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“”We create beautiful videos to share our passion for knowledge. We value quality over quantity, always. Nothing in the universe is boring if you tell a good story.
|—Kurzgesagt official website|
Kurzgesagt or Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell is a Munich-based science YouTube channel, known for its quirky and beautiful animations on a wide variety of topics including medicine, physics and philosophy, with cute little animated birdies to be experimented upon. They operate on a quality over quantity model which means they generally only release a new video once a month or so. In addition, they sometimes collaborate with research groups and occasionally get funding from major non-profit organizations. For example, they worked with Our World in Data for the "Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained" and "The Coronavirus Explained & What You Should Do" videos, among others, and their piece on the side effects of vaccination was supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Kurzgesagt means "in short" (or "in a nutshell").
As of June 2022, their English-language channel has over 18.6 million subscribers and nearly 2 billion views They also run an German version of the channel with public streaming service funk, Dinge Erklärt, which has 1.77 million subscribers and 183 million views, and a Spanish version, En Pocas Palabras, which has 917K subs and 48 million views, on top of six other foreign-language versions.
|—Kurzgesagt, What if the World turned to Gold? - The Gold Apocalypse|
Kurzgesagt covers a variety of topics in both the soft and hard sciences, the latter of which tends to have a rather futurist bent. Some sample videos include:
- The Last Light Before Eternal Darkness – White Dwarfs & Black Dwarfs(link) — Explains how dying stars become white dwarfs and how white dwarfs will themselves become black dwarfs and speculates on how white dwarfs could support human civilization in an encroaching Big Freeze future.
- What if We Nuke the Moon?(link) — Exactly what it says on the tin. Examines the effects of detonating a 100 megaton nuclear bomb on the Moon and compares them to those of detonating one on Earth. In short, lack of atmosphere makes everything worse.
- Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology(link) — Discusses the problems of increasing miniaturization of computer circuitry and the benefits of quantum computing over standard hardware and touches upon potential applications, good (discovering new proteins) and bad (wrecking your encryption).
- Can You Upload Your Mind & Live Forever?(link) — Delves into the many, many obstacles involved in mind uploading, in each potential step of the process.
- Loneliness(link) — Talks about, well, loneliness, from the perspectives of evolution, sociology, and psychology. It also gives some tips on dealing with loneliness for people who are feeling lonely.
- What Happens If We Throw an Elephant From a Skyscraper? Life & Size 1(link) — Looks at the effects of the square-cube law in animals through the lens of flinging them off of buildings, before branching out to studying the forces that shape adaptations in the insect world. It is part of a series analyzing the role of size in animal biology and the "how about we make this elephant explode" video they joke about above.
- Is Reality Real? The Simulation Argument(link) — Dissects the simulated reality hypothesis and its assumptions.
- Why Alien Life Would be our Doom - The Great Filter(link) — Uses The Great Filter to argue that discovering alien life would actually be bad news. (Hint: It's not because it'll cause an alien invasion.)
- The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time(link) — Describes the increasingly detrimental effects of automation, particularly the kind based on machine learning algorithms, on society and the economy.
- Overpopulation & Africa(link) - Gives, as they admit, a very simple overview of the very, very complicated issue of combating overpopulation in sub-Saharan Africa.
- String Theory Explained – What is The True Nature of Reality?(link) — Provides a summary of, naturally, string theory and in the process introduces some background on quantum mechanics, particularly Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
- Wormholes Explained – Breaking Spacetime(link) — Outlines three types of wormholes, against a backdrop of synthwave aesthetics.
A typical example
Kurzgesagt espouses what they call "optimistic nihilism", which, strictly speaking, is not entirely nihilism. They are agnostic about the existence of a soul or afterlife and assume that everyone gets only one chance at life, which they actually consider liberating. Since the universe will inevitably end in heat death, they argue all the sufferings of human life do not matter, and they contend that people should not fear death based on a version of Lucretius's symmetry argument. Rather than accepting that life has no meaning though, as in other brands of nihilism, they advocate creating one's own meaning, which for them means finding happiness, spreading it to others, and building a galactic space-faring utopia for humanity.
That segues in another point about Kurzgesagt's philosophy: they are ardent practitioners of futurism. They have numerous videos on futurist megaprojects and transhumanist topics such as Dyson spheres, bases on Mars and the Moon, the Kardashev scale, mind uploading and so many more. That said, they maintain some skepticism. For example, their mind uploading video acknowledges that the technology has a huge number of hurdles to overcome and notes some terrifying applications, but they ultimately argue it still is worth pursuing, reasoning that at the very least, it will significantly improve understanding of the brain.
With the subject of climate change, they recognize it as an extremely difficult, highly complex issue to stop. Nevertheless, they have repeatedly stressed that it can and should be fixed, and as quickly as possible.
Kurzgesagt sees climate change in terms of the Kaya identity: since they think emissions from population and economic growth are inevitable, they advocate a multi-prong approach that emphasizes increasing energy efficiency, transitioning away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives whenever possible, and fostering innovation into creating and improving alternative energy and carbon capture technologies as soon as possible. They argue richer, more developed countries should take the charge with reaching net carbon zero and lowering the price of alternative energy so that poorer ones can follow in their stead and believe that all countries, i.e. including the United States, European Union, and China, should work together to lower emissions as much as possible rather than play the blame game.
In regards to what individuals can do, while they do consider small-scale measures like buying an electric car a good idea, they think the narrative of personal responsibility is overplayed and decry it as an attempt by corporations to absolve themselves of responsibility, calling the concept of a carbon footprint in particular "one of the most effective and sinister pieces of propaganda". Instead, they advocate voting for politicians who will initiate the systemic political and economic changes needed to tackle climate change. This stance has received criticism, however, as it doesn't advocate for any solutions outside of neoliberal capitalism. Notably, many of their videos on climate change were collaborations with Our World In Data, which is directly funded by Bill Gates.
Kurzgesagt does not consider geoengineering, specifically in the form of injecting sulfur into the atmosphere, a real solution to climate change, outright calling it a "horrible idea". They worry that in the worst-case scenario, humanity might attempt to geoengineer their planet without fully understanding its effects and wind up destroying themselves, which is why they actually oppose bans on geoengineering research.
While they think some conspiracy theories are just plain silly, Kurzgesagt rightfully recognizes that some are dangerous. They offer a simple rule of thumb for debunking conspiracy theories: just consider if the rich and powerful would be affected. This is essentially the opposite of a cui bono argument; the idea is to question whether the conspirators would actually benefit from their conspiracy. For example, with their tool, they argue that a global elite releasing chemtrails makes no sense because said elite would also be affected by whatever nefarious chemicals were in them.
Kurzgesagt opposes the War on Drugs, calling it a "huge failure" and "terrible disaster" that has caused massive societal ills. Instead of a "hardline" approach, they instead advocate harm reduction. They also disagree with the gateway drug theory and support legalizing cannabis, though they make it clear that they do not think marijuana is harmless and believe there should be further research into the drug and regulations to protect people from its negative aspects.
In the past, Kurzesagt endorsed the idea that addiction is purely psychological and caused entirely by a stressful or unfulfilling life, previously proclaiming that "it's not the chemicals. It's your cage!", in reference to the Rat Park experiment, which studied addiction in populations of rats in vastly different cages. As they've freely admitted, their stance was poorly researched: they used only one source, Johann Hari's Chasing the Scream, and while they worked closely with Hari, they did not consult any scientists or fact-check his book. They've also been accused of oversimplifying Hari's book, which is rather funny given that the book itself has also been criticized for oversimplifying the drugs issue. Kurzesagt has since retreated from that position: while they still think the addiction-as-only-psychological perspective is valid, they feel that they failed to acknowledge other theories of addiction. In 2019, they deleted their old video on the topic[note 1] and promised to make a new version that presents other viewpoints.
Kurzgesagt is a proponent of genetically modified food, arguing that GMOs/GMFs are key to sustainable food production. While they disagree with the notion of GMFs being "unnatural", they do believe that concerns about over-reliance on pesticide-resistant GMOs and similar issues are valid, though they consider these more criticisms of agribusiness in general rather than GMOs in particular.
Kurzgetsagt predicts that CRISPR and genetic engineering in general will inevitably and irreversibly reshape the humanity in the years to come, proclaiming that "as soon as the first engineered kid is born,[note 2] a door will be opened that won't be closed". Moreover, they believe the technology will become normal and commonplace, comparing it to predictions about major advances in computing forecast in the 1980s. They are against banning research into genetic modification of humans, arguing that this will only lead to research being conducted under more ethically dubious institutions.
Speaking of CRISPR, Kurzgesagt finds popular discussion of the debate regarding using it and gene drive to combat malaria quite lacking, particularly given the sheer number of deaths caused by the disease. They present themselves as neutral on the issue, but they arguably lean in favor of the technology: they believe it holds great promise and contend that in the worst-case scenario, it simply proves ineffective, and their main concerns are that the technology is unproven and should be handled carefully.
Moreover, their framing of the issue is problematic. There's barely any talk of costs or logistics, and Kurzgesagt portrays the debate as "should we use this technology or not?" rather than "should we use this technology or pursue a different solution?", as though it were a matter of ethics rather than opportunity costs. After all, if genetically-engineered mosquitos turn out to be useless, that not only means malaria is still around, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, but also that we've wasted millions (or possibly even billions) of dollars of funding that could have went towards something more productive. They also fail to mention other possible approaches for eradicating malaria, such as giving out insecticide-treated nets, enhancing malaria monitoring and distribution of anti-malaria drugs, developing a malaria vaccine, or just generally fostering economic development so that people don't have to live in conditions that promote malaria.
Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell's position on homeopathy is, in a nutshell, complex. On one hand, they think potentization and water memory are absurd and consider homeopathy to be no better than a placebo. They also criticize the homeopathy industry as hypocritical for billing itself as an underdog fighting against Big Pharma when it's really as much a big business as its opponent and highlight links between it and the anti-vaccination movement, as well as distrust in evidence-based medicine in general.
That said, Kurzgesagt doesn't completely dismiss homeopathy. In fact, they believe evidence-based medicine could adopt certain aspects of the practice, such as using the placebo effect. In particular, they argue homeopathy is so successful because its practitioners' more personal touch appeals to those who feel lost and dehumanized by modern medicine and advocate for what they see as a return of empathy to the healthcare system.
To put it another way, they, in their own words, believe "faith can move mountains, but sugar pills can't cure cancer." That is, they advocate for creating a more empathetic medical system that engenders faith in the industry and harnessing faith in treatments via placebo effect, as an addition to, not a substitution for, proven medical treatment. In a sense, they do believe in homeopathy, but only up to a limit.
Kurzgesagt supports nuclear power, reasoning that statistics-wise, it is much safer than it appears, and oppose closing nuclear power plants, on the basis that the resulting gap in energy generation would be taken up in at least part by fossil fuels and thus raise carbon emissions. They advocate using both nuclear energy and renewables to lower CO2 emissions, believing that the risks of climate change are so severe that any and all means of reaching net-zero carbon should be pursued. The high cost of constructing nuclear power plants, they argue, is offset by the environmental and public health benefits of low carbon emissions.
Kurzgesagt also supports research into nuclear fusion power plants. In a manner similar to Pascal's wager, while they acknowledge that fusion power plants are an expensive gamble that could be too expensive to be viable, they believe it would be well worth the risks, because the payoff would be unlimited energy. To them, the prospect of needing to go to the Moon and mine for helium-3 to feed nuclear fusion is "one more argument for establishing a moonbase, if you weren't convinced already."
The channel is also somewhat infamous for their series where they blow things up with nuclear bombs. In addition to the video above on nuking the moon, they also have videos on nuking a city, nuking an oceanic trench (which they made as a reaction to a video by Ridddle, which they referred to as the "video that shall remain unnamed",) and setting off every nuke at once. Lest they be mistaken for ardent Posadists, Kurzgesagt is vehemently against nuclear weapons, calling them "deeply immoral", and believes they should be dismantled and never built again.
Kurzgesagt is quite optimistic about the future of population growth. They argue that the population booms in the 20th century were simply signs of various nations undergoing the demographic transition, not portents of some imminent Malthusian catastrophe, and believe that people across the entire political spectrum should help improve standards of living in developing countries (they particularly note to the anti-immigrant crowd that doing so will reduce influx of refugees.) In fact, they think all the additional people is a good thing, seeing it as more potential scientists, doctors, workers, etc. who will make the world a better place.
Regarding overpopulation in sub-Saharan Africa specifically, they believe that while the issues at hand are massive and overwhelmingly complex, they can be overcome with improvements in education, health care, and birth control, citing Ethiopia as an example. They argue that the region needs "not pity or gifts but attention and fair investment."
In the wake of the massive wave of immigration created by the Syrian Civil War, Kurzgesagt released a video where they came out staunchly in favor of raising refugee quotas and condemned the opposition as "xenophobic rich cowards behind fences". Years later, after much deliberation, they deleted the video, feeling it was "toxic" and "divisive". While they still stand by their views, they dislike how they expressed them. They wish they had presented a calmer, more balanced perspective that reached out to both sides and examined the nuances of the issue than an oversimplified take that relied on insults and appeal to emotion.
Kurzgesagt vehemently opposes mass surveillance programs such as the USA PATRIOT Act, comparing the expanding scope of government monitoring to adding more hay when looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, they advocate find better uses of existing laws rather than making new ones to combat terrorism.
Kurzgesagt firmly supports vaccination. They compare vaccines to seat belts: while they might be a bad idea in some cases, those cases are exceedingly rare, and abstaining from these safety measures opens up far greater risks. Their video on the topic strongly emphasizes that scientific consensus shows that vaccines do not cause autism, calling the idea a PRATT in all but name.[note 3]
In a refreshing aversion of balance fallacy, the video is also staunchly critical of the anti-vaccination movement (which they call "anti-vaccine conspiracies") for causing undue death and harm by forgoing vaccines and being based on appeal to emotion, anecdotal evidence, and misinformation rather than evidence and logic. Parents of children who are allergic to vaccines, they argue, should be stridently advocating for vaccination rather than against it, since the risk of their children catching a disease rests entirely on enough people getting vaccinated to create herd immunity.
- See the Wikipedia article on Kurzgesagt.
- The English-language channel.
- Links to channels in other languages, which currently includes German, Spanish, French, Hindi, Japanese, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Arabic, and Korean. Translation work is still ongoing, so not every video will be available in these languages.
- Their website, because they also do a bunch of graphic design work.
- ↑ Though they still have a German translation of their video up in their German channel, Dinge Erklärt.
- ↑ It already happened in 2014.
- ↑ Seriously, one section (or "chapter" as YouTube calls it) is literally named "NOT cause autism", as in "vaccines do NOT cause autism", and in case that wasn't direct enough, they end their argument with a slide that outright says "Vaccines do NOT Cause autism".
- ↑ Home (n.d.) Kurzgesagt. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
- ↑ About (n.d.) Kurzgesagt. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, December 22). Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, March 19). The Coronavirus Explained & What You Should Do. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, May 12). The Side Effects of Vaccines - How High is the Risk?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (n.d.). About - Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. YouTube. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- ↑ Dinge Erklärt. (n.d.). About - Dinge Erklärt – Kurzgesagt. YouTube. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- ↑ En Pocas Palabras. (n.d.). About - En Pocas Palabras – Kurzgesagt. YouTube. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, March 31). What If We Detonated All Nuclear Bombs at Once?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, December 15). What if We Nuke the Moon?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2018, July 22). What If You Detonated a Nuclear Bomb In The Marianas Trench? (Science not Fantasy). [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, October 13). What if We Nuke a City?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2017, August 10). What Happens If We Throw an Elephant From a Skyscraper? Life & Size 1. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2017, December 21). How to Make an Elephant Explode – The Size of Life 2. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, September 22). The Largest Star in the Universe – Size Comparison. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2021, March 9). What if the World turned to Gold? - The Gold Apocalypse. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2017, July 26). Optimistic Nihilism. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2018, December 20). How to Build a Dyson Sphere - The Ultimate Megastructure. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, February 3). Building a Marsbase is a Horrible Idea: Let’s do it!. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2018, September 16). How We Could Build a Moon Base TODAY – Space Colonization 1. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, August 2). What Do Alien Civilizations Look Like? The Kardashev Scale. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, December 10). Can You Upload Your Mind & Live Forever?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (n.d.). Futurism. YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2021, September 22).Can YOU Fix Climate Change? [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, June 21). Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It? [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, September 29). Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change? Well, it's Complicated. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, October 27). Geoengineering: A Horrible Idea We Might Have to Do. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2021, April 13). Do we Need Nuclear Energy to Stop Climate Change?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ The Inescapable Neoliberal Bias Behind ‘Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell', Alex Mell-Taylor, An Injustice! 10 December 2021
- ↑ We teamed up with Kurzgesagt to make a video about climate change: ‘Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change? Well, it’s Complicated’, Hannah Ritchie, Our World In Data 29 September 2020
- ↑ How We’re Funded, Our World In Data
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2014, December 18). The Ultimate Conspiracy Debunker. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, March 1). Why The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2018, June 10). 3 Arguments Why Marijuana Should Stay Illegal Reviewed. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ El Amigo Vergara. (2019, March 4). Addiction | Kurzgesagt (Deleted). [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ 36.0 36.1 36.2 Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, March 3). Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Stenn, L. (2019, March 13). YouTuber Coffee Break Accuses Kurzgesagt of Being Untrustworthy, Founder Responds. Rogue Rocket. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
- ↑ Krieg, A. G. (2016). Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. Teaching Sociology, 44(2), 132–134.
- ↑ Mnookin, S. (2015, February 13). 'Chasing the Scream,' by Johann Hari. New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2021.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2017, March 30). Are GMOs Good or Bad? Genetic Engineering & Our Food. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ The CRISPR-baby scandal: what’s next for human gene-editing: As concerns surge after a bombshell revelation, here are four questions about this fast-moving field. by David Cyranoski (26 February 2019) Nature.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, August 10). Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, September 21). Genetic Engineering and Diseases – Gene Drive & Malaria. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2018, February 22). Homeopathy Explained – Gentle Healing or Reckless Fraud?. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2021, February 2). Worst Nuclear Accidents in History. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, November 10). Fusion Power Explained – Future or Failure. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Ridddle. (2018, January 10) If You Detonated a Nuclear Bomb In The Marianas Trench (Just Fantasy, not science!). [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved November 18th, 2021.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2019, December 15). Overpopulation & Africa. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2015, September 17). The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained. [Video]. YouTube.
- ↑ Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2016, April 14). Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance. [Video]. YouTube.