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  • Six months ago, I got an email

  • from a man in Israel

  • who had read one of my books,

  • and the email said,

  • "You don't know me,

  • but I'm your 12th cousin."

  • And it said, "I have a family tree

  • with 80,000 people on it, including you,

  • Karl Marx,

  • and several European aristocrats."

  • Now I did not know what to make of this.

  • Part of me was like, okay,

  • when's he going to ask me to wire

  • 10,000 dollars to his Nigerian bank, right?

  • I also thought, 80,000 relatives,

  • do I want that?

  • I have enough trouble with some of the ones

  • I have already.

  • And I won't name names, but you know who you are.

  • But another part of me said, this is remarkable.

  • Here I am alone in my office, but I'm not alone at all.

  • I'm connected to 80,000 people around the world,

  • and that's four Madison Square Gardens

  • full of cousins.

  • And some of them are going to be great,

  • and some of them are going to be irritating,

  • but they're all related to me.

  • So this email inspired me to dive into genealogy,

  • which I always thought was a very staid and proper field,

  • but it turns out it's going through a fascinating

  • revolution, and a controversial one.

  • Partly, this is because of DNA and genetic testing,

  • but partly, it's because of the Internet.

  • There are sites that now take

  • the Wikipedia approach to family trees,

  • collaboration and crowdsourcing,

  • and what you do is,

  • you load your family tree on,

  • and then these sites search

  • to see if the A.J. Jacobs in your tree

  • is the same as the A.J. Jacobs in another tree,

  • and if it is, then you can combine,

  • and then you combine and combine and combine

  • until you get these massive,

  • mega-family trees

  • with thousands of people on them,

  • or even millions.

  • I'm on something on Geni called

  • the world family tree,

  • which has no less than a jaw-dropping

  • 75 million people.

  • So that's 75 million people connected by blood

  • or marriage, sometimes both.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's in all seven continents, including Antarctica.

  • I'm on it. Many of you are on it,

  • whether you know it or not,

  • and you can see the links.

  • Here's my cousin Gwyneth Paltrow.

  • She has no idea I exist,

  • but we are officially cousins.

  • We have just 17 links between us.

  • And there's my cousin Barack Obama.

  • (Laughter)

  • And he is my aunt's fifth great-aunt's husband's

  • father's wife's seventh great-nephew,

  • so practically my old brother.

  • And my cousin, of course,

  • the actor Kevin Bacon --

  • (Laughter) —

  • who is my first cousin's twice removed's

  • wife's niece's husband's first cousin once removed's

  • niece's husband.

  • So six degrees of Kevin Bacon,

  • plus or minus several degrees.

  • Now, I'm not boasting, because all of you

  • have famous people and historical figures

  • in your tree, because we are all connected,

  • and 75 million may seem like a lot,

  • but in a few years, it's quite likely

  • we will have a family tree

  • with all, almost all, seven billion people on Earth.

  • But does it really matter?

  • What's the importance?

  • And I do think it is important,

  • and I'll give you five reasons why, really quickly.

  • First, it's got scientific value.

  • This is an unprecedented history of the human race,

  • and it's giving us valuable data

  • about how diseases are inherited,

  • how people migrate,

  • and there's a team of scientists at MIT right now

  • studying the world family tree.

  • Number two, it brings history alive.

  • I found out I'm connected to Albert Einstein,

  • so I told my seven-year-old son that,

  • and he was totally engaged.

  • Now Albert Einstein is not some dead white guy

  • with weird hair.

  • He's Uncle Albert. (Laughter)

  • And my son wanted to know,

  • "What did he say? What is E = MC squared?"

  • Also, it's not all good news.

  • I found a link to Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer,

  • but I will say that's on my wife's side.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • So I want to make that clear. Sorry, honey.

  • Number three, interconnectedness.

  • We all come from the same ancestor,

  • and you don't have to believe the literal Bible version,

  • but scientists talk about Y chromosomal Adam

  • and mitochondrial Eve,

  • and these were about 100,000 to 300,000 years ago.

  • We all have a bit of their DNA in us.

  • They are our great-great-great-great-great-great --

  • continue that for about 7,000 times --

  • grandparents,

  • and so that means we literally all are

  • biological cousins as well,

  • and estimates vary, but probably

  • the farthest cousin you have on Earth

  • is about a 50th cousin.

  • Now, it's not just ancestors we share, descendants.

  • If you have kids, and they have kids,

  • look how quickly the descendants accumulate.

  • So in 10, 12 generations,

  • you're going to have thousands of offspring,

  • and millions of offspring.

  • Number four, a kinder world.

  • Now, I know that there are family feuds.

  • I have three sons, so I see how they fight.

  • But I think that there's also a human bias

  • to treat your family a little better than strangers.

  • I think this tree is going to be bad news for bigots,

  • because they're going to have to realize

  • that they are cousins with thousands of people

  • in whatever ethnic group they happen

  • to have issues with,

  • and I think you look back at history,

  • and a lot of the terrible things we've done to each other

  • is because one group thinks another group is sub-human,

  • and you can't do that anymore.

  • We're not just part of the same species.

  • We're part of the same family.

  • We share 99.9 percent of our DNA.

  • Now the final one is number five,

  • a democratizing effect.

  • Some genealogy has an elitist strain,

  • like people say, "Oh, I'm descended

  • from Mary Queen of Scots

  • and you're not, so you cannot join my country club."

  • But that's really going to be hard to do now,

  • because everyone is related.

  • I'm descended from Mary Queen of Scots --

  • by marriage, but still.

  • So it's really a fascinating time

  • in the history of family,

  • because it's changing so fast.

  • There is gay marriage and sperm donors

  • and there's intermarriage on an unprecedented scale,

  • and this makes some of my more conservative cousins

  • a little nervous,

  • but I actually think it's a good thing.

  • I think the more inclusive the idea of family is,

  • the better,

  • because then you have more potential caretakers,

  • and as my aunt's eighth cousin twice removed

  • Hillary Clinton says --

  • (Laughter) —

  • it takes a village.

  • So I have all these hundreds and thousands,

  • millions of new cousins.

  • I thought, what can I do with this information?

  • And that's when I decided,

  • why not throw a party?

  • So that's what I'm doing.

  • And you're all invited.

  • Next year, next summer,

  • I will be hosting what I hope is

  • the biggest and best family reunion in history.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you. I want you there.

  • I want you there.

  • It's going to be at the New York Hall of Science,

  • which is a great venue,

  • but it's also on the site of the former World's Fair,

  • which is, I think, very appropriate,

  • because I see this as a family reunion

  • meets a world's fair.

  • There's going to be exhibits and food, music.

  • Paul McCartney is 11 steps away,

  • so I'm hoping he brings his guitar.

  • He hasn't RSVP'd yet, but fingers crossed.

  • And there is going to be a day of speakers,

  • of fascinating cousins.

  • It's early, but I've already,

  • I've got some lined up.

  • Cass Sunstein, my cousin who is perhaps

  • the most brilliant legal scholar, will be talking.

  • He was a former member of the Obama administration.

  • And on the other side of the political spectrum,

  • George H.W. Bush, number 41, the father,

  • he has agreed to participate,

  • and Nick Kroll, the comedian,

  • and Dr. Oz, and many more to come.

  • And, of course, the most important is that you,

  • I want you guys there,

  • and I invite you to go to GlobalFamilyReunion.org

  • and figure out how you're on the family tree,

  • because these are big issues, family and tribe,

  • and I don't know all the answers,

  • but I have a lot of smart relatives,

  • including you guys,

  • so together, I think we can figure it out.

  • Only together can we solve these big problems.

  • So from cousin to cousin,

  • I thank you. I can't wait to see you.

  • Goodbye.

  • (Applause)

Six months ago, I got an email

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【TED】AJ Jacobs: The world's largest family reunion ... we're all invited! (AJ Jacobs: The world's largest family reunion ... we're all invited!)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/01/14
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