Kurzgesagt – The Internet Makes You Smarter
I’m a firm believer that it is a duty to share information, and these days it has been made easier and easier for us to reach a huge audience with the knowledge we possess. The internet is awash with stupidity, both good and bad, and there’s plenty of intelligent content out there too, also good and bad (it’s far too easy to fabricate information to suit your own purposes) but it’s amazingly easy to use the internet to educate yourself without having to wade through trash and false-stories.
Enter one of the latest YouTube educators, Kurzgesagt/In a Nutshell. Starting in 2013, they’ve been producing a series of videos – about 5-10 minutes long – that give an overview of some of the more… enormous questions in life. They’re intelligent, offer fairly balanced views when their subjects get a little polarising such as nucular energy and the crisis in the Middle East, but remorseless when the subject is patently being mishandled like environment change or the war on drugs. Animations assist the elegantly written narration whilst unapologetically weaving in pop-culture references without intruding on the education.
Kurzgesagt takes current technologies and goes into their histories, and potential futures for them. They explain complex scientific theories in a way designed to reach an audience that may be daunted by the subject, and lift the veil on subjects made terrifying by a lack of knowledge, and then terrify you with new knowledge that’s downright alarming, but incredibly interesting.
Is it dumbed-down? Well yes, but it’s entirely possible to be summarise a subject without misleading anyone, and it’s a gateway for every subject they tackle, featuring sources for anyone curious enough to delve deeper, and it’s all supported by serious research and major educational institutions. It’s compressing questions like “What is life?” into the proverbial nutshell, you can’t expect a complete picture, but just watch a few episodes and you’ll really appreciate the task they’ve set themselves.
They’re not alone either, there are a wealth of educational YouTube channels that make huge subjects readily digestible to a generation who have grown accustomed to convenience and rapid delivery. Personally I’m a fan of Extra Credits, who take the subject of video games and put it under a microscope, discussing the social, political, and artistic impacts of the field, and offering up solutions for a model of education based on games that really could drive children and adults alike in pursuit of learning.
CGP Grey is an online educator who covers a massive range of subjects, starting with politics before moving into breaking down common misconceptions, interesting psychological phenomenon, discussing the rise of machines, and telling the difference between spiders and daddy-long-legs. He’s been running for about five or six years, and uses a format inspired by video game reviewer and connoisseur of creative swearing Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, but Grey’s work is somewhat more informative.
Adam Conover is a stand-up comedian who is part of the College Humour team who started a series that made it to “mainstream” TV called “Adam Ruins Everything” in which he pulls the rug on little facts we take for granted and hits us with painful truths that we’re made better for facing. It’s surprising how many of our cultural habits stem from people who straddle the border of genius and madness, or worse yet sadistic advertising campaigns designed to make us hate ourselves and each other for not buying, possessing or doing what corporations tell us to. More episodes coming to TruTV this month, I’m hoping they upload plenty for the international audience too.
Stepping a little out of the internet’s own creations, there are an abundance of fascinating documentaries, lectures and other informative works that have either been put onto the internet, like the massively diverse TED talks or MIT’s intellectual comedy lectures BAHFest (bad ad-hoc) that takes nonsense notions and rationally debates them. Many universities produce animated lectures that are aired online.
I led this article with Kurzgezagt as one of the most recent to make it big in the field, but also because I’m an increasing fan of their work, but it’s one hell of a rabbit hole to follow. The internet is awash with cat-pictures, misinformation and outright stupidity, even amongst the most intelligent inhabitants, but there are people out there making the newest media format what it was always supposed to be, an educational tool. And if that’s not geeky enough to have a place on this site then it’s worth noting that there’s a TARDIS in every episode.