Work Meets Life

Work Meets Life

Exploring the Integrative Study of Work in Living Systems

Edited by Robert Levin, Simon Laughlin, Christina De La Rocha and Alan F. Blackwell

Work as fundamental to life, explored at different levels of organization from the perspectives of a variety of biological and nonbiological disciplines.





Work as fundamental to life, explored at different levels of organization from the perspectives of a variety of biological and nonbiological disciplines.

The work performed by living systems ranges from photosynthesis to prodigious feats of computation and organization. This multidisciplinary volume explores the relationships between work and the study of work across many different levels of organization. By addressing how work gets done, and why, from the perspectives of a range of disciplines, including cell and evolutionary biology, neuroscience, psychology, electrical and computer engineering, and design, the volume sets out to establish an integrative approach to the study of work.Chapters introduce the biological work of producing energy in the cell; establish inherent tradeoffs between energy and information in neural systems; relate principles of integrated circuit manufacture to work in biological systems; explore the work of photosynthesis; investigate how work shapes organisms' evolutionary niches; consider the human work of design; describe the effects of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction on work-life balance; and address the effects of environmental challenges (stress) on how humans and animals do work. Finally, editors and contributors draw these studies together and point to future developments.

ContributorsAlan Blackwell, Gillian Brown, Christina De La Rocha, Kevin Laland, Simon Laughlin, Robert Levin, Michael Lightner, Steven Maier, Joseph Rosse, Stacy Saturay


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262014120 272 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 37 b&w illus.


Robert Levin

Robert Levin is Director and Fellow of the Center for the Integrative Study of Work (CISW) at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Scholar-in-Residence in the university's Graduate School.

Simon Laughlin

Simon Laughlin is Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Christina De La Rocha

Christina De La Rocha is Professor in the Marine Environmental Sciences Laboratory (LEMAR) of the European Institute for Marine Research (IUEM) at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France.

Alan F. Blackwell

Alan Blackwell is Professor of Interdisciplinary Design at the University of Cambridge.


  • This collective work as a whole is breathtaking in its aspiration, and it successfully delivers.

    DD Pennington


  • A refreshingly new gaze.... A genuinely integrative work.... Provides a coherent but rich and complex narrative.... An entirely new way of talking about work.

    KN Farrell

    American Journal of Human Biology

  • Work Meets Life succeeds admirably.... Prepared with intellectual honesty.... Work Meets Life is an exemplary collaboration of minds.

    JS Turner


  • Ambitious.... A broad view of work in living systems.... Novel and thought-provoking.

    JE Niven

    Integrative and Comparative Biology

  • [A] rewarding read.... Goes beyond the classical concepts of work as defined in physics.