Mike Elgan recently wrote an article in Computerworld with some interesting predictions. Among other things, he believes that Google will someday unveil "Google Maps" of genealogy, which will result in a massive, interactive, mashable, public, and free online Human Family Tree. In short, he believes that Google will someday be able to list information about all humans who ever lived and left records behind. Not only that, but he also predicts that the records of most of these people will be linked together to point to similar records of their parents, children, siblings, and other relatives.
Is combining all genealogy data too scary?
Elgan also takes a look at the DNA databases. He writes, "A team of computer scientists, mathematicians and biologists have come up with a computer algorithm that can trace the ancestry of thousands of people in a few minutes based on a DNA sample, according to the September 2007 edition of the journal PLoS Genetics. The researchers claim that their method is 99% accurate. They plan to build a massive database of people and how they're related."
He also makes other predictions:
These various databases will be compiled by some company -- most likely Google -- into the Mother of All Genealogy Databases. Imagine a kind of Google Maps site, but one that maps family relationships instead of geography. The service might even be in part a Google Maps mashup of some kind.
Google Maps combines image databases from disparate sources around the world. It's an open, extensible system, so random developers and companies can build mashups that combine map data with any other data, augmented by Google-generated content.
Call it the Google Family Tree.
Such a database would enable you to do absolutely amazing things. For example:
- Enter your unique ID info (probably your Gmail username) and that of any other person, and the site would trace you both back to the most recent common shared ancestor.
- Follow a timeline that shows the locations and migrations of ancestors all leading up to the descendant that is you.
- Track down every living relative.
- Pick any year in history and see just how many of your ancestors were alive at the time.
- Genetic family relationships could be combined with Linked-In-type social networking friendships or business relationships to render the most direct connection with anyone else ("Hey, you're the brother-in-law of my former boss's wife!").
- And many other cool tricks nobody can even think of right now.
Is he correct? I read Mike Elgan's article and found it to be a bit simplistic and short on details. I disagree with some of what he wrote, and yet I do think it makes for interesting reading. In fact, perhaps we should read his article and then stop to consider what might happen if we are not careful. Perhaps concerns about privacy and other issues should be addressed now in order to prevent the "Big Brother" image that Elgan paints.
You can find "Coming Soon: The Mother of All Genealogy Databases" by Mike Elgan at http://tinyurl.com/229clg.