Don’t Be Afraid Of Killer Robots, Says Yuri Milner

Unlike some, billionaire Russian VC Yuri Milner is not scared that killer robots are coming to destroy humanity in the years ahead. His view about the rise of artificial intelligence is better described as a beautiful friendship between humans and machines.

“I think that what we see very clearly is that there is a convergence between human brain and computers,” said Milner. “Google is a good example of that; when you have a million people feeding the machine — all the content on Google is created by human brain and then there are a bunch of servers that are analyzing this data and feeding it back into the human brain, so there is a very peaceful co-existence between us and Google. Our brains are slowly adjusting to Google being around.

“The same thing with Facebook. Around a billion people are entering information into Facebook and then servers are analzying this data and providing value back to us.”

“So that’s the way I think artificial intelligence will develop. Essentially as a combination of computers and the human brains,” he added. “Another interesting example is chess. It is very obvious that in the beginning 1990s that computers are better at playing chess than humans. But all the tests that have been done so far show that if computer is assisting human to play then they beat another computer.”

Milner was speaking during a wide-ranging onstage interview here at TC Disrupt SF 2015, in which he also talked about his investment strategy at DST Global; the growth of ecommerce in markets such as China and India vs the U.S.; and the economics of trying to communicate across ~15 million trillion miles, aka sending galaxy-to-galaxy messages. This summer the billionaire investor announced he would be putting $100 million into a long term project aiming to find extraterrestrial intelligent life — assuming there’s anything out there to find. But he clearly reckons the odds are worth the punt.

On the Breakthrough Initiatives project Milner argued it’s actually an “extremely cheap endeavor” (relatively speaking, but hey he’s a billionaire), to send messages across space — even to communicate across the vast distances between galaxies. So making a bet that “somebody should be sending something out there” is worth the big spend. “This is our responsibility to keep looking,” he added.

For founders, Milner said DST brings a global perspective to help them grow their businesses, as well as a relatively hands-off approach to how they do that.

“When we invest in companies, many of them already have strong boards, and we never push ourselves onto those boards,” said Milner. “But we do keep a very tight dialogue with the founders and we often help them with some insights just from our experience globally. It happens that you would see something interesting in China or India which can be applied in U.S., in particular situation. And that’s why we come in and bring the founder’s attention to all those amazing phenomena happening around the world. So that’s how we see our value-add.”