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Our expert voices conversation on "How to look for alien life."

Alien life will be conceived, discovered, investigated, and iterated upon right here on Earth using biotechnology and our best attempt at collective intelligence: the computer and the internet.

To me, life is a system defined by generating, storing, and transmitting critical information albeit imperfectly at times. (Here on Earth that is done with DNA.) Simply put, life is complex and non-linear. With that convention, alien life bears no responsibility to be anything like life on Earth — or even follow our terrestrial rules, but it should break rules in a predictable fashion. We should look for systems that can use energy to fuel work, react and adapt to their environments and transmit information about themselves. These together all hint at life, and all can be generated from within a computer using Earth's biology as both tracing paper and as a spotlight.

Alien life simply awaits modern biotechnology to adapt it to existence beyond a computer. There is little gained in creating life from scratch. Rather, our computers should borrow, adapt, and iterate. Modern biotechnology can attempt parts, genetically recoding existing cells to run molecular programs never imagined, the result of which is a novel system constrained to iterate upon a new set of rules. In other words, new life right here on Earth.

The other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
2 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

2 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.