I have come across it in Crash Course World History. It is at around 10 minute and 9 second. Here it goes:

I just hate when people, and also microbes, are super self-involved. Like, don't tell me you got to take a day off to go to your mom's birthday party, Stan. That is not imagining me complexly. I have got needs over here.

Could anyone please tell me what the presenter meant by that?

  • I think the guy is being quirky on purpose. I mean, he came up with this phrase, "to imagine someone complexly", in order to amuse the viewers. Jun 9, 2018 at 14:31
  • The speaker is (intentionally) committing the same sin of which he is accusing Stan. It is meant to be fatuous narcissistic "projection" (to use a psychological term).
    – TimR
    Jun 9, 2018 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


This I think is intended to be humorous word play. This portion of the video is "an open letter to disease", and disease is often caused by single celled organisms (microbes). A single-celled organism is "simple" and a multi-celled organism with differentiated tissue types is "complex" in biology.

He's complaining that microbes are "putting themselves at the center of human history" and they don't even care about history. So they are "self-involved" and, like Stan, don't consider the effect that their actions have on other creatures.

Apparently "to imagine complexly" is a phrase used to exhort people to be civil and see other people as complex individuals instead of negatively stereotyping them. This phrase was mentioned in a speech by John Green, who is also this host of the video.

In a speech written for the ALAN Conference, author John Green expanded on the importance of seeing others as complex individuals. Civility issues, misunderstandings, and discomfort on Wikipedia can sometimes arise from a failure to imagine others complexly.

Microbes don't respect the people they are infecting (parasites live in "hosts", so maybe that is another layer of word-play) and Stan didn't respect the "needs" of the show's host, so the host is saying "that's not the way civil people behave Stan!" and at the same time making a reference to simple microbes infecting complex organisms like him. The host isn't serious about this - he's just teasing someone he works with in a good-natured way. Because "imagine complexly" is a concept that the host came up with, he may also be making fun of himself.


From the context the presenter appears to mean:

...that's not considering my requirements

although it's a convoluted way of saying so.

He/She clearly feels that Stan's mum's birthday doesn't justify Stan taking the day off when his/her needs should come first.

The suggestion is that Stan is not thinking deeply enough (about the presenter's situation).

I have never come across complexly before although it's easy enough to understand the sense and to find on the internet.

  • Is imagine someone complexly the same as being thoughtful of someone? Jun 9, 2018 at 13:34
  • @DmytroO'Hope That's how I interpreted it. But Colleen's answer is better than mine. Jun 9, 2018 at 15:08
  • I think that most people who weren't aware of John Green's past material would draw the same conclusion you have. Until I started digging into it, I interpreted it the same way you have.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 9, 2018 at 16:18
  • @ColleenV You are very kind. But you also started digging! There's a moral there somewhere. Jun 10, 2018 at 22:59

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