Mark Bedau: Autonomous agency in minimal chemical life or “protocells”

Rasmussen et al. (2009) have presented the program-metabolism-container (or PMC) model of minimal chemical life. The model specifies the functional interconnections among the chemical realizations of the program, metabolism, and container properties. Rasmussen diagrams (2009) provide a language for describing the precise webs of interactions among program, metabolism, and container in different kinds of protocells, including those realized in the lab and those merely produced in simulations. I assume that a paradigmatic fully-functioning protocell would exhibit the kind of simple autonomous behavior or “agency” that is characteristic of all simple forms of life (e.g., metabolizing to grow and reproduce, etc.). If so, then the Rasmussen diagram for this fully-functioning protocell is a precise and detailed description of a chemical organization that embodies simple simple autonomous agency.