I have read in years. Paul Davies celebrates a significant anniversary with a demonically brilliant investigation of a fundamental question that only the very latest science and philosophy can deal with. Now we have a view from the master that's as thrilling as it is satisfying. Superb. -- Robyn Williams Paul Davies is a courageous explorer of the boundaries of what we can know about our world. This book makes his explorations available to all who enjoy pushing those boundaries. Written with a light entertaining touch, even the most abstruse science acquires the clarity of exposition for which the author is justly renowned -- Denis Noble, University of Oxford, author of Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity
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