Is Civilization on the Brink of Collapse? And Could We Recover?

Is Civilization on the Brink of Collapse? And Could We Recover?

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At its height, the Roman Empire was home to about 30 % of the world’s population, and in many ways the pinnacle of human advancement. Rome became the first city in history to reach one million inhabitants and was a center of technological, legal, and economic progress. An empire impossible to topple, stable and rich and powerful.
Until it wasn’t anymore. First slowly then suddenly, the most powerful civilization on earth collapsed. If this is how it has been over the ages, what about us today? Will we lose our industrial technology, and with that our greatest achievements, from one dollar pizza to smartphones or laser eye surgery? Will all this go away too?


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39 Responses

  1. Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell says:

    What We Owe The Future is available now — you can get 50% off and drive sales to local independent bookstores by using the promotion code KURZ50 at the following link:

  2. Sception says:

    if the question is “is civilization about to collapse?” then an answer of “don’t worry, humanity will probably survive to rebuild over the following centuries” is maybe not the most reassuring answer.

    • PineappleThePine says:


    • ArmoredChocobo says:

      But it’s the truth

    • Goncalo Vaz Pinto says:

      @ȥack K Amazing.
      I get it.
      You are obsessed with “herd mentality”.
      That doesn’t invalidate my comment: this is a bait and switch.
      I decide which videos interest me based on several factors, including the title. I was curious of a theoretical discussion on an imminent collapse of our civilization. Not because I am emotionally invested in it, but because I find discussing in extremis scenarios interesting.

      Also, I suspect this video was commissioned to advance the agenda of the book’s writer, and as such, needed a catchy bait and switch to get us hooked. What they did with the title was disingenuous.

      If they had actually wanted to discuss the possibility of the eminent collapse of our civilization, that would have been a though analysis. That would have been a lot of work. Civilizations are complex machines, too many variables to consider, too many unknowns, too many paradigm shifts.

      That is why I was curious to see how they would argue the original question.

      Curious, not needy.

      But they didn’t.

  3. iDevice Central says:

    I usually love Kurzgesagt videos, but I feel this one didn’t really hit the mark. It was an interesting explanation of what would happen with the survivors in the event of a collapse, but it didn’t really answer the question in the title. I feel the title is a bit ill fitting for the content in the video. I feel like a better title would have been “What happens after a civilization collapses?”

    • Smaragdwolf says:

      i guess the Question is linked to the Graph at 1:24. If a Civilization collapses on average after 340 years, we can check Countries/Civilizations today, how long they exist in the current Form and how healthy they are. For example… if a Country exists for 250 years and shows signs of social collapse, that can be a Sign for an approaching downfall.
      Some old countries had already several Steps in their Development. Rising up, getting demolished, rising again in a new Form,…..
      I would say that the first collapse for a Civilization/Country, will be the worst one, since they have no clue what to do. If you had already a few Collapses, you can compare situation and change the problematic Stuff more easily.

    • Alok Pandey says:

      Useless vedio

    • DPAN says:

      New civilazation rises, i guess

  4. Storyspren says:

    I’m not worried about whether civilization can recover, I’m worried about having to recover. I’m personally not that keen on experiencing civilizational collapse, and knowing that those who make it through will rebuild doesn’t really change that. The bronze age collapse is a curious bit of history to us, but to the people living through it, it might as well have been the end of the world. In relation to the bronze age collapse, I’m one of the people learning about it via unfathomable technologies 3000 years later, but in relation to whatever happens in our time, collapse or no, I’m that bronze age rando who would much rather have reliable access to food and not have to go to war.

  5. discipulus says:

    Alongside the many valid criticisms already in the comments, I want to point out that recovery, post-civilizational collapse, does not mean that the civilization itself survived; merely that another eventually replaced it. We are not the Romans, even if we ended up carrying on some of the elements of Roman civilization. When the current “Western Civilization” collapses, whatever replaces it will be something else. And the “Global Civilization” is utterly dependent on the former – when the West falls, globalism falls with it.

    • Helicopters Who needs says:

      @Nate Z Nobody in China has The Mandate of Heaven

    • 김민성 says:

      Civilizations could be replaced but not totally annahilated, the legacy never ceased and inherited to the decendant civilization. We may not be Romans, but the Roman legacy is still alive within western/European civilization as law, engineering, philosophy, social structure, art of governmening, and has been expanded via global colonising until modern era. We may not Romans but the civilization is still surviving.
      I don’t judge such… violent methods/trends which occured and used during the expansion, but just suggesting the civilizations are move on, even after some horrible purge or oppression. We all still got some fragment of local/older civilization whether its original owner gone or not, affected from tradition and culture. So I think it is good enough to tend it as surviving.

    • discipulus says:

      @Геймер Сидорович It is in the process of a very painful suicide, I think.

    • Nate Z says:

      Being a possible descendant of a specific oriental imperial court, I would like to chime in and say that I can’t wait until the zombie-capitalist American Empire collapses and the modern socialist republic that replaced the Celestial Dragon Empire (you know, my ancestors) takes its rightful place as the (re-)possessors of the Mandate of Heaven. The icing on the cake is if the replacement civilization adopts democracy as its governing style, but I guess I shouldn’t try to ask for too much from the genie in the magic lamp of the future.

      Just my opinion. Go get your own.

    • Izaya Orihara says:

      @Геймер Сидорович
      Sadly “west” is not a monolithic block. It is not a matter of “west” wanting or not, it is a matter of individuals and a struggle against power.

  6. Snek says:

    Remember that around 70,000 years ago, a supergiant volcanic eruption in Indonesia caused a global cooling event that may have lasted up to 1,000 years. Because of this, the human population decreased to around 3,000 to 10,000 people! And we are still here today.

  7. Daniel L says:

    The past couple of years has really given me this sense that the world is more unstable than just a few years ago. Maybe we aren’t facing extinction, but it does feel like there is a real chance of civilization stumbling. I hope that is just a worst case scenario. But I can’t help but feel a tension, a sense of fear.

    • Harald Töpfer says:

      well we are in a disruptive phase. All the entropy cause by the rapid technological advances of the last century is still in the system.
      I mean, the global goal of finance and politics was to create stability at all costs. The rigidity and security acted as guarantor for the economy to savely invest an grow. Phase change is long overdue however and the longer we wait the more voilent it will be (perhabs).

    • Valkor says:

      In a way we’re slowly but surely digging our own grave lol

  8. Jay Bingham says:

    What we’ve seen and documented over the last 100 years is that there is always a substantial percentage of the population who don’t possess empathy and will engage in things that are fully against their own interests and well-being. And no amount of explaining the pitfalls of such behavior helps. With hundreds of million people acting in such ways, it creates a formidable headwind for success. For them, success is to bring about destruction. It lays bare the psychosis of human civilization. Ideas about moving forward that fail to address this unseemly aspect of humanity are simplistically fanciful.

  9. Mathias Böhmer says:

    This was the first video of kurzgesagt, I found actually poor in quality.

    The logical error is, that previous civilization downfalls were always local and often originated in social issues. The climate catastrophe we started and continue to exacerbate is the first potential downfall that is a) global and b) critical to life on earth as a whole.

    To draw a conclusion from the downfall of Rome or Mesopotamia that the climate catastrophe would also be just a dip in population, is plain wrong.

    • Dirst says:

      My feelings exactly. For the whole runtime of the video, I was just waiting for climate change to be addressed properly, and it just… wasn’t…?

      Like, humans as a species will probably survive after the collapse. It’s not going to kill *literally everyone*. But brushing things off by saying catastrophes don’t kill more than 10% of the population seems extremely dishonest and lazy. And to talk about it as though each historic collapse was just a minor setback in the overall course of history really misses the magnitude of the climate issue.

      I’d honestly call this video soft denialism with how much it downplays things.

  10. Hamdy Arkoub says:

    There is a mistake I think made in the minute 1:27. You can’t just take the ancient Egypt middle kingdom and consider it a civilization with its own. Ancient Egypt was and still is the most lasting civilization that ever lived. It lasted for almost 3,500 years if not more. With the same spoking and written language, administration system, organized army, engineering knowledge, and rules. I know it is hard to be imagined, and that why we need to learn more about them to try to reach close to there level of stability.

    • James Ortiz says:

      You could make a similar argument about China. Through it’s various collapses, conquests, and splinterings, it’s maintained a fairly contiguous cultural identity. You can even make the argument that the roman empire was a bit older than Claimed and that it lasted longer too (just under different names).
      But the Video didn’t say Roman Civilization. It said the Roman Empire. Similarly, it specified the Middle Kingdom which did technically collapse into disarray. It’s weird to measure a civilization based on peaks and troughs like that, but it’s equally weird to say the Egyptian civilization ended with Alexander the Great or the Arabian conquest.

    • Bobfrey Joniam says:

      @Toiness Boss no they were just better

    • Toiness Boss says:

      @Vivek Phadte You know why i think they don’t do that?
      The world as we know it today is largely influenced by European exploration and conquest. Therefore its civilizations are more known and ”accesable” to the general viewer.
      They can talk about the Indus and Chinese sure but the Romans are more globally known. Its just a trick to keep people watching imo.
      And im not sure but maybe its the case there are just more written legacies and knowledge about the western civs. Not sure about that tho.

    • Faint Smile says:

      the punching bag of the ancient world

    • Gabriel Windels says:

      They didnt “last” they were conquered and replaced several times by various tribes, who based their system loosely on the previous culture

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