Optimistic Nihilism

By | August 17, 2019


Human existence is scary and confusing. A few hundred thousand years ago, we became conscious and found ourselves in a strange place. It was filled with other beings. We could eat some; some could eat us. There was liquid stuff we could drink; things we could use to make more things. The daytime sky had a tiny yellow ball that warmed our skin. The night sky was filled with beautiful lights. This place was obviously made for us. Something was watching over us. We were home. This made everything much less scary and confusing. But the older we got, the more we learned about the world and ourselves. We learned that the twinkling lights are not shining beautifully for us, they just are. We learned that we’re not at the center of what we now call the universe, and that it is much, much older than we thought. We learned that we’re made of many little dead things, which make up bigger things that are not dead, for some reason, and that we’re just another temporary stage in a history going back over a billion years. We learned, in awe, that we live on a moist speck of dust moving around a medium-sized star in a quiet region of one arm of an average galaxy, which is part of a galaxy group that we will never leave. And this group is only one of thousands that, together, make up a galaxy supercluster. But even our supercluster is only one in thousands that make up what we call the observable universe. The universe might be a million times bigger, but we will never know. We can throw words around like two hundred million galaxies or trillions of stars or bazillions of planets, but all of these numbers mean nothing. Our brains can’t comprehend these concepts. The universe is too big. There is too much of it. But size is not the most troubling concept we have to deal with. It’s time, or, more precisely, the time we have. If you’re lucky enough to live to one hundred, you have five thousand two hundred weeks at your disposal. If you’re twenty-five now, then you have three thousand nine hundred weeks left. If you’re going to die at seventy, then there are two thousand three hundred and forty weeks left – a lot of time, but also … not really. And then what? Your biological processes will break down, and the dynamic pattern that is you will stop beinge dynamic. It will dissolve until there is no you left. Some believe that there is a part of us we can’t see or measure, but we have no way to find out, so this life might be it and we might end up dead forever. This is less scary than it sounds, though. If you don’t remember the 13.75 billion years that went by before you existed, Then the trillions and trillions and trillions of years that come after will pass in no time once you’re gone. Close your eyes. Count to 1. That’s how long forever feels. And as far as we know, in the end, the universe itself will die and nothing will ever change again. Our videos induce existential dread in many people, and the last few minutes probably haven’t helped. So, for once, we want to offer a different way of looking at these things: an unscientific, subjective point of view, the philosophy of Kurzgesagt, if you want. Please take it with a grain of salt; we don’t know any more about human existence than you do. We counter existential dread with optimistic nihilism. What do we mean by that? Well, to summarize, it seems very unlikely that 200 trillion trillion stars have been made for us. In a way, it feels like the cruelest joke in existence has been played on us. We became self-aware only to realize this story is not about us. While it is great to know about electrons and the powerhouse of the cell, Science doesn’t do a lot to make this less depressing. Okay, but so what? You only get one shot at life, which is scary, but it also sets you free. If the universe ends in heat death, every humiliation you suffer in your life will be forgotten. Every mistake you made will not matter in the end. Every bad thing you did will be voided. If our life is all we get to experience, then it’s the only thing that matters. If the universe has no principles, the only principles relevant are the ones we decide on. If the universe has no purpose, then we get to dictate what its purpose is. Humans will most certainly cease to exist at some point, but before we do, we get to explore ourselves and the world around us. We get to experience feelings. We get to experience food, books, sunrises, and being with each other. The fact that we’re even able to think about these things is already kind of incredible. It’s easy to think of ourselves as separated from everything, but this is not true. We are as much the universe as a neutron star or a black hole or a nebula. Even better, actually, we are its thinking and feeling part: the centre organs of the universe. We are truly free in a universe-sized playground, so we might as well aim to be happy and to build some kind of utopia in the stars. It’s not as if we’ve found out everything there is to know We don’t know why the rules of the universe are as they are, how life came into existence, what life is. We have no idea what consciousness is or if we are alone in the universe. But we can try to find some answers. There are billions of stars to visit, diseases to cure, people to help, happy feelings to be experienced, and video games to finish. There is so much to do. So, wrapping up, you’ve probably used up a good chunk of the time available to you. If this is our one shot at life, there is no reason not to have fun and live as happy as possible. Bonus points if you made the life of other people better. More bonus points if you help build a galactic human empire. Do the things that make you feel good. You get to decide whatever this means for you.

100 thoughts on “Optimistic Nihilism

  1. Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell Post author

    There's brand new stuff in the Kurzgesagt Merch Shop. Check it out here: shop.kurzgesagt.org

    Reply
  2. Paul Idusogie Post author

    I believe there is a God , I like this video cause it’s pretty much saying we are not really important in this entire universe , but God proves otherwise for me and that you are here for a reason and maybe we won’t see the whole universe and that’s fine just people in the comment section respect other people’s beliefs don’t say you feel sorry for them or that they are dumb

    Reply
  3. Rapho Perleche Post author

    You brought a smile to my face when you said "more bonus points if you help build a galactic human empire" xd

    Reply
  4. Ara Alfa Post author

    This is my favorite video!!! This video was a roller coaster ride from beginning to the end!
    Thank you for this..

    Reply
  5. Neill Wands Post author

    I literally sleep worrying about being shot in my sleep so I don't really care about death

    Reply
  6. Question Mark Post author

    "I tried so hard
    And got so far
    But in the end
    It doesn't even matter
    I had to fall
    To lose it all
    But in the end
    It doesn't even matter"

    Reply
  7. homam alzein Post author

    Kurzgesagt : finish a game you're playing
    Media : kurzgesagt promote terrorism

    Reply
  8. MCRhurtme butBATAARbrokeme Post author

    I was fine in the first half but the second one gave me a crisis

    Reply
  9. Equinox The Duality Post author

    The way I see it, Life is the ultimate sandbox game. Nobody is put into this game with a set purpose, we make our own. So if it floats your boat, spend your life doing what you enjoy, whether it be writing little stories or overthrowing a tyrannical army of degenerative clones. If the universe happens to remember you in an objectively positive light, great job! But even the most important people in history will be lost to the sands of time. The person who discovered fire is arguably important, but their name isn't remembered. Granted, it was before modern recordkeeping, but the name "Caveman Steve, discoverer of Fire" would've been a name known for a few generations. The same will eventually happen to Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, and even Steve Irwin. But what they taught us, their proverbial fire will be remembered.

    Except for Keanu Reeves. That man will outlive the Universe itself.

    Reply
  10. Ç Ř Ø Ņ Č H Man Post author

    Imagine if when we die we just go to an eternal darkness. No sight, no smell, no taste, no hearing and no touch. Just consciousness. Just there. Forever.

    Reply
  11. jiao Ran Post author

    所以,我可以告诉一个见过几次的人,我喜欢你。

    Reply
  12. Pirapat qwe Post author

    Basically, “nothing fucking matters so why would you wanna be sad and depressed.”

    Reply
  13. Talia Jurdi Post author

    Hey maybe we’ll go to Heaven and live with God bois

    Reply
  14. RadioactiveRat Post author

    Personally I have found trying to find a purpose to existance meaningless and only perpetuating any feeling of dread I have.

    I don't worry about a god determining my worth for a possible afterlife, or whatever concept of life after death exists for that matter. I focus on the life I'm living and the experiences I have and people around me. I'm going to die eventually, so why worry about it?

    Reply
  15. Adam H Post author

    the universe is so big and so old that nothing anyone will ever do will ever matter. i take solace in this.

    Reply
  16. Dylan Hughes Post author

    Sound track keeps me from dying while watching these. What genre would you call it?

    Reply
  17. Bob vs Bob Post author

    this is an incredibly harmful concept, detrimental to your motivation as a consciousness, aware of itself.
    people have endured horrible things, in the name of Love.
    God himself, died a death, for us, on that cross, in the name of Love, which He is.
    because what we do matters and carries weight into the next world = to then give us relief from that weight.
    Jesus is real, the Son of God, God incarnate, and the only way. mark my words.

    Reply
  18. Adrian Post author

    Islam way of looking at life and our existing is much better framework for living than anything else.

    Reply
  19. CrisCrosApleSos Post author

    I wonder how many sociopaths watched this and have now decided to go rape or commit mass murder… Good point, probably not presented on the best platform, this is something that should be discussed on an individual level.

    Reply
  20. cristina bajet Post author

    What about caring for climate change and future generations?

    Reply
  21. Clément Lgt Post author

    That was also my point of view, thank you for explaining it at a large scale. Maybe you should have insisted on morals that may ne the only thing (in my opinion) should be considered, given that planets and stars are probably not able to suffer or to have fun.

    Reply
  22. Bob Clark Post author

    I've watched this video at least 20 times, and just like reading Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot excerpt, I get choked up every time.

    Reply
  23. Pearl Vesper Post author

    If nothing matters, the this video, and the idea of nihilism doesn't matter. Bye.

    Reply
  24. Stampede98 Post author

    All I care about in life is creating works of art that people can get lost in like I have. I find nothing more rewarding in life than building fictional worlds people can escape to. The essence of life is creation.

    Reply
  25. Lucifer Oscuridad Post author

    no sientes y no piensas realmente recuerdanel determinismo

    Reply
  26. Alexander Macquisten Post author

    I like to re-watch this every so often, it always brings a sense of comfort, thank you.

    Reply
  27. Josh Nelson Post author

    Moral relativism is a dangerous philosophy to treat lightly. There is a moral law and we will all have to answer to God one day. It’s intellectually cowardice and laziness to think everything is just swept under the rug and nothing matters, so why not simply “aim to be happy.” The only cleaning that works is the Blood of Christ, and it’s freely offered to all who seek Him.

    Reply
  28. k-pop vortex Post author

    i felt that i felt pure i want to be a good person now

    Reply
  29. Kolby Post author

    Why is the government not funding them instead of the education system

    Reply
  30. Voices In head Post author

    This video means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  31. Allan Zhao Post author

    Can we take a moment to appreciate the animation of this video?

    Reply
  32. Ben Hess Post author

    “I bet murderers find killing people enjoyable”

    Here’s a new way of looking at it:
    Yes, they do, and then eventually they die forever like everyone else. But if the majority of us who don’t like murder try to make the world more enjoyable by preventing murders then the world won’t have as many murders.

    As long as the majority of people find good things enjoyable the the world will be good.

    Reply
  33. Matías García Casas Post author

    There's one problem. The universe isn't a place where we can do whatever we want, because we are limited by the conditions we are born with. The world would be a happy place if we were free, but we aren't.
    So not only life is pointless, but we also can't choose what to do with it.

    Reply
  34. Shane Flett Post author

    Capitalism caps us from doing much greater things when things are just available for us humans. Education should be reformed.

    Reply
  35. sirkastic Post author

    Great video. NOW BUY A HOUSE ON A 30 YEAR MORTGAGE, A CAR WITH LOAN REPAYMENTS FOREVER AND THE LATEST IPHONE ON 100$ A MONTH CONTRACT.

    Reply
  36. Jerry Wiggins II Post author

    "God is dead. We have killed Him. There is not enough water on Earth to wash away the blood." The century of Nietzsche's nihilism has been the bloodiest in existence. Perhaps we should consider that the height of human knowledge amounts to the size of a dust mite, and consider that if there were a God, He would exist at the height of universal knowledge, far beyond what man is even capable of achieving. Perhaps we should consider that a personal God would care about us, and that an all powerful God would create a universe of this scope because it works at this scope and since He is all powerful, it is a small task for him to do so. A counter point to optimistic nihilism is, perhaps, optimistic deism. Christianity even, as I follow. Man needs meaning beyond himself, beyond other Men, he needs a Holy purpose.

    Reply
  37. Wu Li Post author

    Forty years of extensive studies concluded the republican party organizes along the same lines as a flock of chickens, by rote memory, and another forty years of extensive studies by neurologists concluded that the neurons in our brains do the same. Conducting my own private survey for over ten years, I discovered over half the people I spoke to made up their own definitions for words, never suspecting or caring that the dictionary merely contains popular definitions. Almost none of them saw any significance whatsoever in my survey, and they all believed it was a complete waste of their time. In a flock of chickens which constantly debate the definition of stupid and who is the best example, existentialist angst can even display epidemic effects and be directly traced to the idiots all insisting life must make some sense, while refusing to even share their words and play nice.

    Reply
  38. Susanna Kulusjärvi Post author

    Your videos are all great but this one is really special to me. When I have a really bad low with my depression, I come back to this video. It comforts me, when I really think about everything through optimistic nihilism, I feel myself fill with love and wonder and joy. I love it. This is wonderful. Thank you for this gem of a video!

    Reply
  39. Zangief The Red Post author

    Bonus points if you help to build a Galactic human empire? Seriously? Haven't you watched Start Wars or what?

    Reply
  40. ElTito Alberto Post author

    Kurzgesagt: ‘…more bonus points if you help build a galactic human empire!’

    Elon Musk: ‘More bonus points?!’

    Reply
  41. Aaron BS Post author

    Kurzgesagt: Nothing matters

    Bastille: 'It only matters if we care'

    So…nobody cares??

    Reply
  42. shnpio Post author

    When they started saying weeks I started feeling it…

    And I'm only fucking 17

    Reply
  43. Dodge This! Post author

    Hello. Ive arrived from a different galaxy and I see no one can leave yet. Would you like to know how?

    Reply
  44. Neptune Vibe Post author

    Ah.. the Germans.. Now.. where is the rope? I need to make nuce.

    Reply
  45. Pedro García Post author

    Being non religious and afraid of death, this video is just what a needed. That you Kurzgesagt. I love you.

    Reply
  46. XBLspartanx170 Post author

    this ideology is heavily biased towards the already able bodied, it doesn't address that not everyone will be able to live to their fullest potentional due to poverty, disease, or disability, and has to be the most disingenuous justification for psychopathy I have ever seen.

    if life is really meaningless, their is no rational reason to be optimistic other than shutting out undesirable facts of life out of your minds and just being a capricious hedonist.

    Reply
  47. Slenderbanana880 Post author

    Imagine an alternate reality right along side this one, where dead things dread the day that they are born. None of the people in this dead-world know what happens after birth, and once one of these dead-people are born, they become living people; us.

    No I don't believe this lmao, just a fun story that might take the edge off of the concept of "you're alive, so you better fucking do something, asshole. We're all waiting ".

    Reply
  48. Mike Tucker Post author

    I can't smoke canibus because my work won't allow me to. Maybe the CEO should watch this video. Better yet, the president should just federally legalise it. It'll most likely cut down the devorce rate by 50%.

    Reply
  49. Robot Bob Post author

    I love this video, I only watched it now but it definitely lines up with how my brain works. When he said that you get bonus points for building a human empire it made me think about how that has been my goal all along, build a human space empire or basically be Thanos if the humans don't work together.

    Reply
  50. M grisez063 Post author

    "More bonus points if you help to build a Galactic Human Empire" 
    Where can I sign up?

    PS: This video triggered an existential crisis, I don't think it helped

    Reply
  51. Jedidiah Potuyt Post author

    I get 0 extensial dread form these videos's. Really liked this one

    Reply
  52. Joetime90 Post author

    I just lost a friend over this. He couldn't comprehend.

    Reply
  53. Flutterbree Post author

    I added this video to a playlist I watch whenever I'm suicidal. I'm almost certain that when I watch this again, it'll help me feel better. I hope this video helps save someone's life (or at least their Outlook on life) some day

    Reply
  54. BANANABEAST BOY Post author

    This is going to sound weird, but why does everything exist?

    Reply
  55. すきおっぱい Post author

    The qur'an says that there are many intellectual creatures (i.e. alens), but never will we meet. Another reason why I keep my faith in him subhan'Allah

    Reply
  56. Indraja Salunkhe Post author

    Many congratulations to the graphics team for creating such a stunning set of designs. Lovely illustrations. Thank you for the video. 🙂

    Reply

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