Out there, far beyond the edges of our solar system, is there life?

In this video, presented at BBC Future’s World Changing Ideas Summit in New York, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explores one of the great existential questions faced by humanity: what kind of life exists beyond Earth?

It’s safe to assume, says Dawkins, that if we ever have contact with extraterrestrial life from outside our solar system, it will be intelligent. That’s because of the huge distances between Earth and other planets. But beyond that, this may be the only thing we have in common with aliens. Life on our planet is carbon-based, but as Dawkins argues, it’s not totally out of the question to have life based on silicon – robotic, in other words.

Alien beings may be nothing like us – so if and when we meet, it’ll also transform our understanding of ourselves and the Universe we live in.

For more from BBC Future’s World Changing Ideas Summit on 21 October,
follow us on Twitter on the hashtag #wcis14, or read more about the topics being discussed, from future healthcare and cybersecurity to robots and drones.