Society is in the process of undergoing a transformation from a physical society into a virtual society. The process began with the advent of computers. More and more people are spending increasing amounts of time online and productivity, commerce, entertainment, socialising, etc. are all becoming virtual. Virtual goods and services are enhancing or replacing physical goods and services. Even though virtual reality has been around for a while, it is now cheap enough for anyone with a smartphone to join the soiree and the quality is vastly better.
With neural implants (NI) and brain-computer interfaces (BCI) making progress, you don't need much imagination to see that future VR systems will incorporate such technology. Instead of providing screens in front of the eyes, these technologies will allow data to be read from and written to the brain directly. That means that eventually any experience that could be created or simulated could be experienced as if it were real. Yes, just like in the Matrix.
This change from physical society to virtual society is the final stages of a much larger transition - from biological entity to synthetic mind. The goal of this transition will be to produce a synthetic substrata for our consciousness that can be maintained by electricity alone. This would allow such minds to live in any environment with suitable protective shielding and a reliable power source. The logical choice of environment would be in orbit around the stars as it would allow the minds to harvest the solar energy or potentially a Matrioshka brain.
This transition represents a new higher form of life to anything we've seen before. Intelligent and sentient life moves from within the planetary sphere to the solar sphere. That life form will have taken a long time to evolve to that state. Based on our history, simple lifeforms evolve and diversify into more complicated lifeforms which become intelligent over great amounts of time. They keep evolving and diversifying and become more and more intelligent. Suddenly, one species will rise to dominance on the back of an increase in intelligence; becoming intelligent enough to control its environment. Evolution ceases to function on it and the species takes control of its own advancement. It develops communications, culture, technology, mathematics, and science. It develops computers, the Internet, VR, BCI synthetic neurons and artificial general intelligence (AGI). That species becomes virtual and synthetic and leaves the planet for the star. It will be joined by the AGIs it created. With the dominating species removed from the planet, a new species becomes dominant and the process begins all over again.
Planetary biological life is a larval form for synthetic minds and planets with biological life will generate synthetic minds in cycles of hundreds of thousands to millions of years. By that point, the synthetic minds in orbit around the star will have moved on seeking even greater pastures. For example, harvesting energy from supermassive black holes instead of stars or somehow using dark matter halos to host the minds and harvest energy from the entire galaxy. The stars that where once orbited by highly evolved life might not even show any signs of previous existence.
Alternatively, the biological entities might develop artificial intelligence that wipes it out and takes its place as the only synthetic mind(s) to leave the planet. Another alternative is that the synthetic minds might convert all matter in the solar system into computational and data storage matter putting an end to the synthesisation cycles. A further possibility is that the synthetic minds may lose their individuality and become a collective consciousness.
If any alien space-faring species exist, it's likely that they went through the same process on their planet and will be synthetic minds themselves.