Yuri Milner talks about humanity’s place in the universe in his Eureka Manifesto

Your current location is within the known Universe.

Zoom in a bit, and you’re about 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way, on the inner edge of the Orion-Cygnus arm, on a rocky planet designated “Earth.” Since the Milky Way is one of several billion galaxies in the observable Universe, Earth and its human inhabitants appear quite small. We could easily ignore our importance on the vast scale of the cosmos as a meaningless blip in the history of time, amounting to little more than a few fleeting civilizations. Other than a few brief trips to the moon, we’ve barely left the planet.

However, Yuri Milner’s short book Eureka Manifesto: the mission for our civilization argues otherwise. Delivering a moving message to humanity about our place in the Universe, the manifesto offers Milner’s perspective on our part in “Universal History” and explains that the very fact of our existence has presented us with a mission that we must think twice about. to refuse. Let’s take a closer look at the backstory of the billionaire science philanthropist, including the Giving Pledge and Breakthrough initiatives, and the central ideas at the heart of his book.

Yuri Milner and the search for intelligent life

The first idea that Milner would one day crystallize into The Eureka Manifesto formed during his childhood. Milner grew up in the 1960s, a time when the space race was raging, and she read the book by Iosif Shklovsky and Carl Sagan. intelligent life in the universe. Hooked on the possibility that intelligent beings could live among the stars, Milner developed a lifelong fascination with the subject.

At first, Milner embarked on a career as a theoretical physicist in quantum field theory, then decided that the world of business was a better fit for him. He moved to the US to study at the Wharton School of Business, and after launching a successful Internet company, he founded DST Global, one of the most prolific Internet investment firms in the world.

give promise

Despite his talent for entrepreneurship, Milner never lost his love for science. This, coupled with their belief that the future of humanity depends on it flourishing, led Milner and his wife Julia to join Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge in 2012. An initiative to galvanize philanthropy on an unprecedented scale. precedent, Giving Pledge members include some of the richest people in the world. Through this Pledge, Julia and Yuri Milner pledged to donate at least half of their wealth during their lifetime to predominantly scientific causes.

That same year, the Milners partnered with Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, and Ann Wojcicki, to found the Breakthrough Prize, the largest annual science award in history, also known as the “Oscars of Science.” Soon after, they added Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a worldwide video competition that encourages high school students to engage with difficult science concepts. Since then, the Milners’ Breakthrough Foundation has supported various humanitarian causes and funded pioneering Breakthrough Initiatives.

innovative initiatives

Three years after signing the Giving Pledge, in 2015, Milner teamed up with Stephen Hawking to launch the Breakthrough Initiatives, a set of science programs that search for life beyond Earth and hope to make interstellar spaceflight a reality. Breakthrough Initiatives include Starshot, a mission to deliver a nanoship to Alpha Centauri; Watch, who is on the lookout for habitable planets; and Listen, a $100 million project that uses radio telescopes to detect interstellar messages.

So far, Listen has not received communications from alien civilizations. Despite the radio silence, Milner is undeterred. In fact, this has prompted him to spread the word about humanity’s place in the larger Universe. When he was a child, Shklovsky and Sagan’s book made Milner think about the remarkable fact of intelligent life, not only the possibility that it exists elsewhere, but also that it exists here on Earth. A few years ago, the philanthropist decided that even if we haven’t found other civilizations yet, it was worth encouraging people to think about our own civilization’s place in the scheme of things. It was then that he began his book, The Eureka Manifesto.

The Eureka Manifesto

Published in 2021, Milner describes The Eureka Manifesto as his message, calling humanity to “look beyond the horizon, to see the extraordinary cosmic history of which we are part, and there to find our Mission.” So what is this cosmic or universal story? What is our mission, what are the risks, and if we choose to accept it, how do we move forward?

universal history

The entire Universe once existed in a sphere the size of a human head. So, the sphere expanded. Almost fourteen billion years later, here we are.

Despite not being there when it happened and having existed for only a fraction of the time scale of the Universe, you are currently reading these words and are somehow able to imagine the birth of all things. Miraculously, you are thinking with a mind made from the stuff of the Universe.

The journey from the sphere to your mind and beyond is Universal History, the history of everything. Somehow, we emerged as the storytellers. Could it be that we are a way for the Universe to understand itself? So goes the theory at Milner’s The Eureka Manifesto.

mission of humanity

Although we know some of the broad features of Universal History, mainly thanks to a series of Eureka! moments of brilliant minds throughout human history, we have much to discover. The Eureka Manifesto suggests that Universal Story has not only brought us into existence, but has also given us a mission, as fundamental as the laws of nature: “To explore and understand our universe.”

There are two good reasons for undertaking the mission: the rewards of success and the costs of failure. The potential rewards are endless and exciting to consider. Imagine the technological progress for humanity and, with space travel, the knowledge that could expand our minds. Then there’s the possibility of taking our place among a larger interstellar community, a real-life version of star trek United Federation of Planets.

We’re alone?

If we don’t take up the mission, we risk sacrificing the future of our civilization. The progress of humanity as a species may seem intrinsic, but it is not irreversible. History has shown us that civilizations can fall, enlightenments can fail, and societies can lose interest in the science that drives them forward.

Then there’s the question that Breakthrough Listen is currently trying to answer: Are we alone in the Universe? If we are really alone, that is an even greater reason for us to advance our understanding of Universal History, as the only cosmic storytellers. If we are not alone and there is alien intelligence out there, are we at risk of sitting back and letting a potentially advanced species tell the story for us? Also, if history has taught us anything, it is that encounters between civilizations with different levels of technological mastery do not usually end so well for the less advanced ones.

Extinction events present another threat to life on Earth. Some are man-made, like wars and climate change, while others could come from space, like asteroids on a collision course or bubbles of death. It may be a wise move for us to get our civilization up and running as quickly as possible before any of these threats materialize.

Advancing the Mission

To advance in the mission, The Eureka Manifesto establishes an “Action Plan:”

  • Ensure that fundamental science and space exploration are areas that receive investment.
  • Drive scientific progress through artificial intelligence.
  • Celebrate scientists as heroes.
  • Make Universal History the center of attention of our educational systems, especially taking advantage of the power of art.
  • Start a new enlightenment with an open culture where everyone shares knowledge.

These steps resonate with Milner’s philanthropic work through the Breakthrough Foundation. While financial contributions like Milner’s may be unrealistic for most of us, we can all play a role in advancing the mission to explore and understand our Universe by embracing a culture that celebrates science and encourages future generations. to look up and fight for the stars.

If you’re still not sure how to help humanity’s mission, you can start by reading The Eureka Manifesto.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is an Israeli technology investor and scientific philanthropist who, fascinated by science from an early age, is now fueling humanity’s search for extraterrestrial life.

Initially pursuing graduate studies in physics, Milner later switched to business, moving to the Wharton School in Philadelphia. He eventually founded DST Global and, under Milner’s leadership, the successful company became one of the world’s largest technology investment funds. Through DST Global, Milner was an early backer of the major social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. He later sold those stakes and invested in Spotify and Airbnb, as well as Chinese online retailers such as Alibaba.

Milner believes that scientists and tech entrepreneurs play similar roles in advancing humanity, asking big questions about our world and imagining pioneering solutions that deepen our collective knowledge and enrich lives on a global scale.

As part of his belief in the innate value of scientific investment, Milner is the founder of the Breakthrough Foundation, which funds cutting-edge space programs, supports leading researchers in fundamental sciences, and inspires the next generation to engage in scientific ideas.

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