Breakthrough Listen has been looking (listening?) for alien life in our milky way galaxy and at the 100 nearest galaxies. They’ve been specifically listening in areas of our galaxy where the stars are more closely packed: the galactic core. They examined over 60 million stars, but haven’t found anything significant.
I think that we’re unlikely to find signals from alien civilizations because I think we’re looking for the wrong things. I look at it this way: we’ve been looking for the kind of signals that we put out. Stuff like radio waves. That makes sense given our history; we’ve been dumping radio waves for over 100 years. But that presumes that aliens would similarly be putting out organized electromagnetic radiation. What if the hypothetical aliens have come up with a more efficient way to send information to themselves. What if they’ve stopped using radio, etc.
Perhaps they’ve shifted to using tightbeam laser communication. That wouldn’t be sending signals all over the place, just to the destination. It’s also more energy efficient.
It’s like using listening for AM radio signals, but the people you’re listening for have switched to FM. The way of encoding information is different, and could just appear as random static.
If intelligent life out there is using some method to communicate that we haven’t thought of, then we may not be able to detect them, even if we’ve scanned their system for signals.
Of course I don’t have a solution to this problem. I know much less than the experts on what other methods intelligent life could be using to communicate; I’m just a middle school science teacher. I’d love to find evidence of alien intelligence. I just think that we’re looking for a needle in a haystack where no one is allowed to access the haystack directly.
I think that we may find extra-terrestrial life, but it won’t be intelligent life. It’ll be something like bacteria. Perhaps life is relatively common, but it doesn’t evolve to what we think of as intelligence. How would we know if there were a habitable planet within 50 light years that has life with the intelligence chimpanzees? They wouldn’t be broadcasting anything.