Forget Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. wants to save the planet via AI and robotics

By Michael Grothaus

He may be world famous for playing Tony Stark, the genius playboy billionaire philanthropist also known as Iron Man who saved the planet from Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but now Robert Downey Jr. wants to save the Earth in real life too, reports Variety.

Downey Jr. was one of the keynote speakers at Amazon’s Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space (re:MARS) conference in Las Vegas last night where he announced a new organization called the Footprint Coalition whose aim is to use artificial intelligence, robotics, and technology to save the planet from environmental disaster. Speaking at the event, the Iron Man actor explained how he got the idea for the coalition:

“Quick disclaimer, I don’t pretend to understand the complexities we face as a species, just because I portrayed a genius in my professional life. My scholastic achievement peaked at a correctional finishing . . . On the flip side, I did play an interesting and iconic character for 11 years, Tony Stark . . .  [a] soulless war profiteer to a man who was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the community . . .

“Recently, I was at a table with super smart, impressive, expert folks about six months ago, and the following statement was made: ‘Between robotics and technology, we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely within a decade . . .

“Being essentially a 54-year-old child, I said, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s commit to a process, let’s form a coalition.’ And that did not inspire the reaction I expected. It was dead silence.”

Downey Jr. said the dead silence from the intellectuals at the table was then followed by the explanation that while the tech was probably there to clean up the planet, the political will, intergovernmental cooperation, and willingness by companies to the share intellectual property needed to implement such change was lacking.

That’s when Downey Jr. told the crowd, “I know it’s a kumbaya-type dream. It’s a logistical clusterfuck. I’m down with dedicating myself to maybe one small part of making good on that statement. Even in abject failure, it’s still the best idea I’ve ever had.”

Thus the idea for the Footprint Coalition was born. Downey Jr. says the actual organization will launch by April 2020. Right now it only has a simple website and it’s bereft on details of what the coalition will actually do. But the Iron Man actor seems to believe in the world-changing benefits of technology as much as his character.

“Between robotics and nanotechnology we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely, within a decade,” he told the crowd, adding, “In 11 years, when I’m 65, if we’ve made even a little dent in what I think is a massive threat to our future and the mess we leave behind, I’m going to come back and throw the nuttiest retirement party you’ve ever seen.”

Tony Stark would be proud.


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