Hey Bill Nye! Do you believe in free will?

Is the idea of “choice” real or is choice just an idea in our heads? Are our brains inventing our own answers before we’ve even thought them through? The answer might surprise you.

PETE: Hey Bill. It’s Pete from Atlanta, Georgia, and I was wondering if you believe in free will? It feels like the idea of choice is the biggest argument for free will, but is choice real or is it just an idea in our heads? If I look at my life I feel like I’m here through a series of single decisions and it just kind of feels very linear and kind of on a track. But I’m not so sure. What do you think about it? Thanks.

BILL NYE: So is there such a thing as free will? The answer is clearly “it depends what you mean.” So I am so compelled by these tests where they have brain scans going on, working real time, and then the subject is asked to make a choice. And they can see on the brain scan that the choice has already been made before the person is able to articulate it or even watch the choice had been made have it bounce back and forth and then settle on another choice.

This is a wonderful question, but that there is no free will—that, to me, is an extraordinary claim, because I feel that I have made choices – and this might be what you’re driving at—I feel that I have made choices freely based on things that have happened around me, based on the environment and my experiences and my perception of the experiences of others.

So in other words if there really were absolutely no free will could you then predict what every single person in the universe or on Earth is going to do and where he or she will end up. And then furthermore can that not be influenced by some cosmic force or forces that we can’t assess? It could be. It just doesn’t seem reasonable.

I think much more reasonable is: our brains are complicated, and they got this big or as big as they are organically through evolution, with layer being added upon layer.
So our ability to choose is often confused. Our ability to make choices is often affected by the environment, by our experiences and by biochemistry, the shape of our brain. So I think the answer is clearly “some of each.”

Author, orator, and all-around ‘science guy’ Bill Nye has been asked a lot of questions in his 30 years on the air. But this time around, Bill gets asked a question almost Biblical in nature: is there such a thing as true free will? Of course, Bill gets right down to the nitty gritty and tells us what exactly is going on in our brains as we begin to make any decision. Is the idea of "choice" real or is choice just an idea in our heads? Are our brains inventing our own answers before we’ve even thought them through? The answer might surprise you. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.


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  • Domino's partnered with the Silicon Valley startup Nuro to have robot cars deliver pizza.
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  • The robots will be half a regular car and will need to be unlocked by a PIN code.

Would you have to tip robots? You might be answering that question sooner than you think as Domino's is about to start using robots for delivering pizza. Later this year a fleet of self-driving robotic vehicles will be spreading the joy of pizza throughout the Houston area for the famous pizza manufacturer, using delivery cars made by the Silicon Valley startup Nuro.

The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

What also helps such robot cars is "geofencing" technology which confines them to a limited area surrounding the store.

For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: