Paul, thanks for the provocative piece, though the state of the art is certain much further along that your piece intimates. For the general reader, I would suggest reading MIT professor Cesar Hidalgo’s recent book Why Information Grows (MIT Press, 2015) for some general structure and philosophy.

One of the best definitions and frameworks I’ve seen thus far has to be that of Christoph Adami. To start, and depending on your level of sophistication, take a look at his recent arXiv paper (Information-theoretic considerations concerning the origin of life – ) and then take a crack at this popular press article about it in Medium If it’s something that blows your skirt up, then you can certainly begin to delve more deeply into some of his journal articles over the past decade or so.

For further references, I maintain a nice list of resources at Information Theory and Biology Resources [, as well as a “journal club” of sorts at Mendeley: ITBio: Information Theory, Microbiology, Evolution, and Complexity [
For those who like to watch video material, I’ll refer them to some videos from the NIMBioS Workshop on Information and Entropy in Biological Systems [ organized by physicist John Carlos Baez. The Banff International Research Station also hosted a relatively recent week long workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory [ which covered some interesting related ground with videos of many of the talks there as well.