- A YouTube channel called Coffee Break released a video accusing prominent science channel Kurzgesagt of being untrustworthy and released one-sided emails of his conversations with its founder, Philipp Dettmer.
- Coffee Break says Dettmer deleted videos off the Kurzgesagt channel that had misinformation in them, but only after he knew Coffee break was working on a project that would criticize one video.
- Dettmer responded to questions in an AMA on Reddit explaining his side of the story and allowed for the full emails to be released.
Popular YouTube channel Kurzgesagt has been accused of being untrustworthy by smaller YouTuber who was preparing to release a video critical of Kurzgesagts “Addiction” video.
Kurzgesagt is a well-known science channel with over 8 million subscribers. The channel is most known for its“In a Nutshell” videos, which take complex topics and break them down into more digestible pieces.
On Tuesday, a YouTuber named Stephen, from the channel Coffee Break, posted a video where he breaks down an experience he had communicating with Philipp Dettmer, Kurzgesagt’s founder.
Stephen starts his video with the question, “Can you trust Kurzgesagt videos?” to which he responded, “No. And, ironically, the reason you can’t trust them is that this video exists at all.”
He goes on to say he is working on a series about the “pop-science” genre, and how the simplification of complicated topics can lead to misinformation.
He specifically sites a TED Talk by Johann Hari called “Everything you know about addiction is wrong,” and Kurzgesagt’s 2015 adaptation of the TED Talk called “Addiction.”
Stephen said he reached out to both Hari and Dettmer to talk about the video and ask questions about possible errors in it. He said Dettmer responded almost immediately and requested to not be quoted. As a result, Stephen only shares his half of the emails in his video and gives paraphrased versions of Dettmer’s emails.
After the Coffee Break video was uploaded, Dettmer posted an “Ask Me Anything” post on Kurzgesagt’s subreddit, so people could ask him questions regarding the video.
In the thread, Dettmer authorized the release of his half of the emails, which were uploaded into an imgur file almost immediately by Stephen.
Stephen shows his first email to Dettmer, saying that he emailed him on Feb. 2 with “some tough questions about the video on Addiction that Kurzgesagt did.”
He continued that because the video was one of Kurzgesagt’s most popular, he was “worried that some of the major claims in that video are vastly simplified, if not outright incorrect.”
Stephen also asked: “Did Kurzgesagt conduct an independent fact-checking of Johann Hari’s book before agreeing to this?”
Stephen then paraphrases Dettmer’s first email in response: “Essentially he’s not thrilled about the interview or video idea, he was worried that the video might be a call out. He basically says ‘hey the addiction video wasn’t perfect, but I feel it was good enough.'”
However, in the actual email, Dettmer directly says he would “not make a video like that today for obvious reasons.” He acknowledged that “it’s not difficult to find criqitue of Hari’s work nowadays,” but said it was not common when the video was made.
Dettmer then says that he has received “countless messages” from people who told him the video helped them, and so he could not bring himself to take it down. He concludes his email by saying while addiction is a complicated topic, he believes the video can exist as a helpful opinion.
It’s also important to note the criticisms of Hari. Hari’s argument is that addiction is largely psychological, and not chemical, a theory that has received pushed back from many experts.
The main thing to note here is a question posed by Stephen in his original email, where he askes if Dettmer was aware of a public scandal Hari had that “threw his credibility in question.”
The scandal Dettmer is referring to was from back in 2011, when Hari was accused of plagiarizing other journalists work, and then anonymously editing Wikipedia pages to discredit people who criticized him.
Stephen then describes the next two email interactions with Dettmer, saying he shared his idea and some criticism. He said that Dettmer responded by saying he was busy traveling, and told him to wait until early March for an interview.
However, there are important parts of these emails that Stephen does not talk about in the video.
In Stephen’s email, he does explain his project, but he also challenges Dettmer’s claim that criticisms of Hari’s work were not available at the time, writing: “There are problems with Hari’s work, not just looking back from 2015, but holes in his research that were easily available at the time.”
Dettmer responded in his email that he did confront Hari about the critique, but that he was not comfortable discussing it with Stephen, because he felt Stephen’s project was a gotcha video.
After showing the emails, Stephen launches into the main accusations he’s making:
“And March 3 was the day I found what Philipp had been really busy doing, too busy to answer my questions. He had been busy making my video, for me, for his channel. He even did me the favor and interviewed himself by answering all my questions.”
Stephen goes on to show clips from the video and how they correspond with the questions in his emails. He then goes on to show clips from the video where it talks about how oversimplification can be distorting and provides a brief clip where Kurzgesagt says they deleted the addiction video.
However, in Kurzgesagt’s full video, they actually go in depth as to how they conduct research and how that system has evolved over the years.
They say that some older videos do not live up to current standards and that they have been trying to figure out what to do with them for a while. The video then says they were not proud of the video about addiction and another about refugees, and so they removed them.
Stephen then accuses Dettmer of preempting his own research and stalling the interview so he could get ahead of the criticism. He adds that it is unfair for larger creators to steal content from smaller creators and goes on to say that there is no way this could be a coincidence.
However, Dettmer refutes this in the AMA.
When asked if he removed the addiction video because of the Coffee Break video, Dettmer says that he had been working on script regarding the addiction video and removing it for two years, but did not want to tell Stephon because he believed his video was going to be a “hostile takedown.”
Finally, Stephen talks about Johann Hari.
He shows a clip from “Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?” which said: “The addiction video was based on only one source that has amassed a lot of criticism over the years, that addiction is purely physiological and based on the life circumstances of the individual.”
Stephen explains that Hari does not believe that addiction is purely psychological and that that idea was only a simplification that came from condensing his book into a 15 minute TED Talk.
He says if you look at Hari’s book and any interview’s he’s done, he does not actually hold such a simplified view and assets that Dettmer never read Hari’s book.
Stephen then plays a clip of a phone conversation he had with Hari, where he essentially says no one believes that addiction is purely environmental or purely chemical, and accuses Dettmer of scapegoating Hari and portraying him as crazy.
Dettmer refuted this as well on the AMA. When asked if he did read Hari’s book, Dettmer wrote: “Of course I did. After reading it, I very enthusiastically emailed him and asked him to collaborate on the video.”
Dettmer also noted that Hari wrote most of the script, “Which is the reason why it has such a big overlap with his Ted Talk.”
The Two Email’s Not Discussed
There were also two emails included in the imgur file that Stephen did not talk about in his video.
In the last of Stephen’s emails that he released, he says that he spoke to Hari, and that his story changed considerably after their conversation.
That conversation might explain why Stephen starts defending Hari’s work later in the video. Stephen also does not discuss the controversies he claimed discredit Hari and prove that his work could be considered “false information.” A fact that is worth noting because the discussion of the factual basis of Hari’s work was a huge talking point in the emails between Stephen and Dettmer.
The final email was actually from Dettmer on Feb. 21. He asked Stephen to send him questions and tells him he can talk to him the next week.
Stephen never responded to Dettmer’s email asking him for questions and trying to schedule the interview.
This fact was pointed out in a Reddit thread and Stephen responded by saying the only day he could have done the interview was March 1. He says that day he was busy polishing a video and before that he was on vacation.
The timeline here is odd because one of Stephen’s biggest complaints is that he was never given an interview before Kurzgesagt’s video was released.
However, it seems like he was given an interview, and he was just busy.
It is also clear that he never even sent the questions to Dettmer, which could indicate the interview was not actually a top priority for him.
Finally, Stephen concludes the video by saying you can only trust Kurzgesagt to do what’s best for himself and his channel and to make him look good, even if it means taking other people’s research, saying: “Simply put, I don’t think you can trust him to do the right thing when no one’s watching.”
Rogue Rocket reached out to Dettmer for comment and he responded with the following statement:
I didn’t stall him with malice in mind, but I also didn’t motivate him to work faster. Of
See what others are saying: (Johann Hari TED Talk) (Kurzgesagt “Addiction”) (Reddit AMA)
Black Mirror or Reality? Microsoft Granted Patent for Tech That Lets It Create Chatbots of Dead People
- Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow it to create artificial intelligence chatbots of dead people using “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.”
- As Microsoft noted in its patent proposal, chatbots could also be created to imitate living people — opening the door for users to train a digital version of themselves to be used after they die.
- In the patent filing, Microsoft also suggested creating 2D or 3D models of chatbot subjects by studying images and videos of them.
- Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a woman creates an AI version of her deceased boyfriend.
Microsoft Granted Controversial Patent
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Microsoft a patent for technology that would allow it digitally revive dead people.
If implemented, Microsoft would use information like “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.,” to create artificial intelligence chatbots meant to replicate the person.
In its filing, Microsoft noted that the person could be “a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc.”
Microsoft also noted, “the specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot), or a version of oneself (e.g., oneself at a particular age or stage of life).”
As The Independent pointed out, that opens up the door for living users to be able to “train a digital replacement in the event of their death.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft has also suggested creating 2D or even 3D models of the person by studying images and videos of them.
Has Life Finally Become an Episode of Black Mirror?
Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a character, played by Hayley Atwell, revives her recently-deceased boyfriend through an AI chatbot. As the episode progresses, that AI — played by Domhnall Gleeson — eventually becomes an exact replica android of her boyfriend.
“More people that need to remember Black Mirror is a warning sign, not a product manual,” said Tama Leaver, an internet studies professor at Curtin University in Australia.
Indeed, many critics have interpreted the episode, which focuses on the grief felt by Atwell’s character because of her loss, as an examination of “our own mortality and our desire to play God.”
“It shines a spotlight on our desperate need to reverse a natural and necessary part of life without considering the consequences on our emotional well-being,” Roxanne Sancto said in a review for Paste Magazine.
In fact, series creator Charlie Brooker said part of his direct inspiration for writing the episode was based on Twitter and the question: “What if these people were dead and it was software emulating their thoughts?”
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (IGN) (Indie Wire)
JoJo Siwa Fans Caution Against Labeling the Star’s Sexuality
- JoJo Siwa was featured in two TikTok videos Wednesday that many felt signaled her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
- One showed her dancing and lip-syncing to Paramore’s “Aint It Fun,” along with members of the TikTok group Pride House LA. Siwa specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us,” which is also the caption of the post.
- The second video showed her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.
- The 17-year-old entertainer has not directly addressed speculations about her sexuality, prompting many to caution against labeling her.
JoJo Siwa TikToks Trigger Sexuality Speculations
JoJo Siwa fans are urging the public not to label the 17-year-old entertainer’s sexuality, especially when she has not explicitly done so herself.
The request came after Siwa became a trending topic Wednesday when many speculated that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
The speculations stem from two TikTok videos she was featured in. The first was posted on choreographer Kent Boyd’s account. It features him and other members of the TikTok group Pride House LA, which includes several stars from Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie.”
It showed them all lip-syncing and dancing along to Paramore’s hit song “Ain’t It Fun.” Siaw specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us.” That lyric was also the caption of the post.
Later in the day, Siwa posted a video on her personal TikTok account that featured her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.
Part of the lyrics she sang along to were: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.”
These posts really started all the rumors online, and things picked up when influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and others expressed their support.
Many fans also left comments on the videos saying they were proud of her, and journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “This feels like a big deal if it is what I think it is…JoJo Siwa is hugely popular with kids.”
“And as someone just pointed out, if it is what I think it is, she’s doing it at the height of her fame when she’s selling out arenas,” he continued.
Despite the wave of praise, other fans feel that it’s inappropriate and harmful to make speculations about anyone’s sexuality.
Many have even shared their own experiences coming out, reminding people not to label Siwa as anything until she explicitly chooses to share that information herself.
While Siwa hasn’t directly addressed any of the responses as of yet, she has retweeted a post that features her video, the pride flag emoji, and the caption, “@itsjojosiwa is on the right track, she was born this way.”
Still, others also noted that she has publicly asked Lady Gaga to collaborate with her in the past, so perhaps this is a signal about that happening soon.
Others believe it could also be Siwa’s way of signaling that she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
See what others are saying: (Insider) (Metro) (Teen Vogue)
Google Investigates Top AI Researcher Who Was Looking Into a Previous Firing
- Google is investigating the co-leader of its Ethical AI team, Margaret Mitchell.
- While Mitchell has not been fired, her account has been locked because Google said she “exfiltrated thousands of files” and shared them with people outside of the company.
- In a tweet, Mitchell indicated that she had been “documenting current critical issues” related to the firing of another Google AI Ethicist in December.
- Sources reportedly told Axios that Mitchell had been specifically looking for messages that showed discriminatory treatment of that fired researcher.
Google Investigates Margaret Mitchell
On Tuesday, Google stated that it is now investigating the co-leader of its Ethical Al team, Margaret Mitchell.
Mitchell has reportedly not been fired, but her company email account has been locked.
According to Google, its security systems automatically lock employee accounts “when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.”
In this case, Google said Mitchell “exfiltrated thousands of files” and then shared them with people outside of the company.
Why Did Mitchell Begin Looking Through Files?
Mitchell’s investigation is related to the ousting of another top AI ethicist at Google, Timnit Gebru, who was fired at the beginning of December.
Before Gebru was fired, managers reportedly instructed her to withdraw an unpublished research paper upon her return from vacation. In an email to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies, Gebru then voiced frustration at managers for allegedly making the decision without her input.
“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company,” Gebru said in a critique of the decision.
Gebru’s firing led to such a massive outcry from Google employees that Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged to investigate the situation.
On Friday, Mitchell indicated in a tweet that she was also looking into Gebru’s firing, saying that she was “documenting current critical issues from [Gebru’s] firing, point by point, inside and outside work.”
According to Axios, sources have said that Mitchell used automated scripts to siphon through messages that potentially document discriminatory treatment against Gebru.