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We are a group of researchers and scientists who are building a single family tree for all 7 billion members of the human family, and throwing the biggest family reunion in history. And we want you involved.
We're not just trying to unite the world, we're also joining together for a noble cause. A ll proceeds -- after covering the costs of the event -- go toward battling Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association New York City and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund are the official beneficiaries.
A year ago, bestselling author A.J. Jacobs got a surprising email from a stranger. It said, "I am your twelfth cousin." At first, A.J. figured the guy wanted to him to wire $10,000 to a Nigerian bank.
Instead, it turns out the man is part of a team of scientists and researchers helping to build a Family Tree of the entire human race. It’s not even a tree anymore. It’s an Amazonian forest.
The forest began with hundreds, then thousands of relatives. The Global Family Tree is now at - we kid you not - 270 million people. That’s 270 million people connected by blood or marriage. It’s unprecedented.
A.J. was a little alarmed -- that’s a lot of birthday presents. But he was also profoundly moved. It was proof that we are part of something much larger than our individual selves.
In ten years, we will likely have a single Family Tree for almost all seven billion people on earth.
Two revolutions are fueling this: First, DNA testing, which uncovers hundreds of distant cousins. And second, massive online family trees, where thousands of people collaborate. If there’s an overlap in two trees, you can combine trees, and just keep combining till you join the global tree.
It means you can see how you're related to almost anyone on earth. Not always close cousins, but still: Related. Barack Obama is A.J.'s fifth great aunt's husband's brother's wife's seventh great nephew. Practically his older brother! It's like six degrees of Kevin Bacon -- but everyone is Kevin Bacon.
All proceeds -- after covering the costs of the event -- go toward battling Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association New York City and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund are the official beneficiaries. Founder A.J. Jacobs’ grandfather suffered from dementia and it inspired him to make the reunion about keeping family memories alive.
We also believe that the Global Family Tree serves its own great purpose. Scientists are studying it to see how diseases and traits are passed from generation to generation. It will likely help us find cures to many diseases.
It’s also an amazing way to embed yourself and your family in world history. When A.J.’s kids figured out how they were linked to Albert Einstein, suddenly Einstein wasn’t a dead scientist with crazy hair. He was Uncle Albert! They wanted to know more about him.
And just as important, we think it will lead to a kinder world. We know this is a bit idealistic, but we hope that when people see in concrete terms just how closely we’re related, it will nudge them toward more tolerance.
We are all blood cousins - one M.I.T. study estimates the farthest blood cousin you have on earth is about a 70th cousin. But we’re also all cousins through marriage.
We believe the global tree is bad news for bigots. Humans share 99.9 percent of our DNA. We are all one big family, and we need to treat each other with more kindness. Or at least a little less jerkiness.
- AJ Jacobs
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