Yuri Milner’s Eureka Manifesto: Unifying Science, Technology, and Humanities for a Better Tomorrow

Yuri Milner is an entrepreneur and tech investor worth $5.9 billion. He’s also a member of the Giving Pledge. In 2012, Milner promised to donate most of his wealth to causes that support humanity’s leading minds and our shared future. His philanthropic efforts include the non-profit Tech For Refugees.

Three years ago, Milner released Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilisation. The short book envisions a future where people of all disciplines collaborate to advance our exploration and understanding of the Universe. Here’s how Eureka Manifesto proposes that we unify science, technology, and humanities for a better tomorrow.

Yuri Milner on the Interplay Between Science and Culture

From the theory of relativity to radioactivity, many of humanity’s greatest discoveries are the work of brilliant scientists. However, scientists alone could not have sparked past Enlightenments (periods of significant intellectual and cultural progress).

In Eureka Manifesto, Milner explains that scientific discoveries often “emerge alongside, and cross-pollinate with, new ideas in philosophy, art, literature, architecture, music, and other fields.”

Milner emphasises that open, collaborative cultures nurture great scientists. He cites “the artists, musicians, writers, architects, technologists,” and other passionate innovators who contributed to these thriving cultures and so to the progress of civilisation.

“Artists, like scientists, are thirsty for knowledge,” Milner writes. “They too aim to model the world, and develop new tools like 3D perspective. But their paintings and sculptures — the mass media of the day — also project outward: They feed and sustain a shared culture of truth-seeking, rational argument, and criticism.”

Additionally, Milner describes the coupling of science and technology “into a kind of feedback loop” as “one of the most powerful drivers of progress.”

For example, Galileo’s theoretical understanding of optics led him to build a telescope. This telescope helped him discover Jupiter’s moons, and their existence served as convincing evidence for Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the Solar System.

The Cross-Disciplinary Appeal of the Breakthrough Prize

The interplay between science, technology, and humanities has informed the ethos and direction of Milner’s philanthropic projects, which include the Breakthrough Prize.

At $3 million each, the Breakthrough Prizes are the world’s largest scientific awards. Only researchers who have made groundbreaking discoveries in fundamental physics, the life sciences, and maths are eligible for the award.

The Breakthrough Prize celebrates these stars of science each year at a glamorous awards ceremony. Broadcast online for global audiences, the event also brings together household names from the worlds of entertainment and tech entrepreneurship. As a result, the Breakthrough Prize appeals to a broader audience beyond the scientific community.

Fusing Knowledge and Creativity: The Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Another of Milner’s notable philanthropic projects is the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The competition asks students to create a short video explaining an important scientific idea or mathematical principle.

Through its unique format, the Challenge requires young people to blend their scientific knowledge with creative and technical skills like scripting, filming, and video editing. Often, entrants’ videos incorporate practical and special effects, such as animation, to convey a complex concept in a simple, engaging way.

Milner believes educators should use art to engage more students in the quest to explore and understand our Universe. Storytelling media like books and TV shows can keep people engaged in the sciences even after they leave school.

Milner also proposes reframing education around the Universal Story, which “contains the history of our Universe, our planet, and our civilisation, including the realm of the social sciences and humanities.” This interdisciplinary approach could replace the more fragmented, specialised model of education many schools use today.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Power Scientific Research

One of the most potent and recent examples of the science-technology feedback loop is the impact artificial intelligence (AI) could have on fundamental research. Milner dedicates a chapter in Eureka Manifesto to the power AI holds to “model the world, generate predictions, collect data, and perform experiments.”

One of Milner’s cutting-edge space science programmes is already using machine learning techniques to advance the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

Breakthrough Listen, one of Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives, started applying machine learning algorithms to its data in 2018. In 2023, Listen announced the results of an AI-driven data searching method: eight new radio signals showing the traits we might expect from real alien technosignatures.

Learn more about Yuri Milner’s vision to foster collaboration between science, technology and humanities in Eureka Manifesto.