The intensifying search for life on other worlds begs an important question: Will we recognize life when we find it? A living thing on another planet may look quite different than any organism on Earth. One way to determine what alien lifeforms may be like is to compare various characteristics of the living and non-living systems we know — characteristics such as how collective behaviors are exhibited in each system. New work co-authored by SFI External Professor Sara Imari Walker offers an innovative way to determine the differences in collective behaviors between living and non-living systems: comparing their information architecture, or how information is stored and processed. The paper, published in a special issue of Theory in Biosciences on quantifying collectivity edited by SFI’s Jessica Flack and Manfred Laubichler, aims to help improve the way collective behaviors are quantified — and leave us better prepared to recognize life on other planets, if and when we find it.

Read the paper, "Informational architecture across non-living and living collectives," in Theory in Biosciences (10.1007/s12064-020-00331-5