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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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

While Hollywood has defined the standard, iconic alien — an anorexic, almond-eyed gray guy — there's no reason that intelligent extraterrestrials should so closely resemble humans. Of greater importance, the ones we seek might not be living creatures at all.

Humans are busy inventing artificial generalized intelligence — machines that are our cognitive equals, and soon our superiors. Based on this technological arc, it's reasonable to assume that advanced aliens have done this long ago. But such thinking machines are not restricted to planets or other habitats conducive to biology.

Why it matters: Our searches for cosmic company generally use large antennas to search for faint, deliberately produced radio signals from other worlds that are likely to be similar to Earth. We assume that the aliens need what we need — a watery world and a thick atmosphere. But if the aliens are not biological, then we need to modify our search strategies. The most impressive intellects of the universe won't need the life-friendly environments of planets, and could be spread throughout space. The real extraterrestrial's may not be little gray men, but little gray boxes.

The other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker