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The hunt for life elsewhere in the universe is now essentially a three-horse race between finding microbes in our solar system, signals from an intelligent race or clear signs of organisms in the atmosphere of an exoplanet.

But one expert has claimed that, while the other two ‘horses’ might be important, finding intelligent life would have the most profound impact - because it might not be ‘life’ as we know it.

Instead, she says that the first life we find might instead be a form of artificial intelligence - and it could indicate that humans, too, will one day be more machine than man.

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