The Demon in the Machine:
How Hidden Webs of Information are Solving the Mystery of Life
Published Oct 2019
When Darwin explained evolution he made no attempt to answer the deeper question: what is life?
Even a humble bacterium accomplishes things so amazing, so dazzling, that no human engineer can match it. Life looks like magic, its secrets cloaked by a shroud of impenetrable complexity. Huge advances in biology over the past decades have served only to deepen the mystery.
But now an answer to the question is at hand, and it comes from a field of science so new and fast-moving that it lacks a name, a domain where computing, chemistry, quantum physics and nanotechnology meet. The link that interweaves them is information, not in the prosaic everyday sense, but as an abstract concept as important and profound as energy. The power of information to explain life and to unify biology with physics heralds a new scientific revolution poised to transform technology and medicine, and to answer the age-old question of whether or not we are alone in the universe.
In this penetrating and wide-ranging book, world-renowned physicist and science communicator Paul Davies searches for answers in a field so new and fast-moving that it lacks a name; it is a domain where biology, computing, logic, chemistry, quantum physics, and nanotechnology intersect. At the heart of these diverse fields, Davies explains, is the concept of information: a quantity which has the power to unify biology with physics, transform technology and medicine, and force us to fundamentally reconsider what it means to be alive—even illuminating the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.
From life’s murky origins to the microscopic engines that run the cells of our bodies, The Demon in the Machine journeys across an astounding landscape of cutting-edge science. Weaving together cancer and consciousness, two-headed worms and bird navigation, Davies reveals how biological organisms garner and process information to conjure order out of chaos, opening a window onto the secret of life itself.