Re free will:
You did not mention free will, but what you described is a simplified, but exact, version of how some people seem to model free will: free will is somehow equated to the inability to predict future outcomes, despite all outcomes supposedly being fully determined by rules or laws. Just like with cellular automata. So, presumably, those same people must consider that cellular automata possess, or model, free will.
But this is the problem: despite the fervent hopes and semi-religious beliefs of some people, including physicists and philosophers, the idea that all outcomes are fully determined by rules or laws is not supported by evidence. (More on this topic below.)
Re the Nature paper:
As is well known by non-Christian non-fundamentalist non-religious evolutionary theorists, for an organism to be selected by the environment, the organism has to first exist. But for an organism’s physical structure and molecular outcomes to exist in the first place, these outcomes that exist have to have first been “selected” by the physics. And seemingly, this latter “selection” is what this Nature paper is about. But this is the problem: physicists and others have no rationale for the mechanism of this latter “selection” The paper merely says:
“… selectivity in an unknown physical process …”
The root of this problem is that physicists and others have no explanation for why a system would ever move or change.
The problem is that physicists don’t have any rationale for number jump outcomes. And looking at the equations that physicists use to represent law of nature relationships, one can see that these equations only apply IF number movements/ jumps/ steps occur. Despite the delta symbols, the equations do not represent number movement: they merely represent the instant outcomes, due to relationships between categories, IF initialising number movement / jumps occur. The equations have no explanation or rationale whatsoever for any such initialising number movement itself, and clearly, this initialising number movement needs to continually occur.
Contrary to the semi-religious beliefs of some physicists and mathematicians, equations and numbers cannot move themselves: for a system to move requires something that can only be represented by logical connective symbols. In the actual practice of physics and mathematics, physicists and mathematicians play the part of these logical connectives.
So, despite the title of the Nature paper, the 6 authors of the paper actually have no explanation for the particular number jump outcomes which constitute the “selection” of outcomes by the physics of the system, which occurs well before the external environment does its own selection.
So, this is the same old issue: physicists and others have no rationale for why the universe would ever move. A moving system requires an aspect that can only be represented by logical connective symbols.