The early Earth was governed exclusively by the laws of physics and chemistry. These laws still apply, but they are not what makes our planet interesting. We spend most of our time attending to the behavior of living things and the culture of human civilization, which were absent from the early Earth. What changed? The answer is found in the linear arrangements that we call sequences. The persistence and diversity of life and civilization are made possible by one-dimensional patterns orchestrating three-dimensional activity. Sequences of DNA guide the functioning of the living world, sequences of speech and writing choreograph the intricacies of human culture, and sequences of code oversee our literate technological civilization. Well-known linguists, biologists, and computer scientists have observed many similarities among sequences of DNA, language, and code, but to date there has been no unified account. Producing such an account means answering the important question posed by biophysicist Howard Pattee: “How does symbolic information actually get control of physical systems?” The result is a theory that looks at DNA and language not as two different things but rather as two examples of one sort of thing, a system of sequences.