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J Theor Biol. 2001 Apr 7;209(3):275-86.

Cybernetic formulation of the definition of life.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, Jagiellonian University, al. Mickiewicza 3, 31-120 Kraków, Poland.


A definition of life (a living individual) in cybernetic terms is proposed. In this formulation, life (a living individual) is defined as a network of inferior negative feedbacks (regulatory mechanisms) subordinated to (being at service of) a superior positive feedback (potential of expansion). It is suggested that this definition is the minimal definition, necessary and sufficient, for life to be distinguished from inanimate phenomena and, as such, it describes the essence of life. Subsequently, a quantitative expression for the amount of the biologically relevant ("purposeful") information (as opposed to the amount of information in the thermodynamic sense) is proposed. This is followed by the application of the formulated approach to different phenomena of a dubious status existing presently on the Earth as well as to the process of origination of life on our planet.

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