Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman

My 5 Minutes with the President

Emmy nominees Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are producers and co-hosts of Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” series.

Savage began his television career making appearances on “Sesame Street,” where his father was a Muppeteer. A builder at heart, Savage has constructed sets for television, theater and film.

Hyneman is the owner and CEO of the special-effects company M5 Industries. His varied career includes being a certified dive master and operating a Caribbean diving business, as well as holding a degree in Russian linguistics. 

Both Savage and Hyneman have worked on the special effects for commercials for top brands including Pizza Hut, Burger King, Coca-Cola and 7-Up. And both have designed and built their own robots, competing against each other on Comedy Central’s “BattleBots” competition.

As special effects technicians, Savage and Hyneman worked together on many blockbuster films, including “Star Wars Episode I” and “Episode II,” “Flubber” and the “Matrix” sequels, among others.

Science and technology enthusiasts, Savage and Hyneman participate in President Obama’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative.

ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?

JAMIE HYNEMAN: I would express my concern that this country, and most around the world for that matter, has an economic mandate that requires continual growth. This by definition ends up at some point where quality of life diminishes when limits are reached. Intellectual, technological and social advancement would be great to see move ahead in an unlimited way, but the world seems to have a mindset when it comes to economics that requires eventual suicide instead of seeking stability in a world with limited resources. Energy, food, water and all elements surrounding quality of life are dependent on our managing of these things. While nuclear Armageddon is generally acknowledged as important to avoid, this attitude toward growth is just as deadly and irreversible. It just takes longer.

That being said, I don’t know how one could properly reconcile this with a natural, legitimate desire to improve our individual lives with a democracy. Popular vote will go toward promise of as much wealth and prosperity as can be had in the short term, and will not be likely to support government inhibiting this, even if it means more prosperity and wealth in the long term. I honestly don’t know how one could reasonably expect to influence populations to back off a bit and be happy with modest, stable lifestyles and consumption. But sooner or later, it has to happen.

ADAM SAVAGE: I’d want to talk about scaling back the erosion of privacy and federal eavesdropping/wiretapping/domestic spying powers. What the NSA is doing, as chronicled in the March 2012 issue of Wired, scares the hell out of me. Also, the government’s acquiescence to the RIAA’s and the MPAA’s wrong-headed approach to copyright holders’ rights over their users is very disappointing to me. There’s a lot to go over.

RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be?

JH: I would ask him if there is anything he feels he should be doing better than he is, and what is it?

AS: How shocking was that first debriefing after the inauguration

RB: What piece of advice would you give President Obama as he hits the campaign trail for the upcoming election?

JH: To make sure he gets plenty of rest and exercise.

AS: Hit the Republicans hard. Please justify my vote and become the second-term president I voted for.  

RB: If you were going to send the president to one of your favorite places in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why?

AS: I reject this question. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad question per se, but I get the feeling it implies a kind of pride-of-place and the idea that one could connect to another through their own nostalgia for a location, and I just don’t think humans necessarily work that way. It also implies that if I could show someone my love for a place, that I might be able to change them. This country, like every other country on earth, is surpassingly beautiful in many places, hideous in others. I might be over-reading the question, but that’s what it implies to me.

RB: Would you ever consider a political career?

JH: No. I think I could contribute to government in an advisory way within my areas of insight and expertise, but I don’t have any interest in courting votes or working with political parties.

I think people who make decisions should be in that position because of their qualifications, because of their abilities and merit, not because of their popularity. Political maneuvering seems like herding cats — which would be entertaining for a few minutes — and then I would want to go do something productive.

AS: Absolutely not. Not as currently configured, anyway. I don’t have the stomach for it. I really like the idea of the “gentleman politician” who enters public service as his civic duty — that resonates with me. But what passes for politics now is disgusting; the negative ads, the redistricting — from both sides — the pay-for-play.

Robin Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. She produced the feature film “Poliwood,” airing on Showtime, and edited the recently published book Art & Soul. Bronk pens this weekly column with assistance from Risa Kotek.