The Trump administration’s drastic cuts to science funding spell an uncertain fate for researchers across America, but they’re not going to go down without a fight. In the wake of the election, political groups like 314 Action have formed in order to advocate for STEM experts to get a seat at the White House table. This bold pursuit is supported by no less than Bill Nye himself, who has a soft spot for one particular subset of the STEM community.
“What we really want, may I say, from my side, are some engineers in office,” he told Inverse.
Nye, who worked as an aerospace engineer for 20 years before he became a science communication icon, stressed that he wasn’t just favoring his tribe. Engineers, he explained, are trained to solve problems — which is exactly the sort of mindset that is needed in government.
“The top Fortune 500 companies are almost all run by engineers, and there’s a big thing right now where somebody successful in business should be good at governing,” he said at a Paley Center for Media event in New York for his new Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World. “So let’s get some engineers in government.”
He’s not wrong about engineers making great business leaders. The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, is an electrical engineer. Ditto for Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mary Barra of General Motors. In an article on the characteristics of good CEOs published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, Nitin Nohria, the dean of Harvard Business School, explained that studying “engineering gives someone a practical, pragmatic orientation,” which is essential for running a business. But does that skill set translate into good governance?
We need to give engineers a chance to find out. “They use science to make things and solve problems,” Nye said, explaining that all of the technological advances we take for granted — the buildings around us, the electricity we use, the volume buttons on our phones — are the result of engineers taking note of a problem and using science to find a solution. “That’s what engineers do,” he said.
His implication, of course, is that the problems America currently faces could likewise be solved with this very rational mindset. While reluctant to name the particular engineers he wanted to see in office, he said, “Come to the March for Science — they’ll be there.”
When Inverse asked, however, whether he would run for president and solve those problems himself, he laughed and said, “My past is too deeply checkered.”
In a Reddit AMA on Thursday, he followed up his reluctance to run for office with what could be read as a sassy jab at President Trump. “Traditionally, we hired people to be President, who had some experience in government. So, I’m probably not the right guy for the job,” he wrote.
Nodding, perhaps, to his comments on the additional skills needed to run a country, he added, “I hope more and more of us can now see that governing is not the same as running business, or trying to run a business.”