With great interest I read your essay, which of course is worthy of high praise.
You are one of the few who directly answers the question put by the contest.
You are absolutely right that «consciousness requires us to understand far from equilibrium thermodynamic systems and dissipative structures», you correctly put questions «a collection of molecules can self-organize into complex structures is still unknown» and find answers «Dissipative Systems that are far from thermodynamic equilibrium tend to evolve towards particular attractor states.»
In my essay , is shown that if you do not use the mystical properties of matter and fields, then there is every reason to believe that the universe is much simpler than it is thought to be.
There is only one essence and the only universal quantum parametric mechanism in the universe that operates on the principle of the classical heat pump in solitons (attractors), and that functions both at the micro- and macro-level of fractal matter. This mechanism allows using a small fraction of the external energy to control in many times big fraction the energy of the system.
This mechanism is also the answer to the questions of this competition.
However, everyone loves their fiction and "magic", built by their "gods", so very few are able to see the rational grain in other people's ideas because of their illusions.
Your essay allowed to consider us like-minded people.
You might also like reading my essay .