2:00 pm -4:45 pm  - PLENARY 7

(PL7) Origin and Evolution of Life and Consciousness    

Steen Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark, Sante Fe Institute            

Stuart Kauffman, Sante Fe Institute           

Sara Walker, Arizona State University

Bruce Damer, UC Santa Cruz         


Steen Rasmussen, PhD

Sante Fe Institute, Research Professor

Professor, Physics and Chemistry

University of Southern Denmark

Founder & Director, FLinT - Center for Fundamental Living Technology



Born July 7, 1955 in Helsingoer (Elsinore), Denmark. Citizen of Denmark. Permanent Residence in U.S.A. (Alien of Extraordinary Ability). Formal education, PhD Physics. Focused on representing, generating, analyzing, and controling self-organizing and related systemic processes as they are manifested in natural and human-made systems. Current and recent projects include assembly of protocells, web-based decision support systems, simulation of critical infrastructure protection, and the development of simple urban dynamics simulations.



After his postdoc at the Technical University of Denmark he joint Los Alamos National Laboratory and Santa Fe Institute August 1988. During his 20 years in New Mexico, USA (1988-2007, Alien of Extraordinary Abilities) he has developed and contributed to a variety of interdisciplinary research programs and projects.

He was one of the founders of the Artificial Life field in the late 1980s, which he has engaged with ever since. At Los Alamos he was part of many interdisciplinary projects including the Human Genome, Transportation Simulation, Urban Security, Disaster Mitigation, and Distributed Satellite Communication. In the early 90s he co-developed the Transportation Simulation System (TRANSIMS), which was implemented by the US Department of Transportation. In the mid 1990s he co-directed the Urban Security Initiative at Los Alamos, developing an integrated simulation framework for urban systems as well as web-based disaster mitigation tools, which were implemented in Cerro Grande Wildfire May 2000 where 20.000 people were evacuated. He was also part of the original Los Alamos team on Critical Infrastructure Protection, now implemented by the US Department of Homeland Security. 

He became the Scientific Team Leader of the Los Alamos Self-Organizing Systems (SOS) team in 2002. He was leading the Los Alamos Protocell Assembly (LDRD-DR) project and the Astrobiology program (origins of life) at Los Alamos (2003-5), developing experimental and computational protocells and Cell-Like Entities with USAF as a co-sponsor. Further, he was the Co-Director of the EC sponsored Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution (PACE) project (2004-8) and a Guest Professor at University of Copenhagen (2004-5).

Late 2007 he returned to Denmark as founder and Director of the FLinT - Center for Fundamental Living Technology at University of Southern Denmark (SDU). The main scientific effort of Prof. Rasmussen over the last 15 years has been to explore, understand and construct transitions from nonliving to living materials. Creating minimal life requires an interdisciplinary scientific effort, which is why he assembled, sponsored, and lead research teams in the US, across Europe and in Denmark. In the last few years he has also assembled interdisciplinary scientific teams to explore the technological and societal transition spearheaded by digitization followed by living and intelligent technologies. He has extensive experience in architecting new scientific ideas and assembling research teams to pursue these ideas.

In 2009 he founded the Initiative for Science Society and Policy (ISSP). Together with Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and the European Center for Living Technology (ECLT) these organizations allow Prof. Rasmussen to pursue his scientific interests in the physics behind living and life-like processes as well as how technologies based on living and intelligent processes both change our societies and what it means to be human. He is frequently an invited national and international science policy advisor and he is actively engaged in the public discourse about science, society and citizens. 

Professor Rasmussen has published 112 peer reviewed science papers (incl. Science, Nature & PNAS) and given 200+ invited presentations at international meetings and seminars with 100+ the last 10 years. Many communications about his work inside and outside of the scientific establishment have appeared on television, radio, web as well as in newspapers, periodicals, and books, including cover stories at Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune as well as programs on National Geographic and NOVA. Since 2000 he has sponsored 12 postdocs (theorists and experimentalists) and 29 graduate and undergraduate students. 

Formal education

Ph.D., (Physics) Technical University of Denmark (TUD) 1985.
M.Sc., (Physics & Physical Chemistry) Technical University of Denmark (TUD) 1982.

Philosophy studies at University of Copenhagen 1978-1981.