We define life as the amplification of quantum uncertainty up to macroscopic scales. A living being is any amplifier that achieves this goal. We argue that everything we know about life can be explained from this idea. We study a ladder mechanism to estimate the probability that the amplification occurs spontaneously in nature. The amplification mechanism is so sensitive to small variations of its own parameters that it acts as a bifurcation itself, i.e. it implies that the universe is either everywhere dead or alive wherever possible. Since the first option is excluded by the existence of life on earth, we infer that the universe hosts a huge number of inhabited planets (possibly one per star on average). We also investigate models of conscious and unconscious learning processes, as well as the structure of the brain and evolution. Finally, we address the problem of creating artificial life.