In mid-2019, I was searching youtube for videos on burning Lichtenberg Figures into wood and acrylic. I came across one with a nice setup, and good production values - from a woodworking channel that also ran workshops. They had a guest on with his own channel, and a homemade machine with handheld probes that he used to shock lovely patterns into the board.
Wearing gloves, but casually handling the probes while live, he assured the audience that it was actually quite easy to make the machine and burn the wood - and they closed out the video with the channel's catchphrase, saying "You Can Do It!"
After the video was a short "In Memoriam" segment for their so-called expert, who accidentally electrocuted himself with his homemade machine between the filming and release of the video.
Needless to say, this shook me.
I had already stopped watching a few youtubers for irresponsible behavior with high voltage electronics - but nobody so far had been directly encouraging the behavior in the same video memorializing their own death from it.
When another youtuber I followed filmed his own death doing a dangerous stunt, after doing an "experiment" cutting thousands of fireworks open and piling all the insides in a pile and throwing matches at it, I knew something had to change. Youtube wasn't going to be better, but I could be.
My One Rule
Let's just get it over with:
I will not support, even with views, content I believe to pose a serious danger to the life or health of people near the videos, or to a portion of the audience. And will unsubscribe from content creators who do these things.
This does not mean that I think you cannot or should not consume content from these creators - this is merely what I have decided I am comfortable with. You can also disagree about whether the content is dangrous or not - again, this is just about me and my relationship to the media I have consumed and will consume.
In this article I will put screenshots of video titles, thumbnails, or moments. These are not recommendations, and I am avoiding making links, but the content is out there. This is also not the first or most dangerous content these creators have done - just the one that made me take a second take. In addition, I block content from these creators - if they have turned over a new leaf on safety, I likely won't have noticed. That said, for many of them, there's a special mention at the end which suggests... no.
What I didn't realize was that this rule would see me unfollowing and blocking most of the youtubers I had watched and enjoyed - and several big-name channels which received direct support from youtube on the very videos I was so scared of.
Let's start with an obvious one.
Basically everything this man does qualifies. While he definitely plays up the danger, he also bolted a bunch of kitchen knives to a lazy susan, motorized it, and strapped it to his waist:
which, let's be honest, is unsafe no matter what you do behind the scenes.
This is a man Youtube themselves have been actively promoting, and using to promote their platform on billboards:
I am certain this is not the most dangerous thing Colin Furze has done, and I have no interest in researching what is. It's the first video of his I saw, and more than qualifies.
What I do know is that he has strapped himself to a steel rod, put it around a pivot, and motorized it with a fan to spin around and around and around:
and I want no part in that.
Stuff Made Here
This was the first one to violate the rule that really made me sad. There were other channels I had watched longer, and that I learned much more from, which I was sad to see go.
Stuff Made Here was a young channel when I first picked up on it, and was usually fairly tame in his projects, doing fun math+computer vision+robotics projects.
From neat CNC mods:
To projects involving striking amounts of geometry, mechanics, and sheer determination:
I was really excited to see where the channel would go - with its in depth coverage of the math and hurdles in real projects, it was quickly becoming one of my favorites.
But then he strapped a chainsaw to a robot arm on experimental firmware, and turned it on in his crowded workspace.
(he also filled a wooden baseball bat with explosive shells and hit things with it.)
V-Sauce's Mind Field
"... But unlike a research school, Mind Field doesn't answer to a university's ethics committee." - Mind Field Season 2 Episode 1, The Trolley Problem in Real Life
NNNNNNNNNNNope. nope nope nope
I didn't really consume much VSauce content - even after watching a 10 minute video that claims to be an answer to the question "What Is V-Sauce" I really don't know - but on a free trial of Youtube Red, I gave one of Youtube's bigger budget, produced, and promoted shows a try.
What follows is one man's quest to do as many experiments deemed unethical as possible.
From extreme isolation and sensory deprivation:
To a recreation of the Stanford Prison Experiment:
the one that is the most galling is his attempt to do the classic trolley problem, for real, with unwitting human subjects and human victims:
I wish this was the last time I saw a Youtuber celebrate the lack of ethics boards for Youtube. It isn't.
Thought Emporium was a chemistry and biology channel, with a focus on approchability for a home workspace. With cool projects like growing glowing bacteria, I hoped to really learn some new projects and tricks.
And then he gene therapied himself.
And suggested doing the gene therapy to other people, in what many legal commentators have described as a crime.
The actual history of the treatment is quite interesting. Developed in the late 90s by a team of actual gene therapy experts, their study was approved - and worked - in lab animals. It was denied human trials by an ethics board, due to the potential dangers outweighing the risks, and the researchers accepted that verdict and went on to apply their skills to many other treatments for diseases and disorders.
However, as we have learned, youtubers are not bound by ethics, or ethics boards. So this kid copied the methodology given in the paper for the animal study, took the pills, and claims to be cured!
While there is a lot of room for bias in his results - with the majority of the relief being subjective and based on old memories of reactions - I believe it could have been successful, as it was based on credible animal trials by genuine domain experts. But the risks identified by the ethics board - such as a higher danger of cancers in the intestines and other unintended side effects - mean that his suggestion to do it not just to himself, but to others, qualifies as dangerous to me.
Speaking of chemistry youtubers, Nile Red was a chemistry channel with a focus on home-scale, replicable chemistry. While there were probably some red flags I should have seen, what really got me to apply the rule was when he started eating his mystery products.
He has made - and shown people how to make - a variety of very dangerous and toxic chemicals - Chromyl Chloride, and fuming Nitric Acid - But chemistry has rules about licking things for good reasons, and I won't watch them be discarded like this.
"I'm going to investigate what's in here, this turkey, that almost killed all of us." - Alan Pan, Stuffing a Turkey with MOLTEN IRON
I remember the moment I added this channel to the list.
There are certainly more worthy videos and moments, but this was enough.
I've only seen one video from this channel, where they try to use many of their toys to break a box:
as part of some sort of collaboration. They do so much dangerous frat-boy-style stuff in a short bit of this video, that they easily earned their spot on this list.
He spends the entire video mocking people concerned about the safety of him or others:
there's arcing, radiation leaking everywhere, high voltages and all manner of dangers seen and unseen. He involves an unwilling participant. It is almost the complete what-not-to-do package in one video.
"I'll probably be dead in a week anyway. Not from the virus, like, an electrocution accident or something." Michael Reeves, I Built a Surgery Robot
I saw a electronics/robotics channel that looked promising, and clicked on a video. The headlines were fairly clickbaity, so I clicked on one that looked like it was about building a gantry.
His gantry design was actually quite interesting, though - as he noted - not as rigid as one would like. He was only somewhat reckless with testing it on camera - up until the part where he strapped a knife to it and then tried to catch the knife while it was moving erratically.
Channels banned for safety categories
High Voltage without Protection
- plasma channel
- The Action Lab
- anyone doing Lichtenberg figures in wood, outside a real physics lab, on Youtube
- More I've forgotten
I would put Electroboom on this list, but it's genuinely unclear what is real and what is fake on that channel. And it's hard to see his content as encouraging playing with electricity, with the number of electrocutions and explosions he simulates.
I've blocked at least three channels for this, but I don't remember their names. Let's say... at least the gender reveal parties.
Channels I Avoided after Just One Thumbnail
The Backyard Scientist
Neither backyard, nor scientist, this is a man with more money than sense:
Definitely not messing with this. This is a man who has admitted he has almost died several times chasing youtube views. he accidentally melted his underwear trying to make it explode. Even without my rule I wouldn't touch this channel - and breaking what I said in the foreward, I don't think anyone should either.
Here's some more random videos of his to not watch:
I first found out about Cody's Lab when a friend told me he got his centrifuge and computer confiscated by the United States Department of Energy for making videos documenting enriching uranium in the home.
A quick search for the channel and:
Nope, not for me.
The King of Random
The King Of Random has many candidates, but here's a dense one: it has multiple explosives, liquid nitrogen, high velocities, broken glass, and acids.
So why did this not make the list?
Because it was actually already in the foreward - as one of the two main inspirations for the rule. I can't watch any new Grant Thompson videos, because he can't make any more.
Safety Third Podcast
Recently I found out that a significant portion of this list get together, hang out, dare each other to do more and more dangerous stuff and record a podcast mocking people's safety concerns. Where they detail many of the times they've almost died or seriously hurt themselves.
So... as one friend put it, my rogues gallery has formed a Legion of Doom. That's... nice.