Panelists: A.J. Jacobs is an author, journalist and lecturer; Yaniv Erlich is a professor at Columbia University
The gist: When A.J. Jacobs received an email from a stranger saying, “You don’t know me, but I’m your 12th cousin,” he thought he was being scammed. But it also made him curious. He’s teamed up with Dr. Yaniv Erlich of Columbia University to help build a family tree of the entire human race.
“It’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but we’re all Kevin Bacon,” Jacob jokes.
They’re trying to construct the world's family tree by crowd sourcing the genealogy of millions of people in collaboration with Geni.com.
Jacobs, who is writing the book “It’s All Relative,” set out to seek his long lost cousins and gained national attention for the famous celebrites like Daniel Radcliffe and John Legend that he was only a few genealogical steps away from. He also threw a worldwide family reunion.
By analyzing family histories and DNA, Erlich says the world’s family tree addresses scientific questions regarding longevity, migration events, and the anthropology of marriages.
-Jacob says the global family tree can reveal how traits can pass down generations and can lead to finding cures to diseases.
-Many in the audience brought up privacy concerns surrounding the project.
-”It’s like LinkedIn on steroids,” Jacobs says.
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