Planet-Saving Robots? Robert Downey Jr. Is on to Something

WIRED | 6/21/2019 | David Lang
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Earlier this month, Robert Downey Jr. announced that he was forming a new organization, the Footprint Coalition, to apply technology to "clean up" the planet. The coalition's website is still scant on details, just a teaser for news to come. But regardless of how Downey Jr.'s grand plan shapes up, the idea is notable for its premise: new tools can and should be developed to understand and protect the natural world. I, for one, welcome these new conservation technologists.

David Lang is a cofounder of Sofar Ocean Technologies and Open Explorer.

Moment - Sense - National - Geographic - Explorer-in-Residence

The moment demands it. There is a growing sense, which I first heard articulated by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, that writing scientific papers about wildlife and wild places feels like writing the obituary for the planet. A recent UN report on biodiversity loss warned about the potential loss of more than 1,000,000 species around the world. Scientists are providing an increasingly thorough documentation of the dire state of the natural world, but that accounting has largely been met with inaction. We desperately need more tech companies, entrepreneurs, and engineers to adopt a 21st century conservation ethic.

Luckily, Downey Jr. is certainly not the first to propose tech solutions for our environmental woes. Current conservation technology efforts span from big companies like Microsoft, who appointed a Chief Environmental Officer and announced the $50 million AI for Earth program, to startups like Conservation X Labs, which is building a handheld DNA barcoding device to help combat the illegal wildlife trade. The list of technologies range from tree-planting drones to devices hoping to crack the communication barrier with whales and dolphins. Even big environmental NGOs like National Geographic and The Nature Conservancy are establishing technology labs and startup accelerators. It's a diverse, decentralized, and growing effort.

Technology - Role

Technology has a role, and it's more specific than...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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