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From the hills of West Virginia to the flats of rural Australia, some of the world’s largest telescopes are listening for signals from distant alien civilizations. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, known as SETI, is an effort to find artificial-looking electromagnetic-radiation signals that might have come from a technologically advanced civilization in a far-away solar system. A study published today1 describes one of several efforts to use machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), to help astronomers sift quickly through the reams of data such surveys yield. As AI reshapes many scientific fields, what promise does it hold for the search for life beyond Earth?