We love the character of Tony Stark because we wish all billionaires would spend their fortunes bringing sci-fi gadgets to life, instead of building gigantic yachts and buying private islands to hold gold-plated orgies. But there are actually a few Tony Starks out there, people who have big, ridiculous dreams and the cash to at least try to make them real.
We're not saying all (or any) of these projects will come to fruition within the next few years, but we're absolutely willing to applaud these crazy, rich bastards for trying.
#5. Dmitry Itskov Wants to Make You Immortal
With a net worth of over a billion dollars and at the tender age of 31, Russian media mogul Dmitry Itskov decided he was going right for the big one: immortality. Well, shit, it kind of makes dudes who blow their money buying professional sports franchises look like a bunch of douchebags.
He's assembled a team of 30 scientists (presumably mad) to pioneer a multistage project that would slowly turn you into a biological robot. The last phase is set for completion in 2045, at which point your brain will have been downloaded into an undying avatar, and we mean "avatar" as in the movie Avatar.
"Of course my avatar has boobs. I'm a billionaire."
The first stage, supposedly to be completed by 2020, offers you a robot version of yourself, controlled by a brain-computer interface -- what experts often call the "RoboCop" phase. The second stage is set to go into effect within five years of the first; this is the money shot of immortality, as it looks to actually transfer your human consciousness into an artificially created representation of your former biological glory.
The third stage would give our new cyborg overlords the ability to emote, possibly gambling on the fact that they'll allow us to live once they know mercy. The final stage is the marriage of each individual facet, resulting in a holographic representation of our former selves, complete with emotions, memories, and (hopefully) empathy.
Making it awesome to robot-play video games in the future.
So, yes, this guy is using his millions to bring Avatar to life, where a race of 'roided-out Smurfs are remote-controlled via someone else's brain, and our lives are almost exactly like a bad grad student cultural studies research paper and/or the plot to Disney's Pocahantas. The movie Avatar ends with genocide, but let's hope we can control ourselves a little better in real life.
Itskov's 2045 initiative produced a nifty inspirational video, claiming the project will lead us into a new way of life, devoid of violence and prejudice (he somehow thinks war will become a thing of the past, rather than simply being far more awesome). Once we make the switch to non-physical forms of existence, we'll be able to pool our collective mind-power to achieve hippie-inspired ends, such as spiritual self-improvement. Hey, laugh all you want; the point is that the guy is spending his cash on this instead of, say, a giant hot tub in the shape of his own penis.
Which is understandable since the accident.
And yes, the goal is to make this technology available to everyone, granting even the working man equal opportunity at immortality -- Itskov believes the price will come down as mass production is achieved. So you too will be able to live as a cyborg for the price of an automobile.
Today, Itskov is making presentations to billionaires and is attempting to raise funding for the first practical application of the avatar project: an artificial body controlled by the mind that he says can be ready in just three to five years with proper funding, which would immediately be great for, say, rescuers and firefighters. Yes, he's talking about technology we saw in Iron Man 3. Jesus, nobody show this guy a copy of Beyond Thunderdome.
#4. Peter Thiel Is Building His Own City in the Ocean
Billionaire Peter Thiel likes to dream big: He tried to create a global currency, which hasn't worked out so well (yet). Then he created PayPal, which worked out famously, because people need to transfer money around online and also sometimes buy illicit things from strangers. He went on to become one of Facebook's first investors, with a half-million-dollar cash injection. Today Thiel is worth about $1.6 billion, and now he wants to build his own city on the open ocean.
No potential dangers we can think of here ...
And he's not going to stop at just one; he wants many micro-nations that will usher in a new way of living. He plans to launch the first of these floaters just off the coast of San Francisco as soon as possible to test the concept. Ultimately, Thiel hopes to see millions upon millions of people living out at sea by mid-century.
András Gyõrfi/via SeaSteading competition
It'll be a boon for pirates, if nothing else.
These communities would be situated on giant, several-thousand-ton rig structures that would be diesel-powered and therefore free to move around if pesky clouds are "blocking out Peter's sun." And just to be clear about the real benefits, these floating communities would be an exercise in unconventional forms of small-scale government. Since the communities would exist outside the borders of any and all recognized nations, the micro-nations would be libertarian utopias: no welfare, no minimum wage, light regulations, and, we assume, re-heeeeeallly lax drug laws. Furthermore, with more than hundreds of miles of uninterrupted sea between you and civilization, you'd be privy to the most depraved sex acts ever concocted inside a human brain.
Making it nearly 5 percent dirtier than the regular Internet.
Today the project has officially been named Blueseed, and they are actively doing environmental impact studies, conducting sustainability research, designing the ships/countries, and raising funds. And raising funds. And raising funds. Apparently building a floating country is expensive. But work is moving forward, and they recently just received a major investment in the form of Bitcoins.
#3. Clive Palmer Is Building a Robot Jurassic Park
Having made his fortune in the mining industry, Chris Palmer's net worth today hovers around $900 million, and he seems intent on spending it in various ridiculous ways (see: his five private jets and collection of dinosaur fossils). For instance, he's rebuilding the Titanic. His version is equipped to house 2,435 passengers, as well as 900 crew members, and he totally intends to put that shit in the ocean. Palmer actually funded Blue Star Line, his own shipping company, just so he could build himself the second coming of the world's most famous symbol of the hubris of wealth.
The golden toilet being a close Number 2.
The Titanic II will be nearly identical to its predecessor, only far more pimped out. Oh, and when asked if his new boat would be unsinkable, Palmer chuckled and said, "Anything will sink if you put a hole in it." Although it's recently run into some potential funding issues, the Titanic II is planned to set sail in 2016, with construction slated to start at the end of 2013. So that's the kind of person we're dealing with when we say that he also wants to build a real-life Jurassic Park.
Don't be fooled; it's just an elaborate scheme to hang out with Jeff Goldblum.
Palmer has denied the claims that he's cloning actual dinosaurs (although he is building a Titanic and has lots of fossils, so we can hope), instead going for a park full of life-size animatronic dinosaurs, which probably is safer (right up until the moment their AI becomes self-aware, at which point two separate childhood dreams will come true at the same time). In March, Palmer ordered 100 robotic dinosaur replicas to stomp around and possibly chase fleeing Jeeps. This most recent shipment of dinos from China (where else?) will put the total around 160.
Dubbed the Palmer Coolum Resort Dinosaur Park, upon completion it will be the biggest dinosaur-themed park in the world. The dinos will do everything from swinging their tails to mimicking the breathing and blinking motions, which admittedly is not as cool as you might have been imagining. Still, if we were all honest with ourselves, if we had this much money, this would be at the top of our lists as well.
Presumably a line of functional Ghostbusters gear would be next on the list.
Work on installing the dinos is "well underway," as you can see from the picture. We're hoping for Palmer to carry things through to their logical conclusion and put dinosaurs on the Titanic II. You know it's just a matter of time.