Yuri Milner is one of 242 billionaires who have signed Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates, and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge. When Milner made his Giving Pledge in 2012, he committed to support science philanthropy with the majority of his wealth. For over a decade, his Breakthrough Foundation has funded projects that:
- Support and celebrate leading scientists and mathematicians.
- Spread inspiring scientific ideas to young people.
- Pioneer research in exciting areas of space science.
Milner has also written a book about humanity, science, and the Universe called Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilisation. This short book proposes that humanity needs a common goal to flourish as a civilisation into the distant future.
Our collective mission — should we choose to accept it — is to explore and understand our Universe. According to Milner, there are various ways we can all help advance this mission.
Yuri Milner’s Fascination With Science and Space
Since childhood, Milner has been fascinated by science and the possibility that intelligent life exists beyond Earth. Eureka Manifesto opens with a preface that describes how Milner’s mother named him after Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel to outer space.
As a boy, Milner read Iosif Shklovsky and Carl Sagan’s Intelligent Life in the Universe. He went on to pursue a career as a theoretical physicist before switching to the business and tech sectors.
Our Cosmic Mission
In Eureka Manifesto, Milner argues that humanity lacks a common goal: a mission that could unite us in our progress as a civilisation. A mission can offer “a purpose to existence, a guiding vision to our choices, and a rallying call to action.” He suggests this mission could be to explore and understand our Universe.
The mission isn’t just for the scientists who make important discoveries. Milner emphasises that we all have a stake in this mission, as the fruits of exploration and understanding can benefit everyone. Milner also believes that humanity is at a critical point in the progress of the mission, as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance rapidly.
Scientists As Cultural Heroes
Empowering AI to accelerate scientific progress is one way that humans can drive the mission. But there are other ways we can all contribute.
For instance, we can give scientists greater cultural recognition to honour the impact of their discoveries. While modern society often celebrates actors, pop stars, and sportspeople, we rarely hold researchers in the same regard, despite their transformative work in medicine, maths, and physics.
Since 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has raised the prestige and profile of brilliant scientists. Milner and his wife co-founded the Breakthrough Prize with Anne Wojcicki, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan.
The world’s largest scientific awards, the Breakthrough Prize celebrates scientists as heroes. Its annual televised awards ceremony invites world-famous celebrities and audiences to join this celebration and take inspiration from the laureates’ achievements.
Igniting A New Enlightenment
Aside from enabling AI to drive scientific progress and celebrating scientists, Milner’s plan of action in Eureka Manifesto includes sparking a new enlightenment. He says “everyone can contribute to a shared culture of knowledge” in this enlightenment.
Of course, only a handful of great scientists will make the major discoveries that advance humanity’s understanding of the Universe. However, Milner believes we all have a crucial role to play in developing the conditions for such discoveries to occur.
By striving to build a society that values critical thinking, rational discourse, and knowledge, we can further humanity’s mission.
About Yuri Milner
Yuri Milner is a globally recognised entrepreneur who made his fortune in internet technology investment. Milner and his wife have promised to donate most of their wealth to charitable, mainly scientific, causes. Their Breakthrough Foundation funds several programmes, including Tech For Refugees, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and the Breakthrough Initiatives.
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