What if the aliens we're looking for are AI?

“If we do find a signal, we shouldn’t expect it’s going to be some sort of soft squishy protoplasmic alien behind the microphone at the other end,” says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer for alien-hunting organisation Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti).

Seti has been actively searching for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life for more than half a century. Despite tantalising signals (such as this recent one), it has so far drawn a blank. But Shostak believes we should consider looking to our own future to imagine what aliens will be like.

“Perhaps the most significant thing we’re doing is to develop our own successors,” says Shostak. “If we can develop artificial intelligence within a couple of hundred years of inventing radio, any aliens we are likely to hear from have very likely gone past that point.”