Critical-like characteristics in open living systems at each organizational level (from bio-molecules to ecosystems) indicate that non-equilibrium phase transitions into absorbing states lead to self-organized states comprising autonomous components. Here, we recall Langton's hypothesis of the spontaneous emergence of computation in the vicinity of a critical phase-transition, which points to the importance of conservative redistribution rules, threshold, meta-stability, and so on. But extrapolating these features to the origins of life, brings up a paradox: how could simple organics - lacking the 'soft matter' response properties of today's complex bio-molecules-have dissipated energy from primordial reactions (for eventual reduction of CO2) in a controlled manner for their 'ordering'? Nevertheless, a causal link of life's macroscopic irreversible dynamics to the microscopic reversible laws of statistical mechanics is indicated via the 'functional takeover' of a soft magnetic scaffold by organics (c.f. Cairns-Smith's "crystal-scaffold"). Field-structured colloids offer a mechanism for bootstrapping - bottom-up assembly with top-down control: its super-paramagnetic colloidal components obey reversible dynamics, but its dissipation of H-field energy for aggregation breaks time-reversal symmetry. This controlled-system description lays the foundation for raising the status of a spontaneous thermodynamic reaction cycle to that of a function with a purpose: a non-equilibrium dynamics now drives the system towards a long range correlation scenario, a pre-requisite for a computing system. Here it can be oriented in a kinetic direction via a series of phase-transitions with appropriate replacements "taking-over" the sustenance and continuity of its functions. Where available, experiments are cited in support of these speculations and for designing appropriate tests.