Much of the business of life is about the transmission and processing of information, but it is less clear what the full mathematical structure of information theory teaches us about the mechanisms at work in living systems. We use the 70th anniversary of Shannon’s foundational papers as an opportunity to address this question, across all scales from the folding of individual protein molecules to the dynamics of learning. We will explore the amount of information that is conveyed in these different processes, and the nature of its representation, using information theory as a tool for the characterization of biological systems. More deeply, we will explore examples where optimization of information transmission has been used as a principle from which aspects of biological function can be derived. Presentations will start with pedagogical background, and there will be ample opportunity for discussion.
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