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Talk abstract: The origin of life remains one of the most stubborn open questions in science. One of the primary stumbling blocks is that we do not yet have a universal understanding of what life is. Defining life is a subject of intense debate in its own right: a debate that is likely only to be resolved should we arrive a theory for life, universally applicable to life here on Earth and anywhere else we might hope to one day discover it. Arriving at such a theory will require separating those features of known life that are potentially universal from those that are contingent features of life on Earth. In this talk I discuss new approaches to the problem that focus on the informational and causal structure of living systems. This approach is rooted in contrasting the properties of biological networks with sampled networks sharing similar structural properties (such as topology) to discern those features that seem uniquely “biological” and could motivate development of future theories. I conclude with ideas motivated by this work that could provide insights into illuminating any distinctive physics operative in life and related processes that are applicable to solving the problem of life’s origins.