If you’ve heard of Yuri Milner, it may be because of his billionaire status; his internet investment company DST Global; or his philanthropic work with the Breakthrough Prize, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and the Breakthrough Initiatives. The investor is also a Giving Pledge signatory, and he ranks among other ultra-wealthy pledgers like Elon Musk and Bill Gates.
Yuri Milner recently shared some of his ideas about humanity’s place in the Universe in a short book, Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilization, which is available to read online for free.
Yuri Milner’s Philanthropic Work
Yuri Milner started his career as a theoretical physicist and is still a passionate supporter of science and space exploration. Today, through various philanthropic enterprises, the investor celebrates scientists and their ground-breaking discoveries, inspires young minds to engage with scientific ideas, and funds fundamental research programs.
The Breakthrough Prize and Breakthrough Junior Challenge
Yuri Milner is a co-founder of the Breakthrough Prize, the world’s largest scientific awards. Also known as the “Oscars of Science,” the Breakthrough Prize honors the important achievements of physicists, life scientists, and mathematicians. Annually, multiple laureates receive $3 million in prizes at an internationally televised award ceremony in Silicon Valley.
Yuri Milner also helps fund the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a science video competition that is open to teenagers worldwide. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge started in 2015 and has since awarded impressive prizes to winning students, their teachers, and their schools.
The Breakthrough Initiatives
In 2015, along with Stephen Hawking, Yuri Milner launched the Breakthrough Initiatives, a group of space science programs that seek answers to some of humanity’s deepest questions about life in the Universe.
There are currently five Breakthrough Initiatives. These include Listen, a $100 million program that has reinvigorated the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and Starshot, a $100 million research and engineering program that hopes to develop a new technology that could make uncrewed interstellar travel possible within the next generation.
The Giving Pledge
These philanthropic enterprises reflect Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge commitment, which he made in 2012 with his wife Julia. The Milners have vowed to donate a significant portion of their wealth during their lifetimes, mainly to scientific causes.
In his pledger letter, Yuri Milner explained he had joined the Giving Pledge to invest in Earth’s greatest minds and humanity’s shared future. His interest in our collective future led him to publish his short book, Eureka Manifesto, in 2021.
Yuri Milner’s Eureka Manifesto
The central argument of Eureka Manifesto is that, while humans can do incredible things when we come together to achieve a common goal, our whole civilization is currently lacking a shared mission. Without one, our progress as a species is, at best, chaotic — or, at worst, unlikely to survive.
Yuri Milner proposes that our shared mission should be to “explore and understand our Universe.” He rationalizes his reasoning for this mission, its potential rewards, and a plan of action to advance the mission, across the book’s five chapters:
- We Need a Mission.
- Our Mission.
- Why We Must Embrace the Mission.
- The Significance of Our Moment.
- How to Advance the Mission.
Yuri Milner advocates for hastening the arrival of a scientific revolution that could kindle a new enlightenment for our civilization. Not only could we all enjoy a vibrant culture of knowledge and rational thinking, but, one day — if we can master interstellar travel — our descendants may expand this enlightenment far beyond Earth in the form of a galactic civilization.