'Hey Bill Nye, What If the World Were Run by Scientists and Engineers?'

Television Host and Science Educator

Politicians aren’t too popular, and yet we keep voting them into the top offices. Would the world be a better place if it were run by scientists and engineers? As an engineer himself, having spent his career in the company of rocket scientists and Nobel laureates, Bill Nye has a firm answer to this week’s question. Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

  • Transcript


Wei: Hi Bill. My name is Wei. I'm an electronic engineer coming from China. A big fan to your show by the way. My question is hypothetically instead of politicians if the world were only run by engineers and scientists would it be a better place in your opinion? Thanks.

Bill Nye: Wei. Thank you so much for calling and thanks for being a fan of the show. You've asked a great question and categorically the world would not be a better place run by engineers. I say this all the time. I spend time with rocket scientist, a lot of time with them. From time to time I spend time with Nobel laureates. You do not want these people teaching kindergarten by way of example, they're just not qualified. When you find somebody who's interested in making deals, in compromising, in empathizing with people, in other words feeling what they're feeling and then trying to establish laws and traditions that benefit everyone, when you find someone that wants that job that to me is amazing and we need those people, those people would be politicians.

With that said, what we want are politicians who are scientifically literate, who are technically informed. Now you're in China and you have what in the U.S. people often referred to as a technocracy. You have a system of government that is run largely by engineers or scientists in what in the U.S. we would call top down fashion. People in power make decisions for everyone. And the system is workable. I mean my goodness China is this extraordinary economy and so on. But the experiment in the United States and the other Western democracies is to have representatives that work the system top down but are elected by everybody. And the idea is that this would be more fair, this would be consistent with how everybody feels. So I will say that what we want is people making decisions on behalf of all of us that are in the best interest of all of us.

And the best interest of everybody has to do with science and technology. We cannot have sewer systems and the Internet and this communication that you send in here, you couldn't have Big Think without the technology of electronics, which is enabled by mining extraordinary metals and geologist and physicists and chemists and everybody is fed through agriculture, which is another important biological aspects of biological science. We need science for everything, but what we want is our politicians to understand that and appreciate it and celebrate it and so move science forward. That is a great question but I will tell you in my opinion having a bunch of engineers, and I'm an engineer don't get me wrong man, having a bunch of engineers run things is probably not what you want because the systems are created – engineering systems are generally created from the top down and there's just a good chance you'll miss things, you'll make mistakes and they're harder to correct once they're in place. What you want, as happens in evolution in nature, is you want to the extent possible decisions to be made from the bottom up and the expression we often hear in the U.S. is organically from the bottom up.

And so good luck to both of our governments. We all have to address climate change and I'm glad that our governments were able to sign a climate change agreement last year and I'm very much hoping we can stick to it because we are going to need everybody working together to address climate change and we are especially going to need scientists and engineers to create or enable technical solutions to specific things. Renewable reliable electricity for everyone, clean water for everyone and access to global information. The Internet for everyone. Thank you Wei. Thanks for calling in