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You’re Descended from Royalty and So Is Everybody Else (nautil.us)
183 points by dnetesn on Jan 4, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments



    Charlemagne is one of a handful of kings who gets awarded
    the post-nominal accolade “the Great.” His early life
    remains mysterious and the stories are assembled from
    various sources, but it seems he was born around 742 B.C.
So, Charlemagne was born around 742 B.C.? Doubt it!


Makes sense: since he noticed the calendar counting backwards he hung around to collect the holy foreskin and then waited until the Popes evolved and became powerful enough so he could give it to them.

It’s the simplest explanation.


Oh it would be, but we’ve known for centuries that the holy prepuce was actually...

According to an unconfirmed 19th-century source,[14][15] in the late 17th century the Vatican librarian Leo Allatius wrote an unpublished[16] treatise entitled De Praeputio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Diatriba (A Discussion of the Foreskin of Our Lord Jesus Christ), claiming that the Holy Prepuce ascended, like Jesus himself, and was transformed into the rings of Saturn.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Prepuce#Literary_allusi...


Wow, the rings of Saturn huh. Just how self-important can humans get lol


Woah, so Charlemagne was making it up??? Mind blown


Never meet your heroes, am I right?


Was he born at all? Maybe 742 B.C. has a grain of truth!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_time_hypothesis


Seems like they fixed it.


"Charlemagne marked it by giving Leo one of the great medieval relics as a thank you—the Holy Prepuce, better known as Jesus’ foreskin."

  Not unless he had a time machine.


> but it seems he was born around 742 B.C.


I prefer the Wait But Why article on this subject: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/01/your-family-past-present-and-...


I really resonate with his story about asking Nana about her history. My grandparents died several years ago, and just a couple years back I started to actually care about my family history and wanting to know more. I asked my dad a bunch of questions, and I was quite disappointed at how many of his answers were variants of: "Your grandma would know this, but I'm not sure. I was too young #{['to care', 'to remember', 'to understand'].shuffle.first}"

If your grandparents are still alive, I completely second the author's advice to talk to them about the family history. I'm in the process of recording podcasts (for family use only, never to be released publicly) with my parents while they still have sharp-ish minds. Assuming the AI apocalypse doesn't wipe us out, I think my kids will really treasure this, and their kids maybe more so.


You might not have missed as much as you think, as I tried this with my grandmother. She actually insisted on telling us the family history. Unfortunately, the moment I started asking deeper questions like "And where was he during the war?" she didn't know, even for close relatives. I basically got her story.

My father made her sit down and tell us who the people in the photographs she had were, writing in the names on the pages they were glued to. She got about 50% of them, but given the bias toward more photos close family members, I think she could only identify about 25-30% of the people.


Much better article indeed because of very simple and intuitive illustrations/graphs.


As a side note, his new (first?) book is just out.


You're more strongly descended from royalty (or at least nobility) than this. Because rich people had more children for most of history, and thus their offspring tended to displace those of the poor.

For instance, if the top 10% have four kids each, and the total population barely grows for 5 centuries (not implausible numbers, from memory) then this isn't a small effect.

If this sounds interesting you should read Gregory Clark: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/science/07indu.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Farewell_to_Alms


The poor traditionally have much larger families. But counting surviving children, perhaps the rich make out ahead in the end?


No, this is not true. Or rather, it's true today (in the west) but this is historically very unusual.

We actually have surprisingly good records of such things, and digging them up demolished lots of commonly held beliefs. For instance Peter Laslett (The World We Have Lost) did exactly this for England.


When did the change happen? For instance, my sixth great grandparents were farmers in the mid west (Missouri). They had 12 children of their own. So, for my family, the poor having fewer children than the rich probably would have happened farther back than the late-1700s/early-1800s.


For England I want to say the crossover is about 150 years ago, could be 200, from memory. France & Germany a generation or two later, most other places later still.

The US frontier may well be different -- having almost infinite land meant it could sustain rapid expansion for a long time. I know that New England & Quebec had something like a doubling per generation in total a bit earlier, from say 1650-1800. Which was unprecedented, I don't think any other pre-industrial civilisation got close. (Mathus had the numbers and was suitably impressed.)

(Bear in mind that number of siblings looking backwards is a different measure to number of offspring looking forwards -- 2 kids/parent on average is perfectly compatible with everyone having 3 siblings, as long as they have some childless aunts.)


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Agricultural_Revolutio... is the primary cause of this change. Until food productivity started growing dramatically, populations were generally kept in check by the threat of famine. And famine was more a problem for peasants than nobles.

The change happened earlier in the Americas for the simple reason that due to recent settlement, population density did not yet match what the land could sustain.


Certainly these improvements led to overall population growth, which accelerated over a few centuries. But the pattern that richer people had more kids than poor is a different thing. I believe this persisted until Victorian times in England. The US frontier was a gigantic anomaly in other ways, and could be in this way too, I don't think I've seen data.


That's only modern times and it only applies to societies with contraception and women's right and most importantly, women's education.

For most of history, women weren't educated and there wasn't reliable contraception and hence they all had many babies.

Also, kings/nobility in the past had concubines and consorts who produced children as well.

> The poor traditionally have much larger families.

Also, wealth really doesn't factor into family sizes anywhere today. Poor educated women have less children than wealthy uneducated women.

For some reason, the more educated women are, the less likely they are to have many babies. This is a trend that holds in europe, the US, japan, south korea, etc across all wealth levels.


Major reason: to become an educated woman, you pretty much cannot have children before you finish that education, and once you have that education, you want to get the most out of it (and in the US, you have to, as you're probably in serious debt from it), and that usually means working in a full-time job with a rather child-unfriendly schedule and a lot of self-imposed pressure to "establish your career" before taking the risks of motherhood. If you have a career you like, you are more likely to limit the amount of time you're out on maternity leave (if you're in a country that provides decent maternity leave) or get your kids into daycare early in order to get back to the career you hope to preserve (my friends in the US).

There is no better form of birth control for teenage girls and young women than career aspirations.

Source: am an educated woman from the US South, with lots of educated woman friends, few of whom had children before 30, and none of whom work full-time and have more than two - as well as many childhood acquaintances with only high school diplomas and more kids.


Yes this seems to be the story today, both in the west and in some developing countries (e.g. India).

But this was not the historical pattern.

Firstly, it's my understanding that richer families started having fewer kids than poor ones in Victorian times -- about a century too early to be explained by women getting MBAs (or taking the pill).

Secondly, for poorer people before this, I think the main mechanism (in the west) was delayed marriage. (Not famine or disease etc.) Saving up enough money to decently start a household took time, and the community's definition of "decently" set the equilibrium population. See for instance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_European_marriage_patt... (and Laslett book above).


So what's the takeaway given we have the opposite occurring now?


Well I found the graph I was remembering: https://www.economist.com/node/21732803

Although I'm not actually sure exactly what the time scale this is measuring. Data is from is here, I believe: http://www.pnas.org/content/115/1/151.abstract


Maybe the data is good, but what a horrible, horrible graph by the Economist.


Trickle down ancestry?


I read something while researching my DNA results that made me realize how little my ancestors have to do with me. Maybe somebody here can tell me if it's actually true.

You share about 0.5^n percent of your DNA with each member of generation n, where n = 1 are your parents, n = 2 your grandparents, and so on. The explanation that was given to me is that each of your parents contributes 50% to your genes. Depending on which of their parents' genes they gave you, you share anywhere from 0 to 50% of your DNA with each of your grandparents, but for simplicity's sake let's call it 25%.

The point is, most of the people we're trying to find out more about through ancestry websites and DNA tests are barely related to you. Searching for your great, great, great grandfather from the old country? Fine, you only share about 3% of your DNA with him.


Genetics has something to do with my interest in genealogy, but honestly the direct familial connection is what is so interesting to me. Sure, I never met my great-great-great grandfather, and his genes probably have a negligible effect on my life now, but it's fun to think about his connection to me: My dad was really close with his grandfather Henry, who died when my dad was 12. Henry, in turn, had been very close with HIS grandfather, John, who died when Henry was 12. John fought in the Confederate Army for four years, got shot twice and stabbed once, including at Gettysburg.

My thoughts and beliefs have been greatly shaped by my dad, and I'm positive my dad is who is is at least partially because of his relationship with his grandfather. Carry that backward, and I'm only three degrees removed from a soldier in the Civil War -- it's not impossible to think, completely independent of genetic inheritance, that some of my personality quirks or principles worked their way straight to me from someone who was born in the 1840s.


It's always fun to think about how the cute little family traditions you grew up with might have originally just been the quirk of an ancestor from 200 years ago.


It wasn't until we learned my great-grandmother's Hebrew name (last year!) that we made a connection between that and a Yiddish lullaby my grandmother used to sing to my sister. Long story short our best theory is that it was passed down from my great-great grandmother, who was born in the 1870s.


It's just a simple matter of distance, as things get farther away, they are farther away.

But in this case, not actually as far away as you are thinking, because of something called pedigree collapse. For example, the second row in your family tree, your grandparents, has 4 people, 2^2. The 20th row, only about 500 years ago, has mathematically 2^20 = 1,048,576. In reality far fewer, because the same people fill multiple spots. Only 1,000 years ago, 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776.

A trillion ancestors 1,000 years ago? Doubtful.

So you can see, this exponential explosion is not an accurate way of thinking about ancestry.

Pedigree collapse within a certain area is what leads to the various human races. The distinction of race is simply the description that someone is descended from some localized subset of the global population.

You're far more closely related to your g^40-parents, than the g^40-parents of someone half-way round the world because your g^20-parents are more closely related to your g^40 parents. And so it goes up and down the tree.

So yeah, maybe only ~3% at a certain level, but that is as closely related in terms of match-able DNA sequences that it is possible to be at that distance in time. You're still very closely related in terms of the overall DNA "color palette."

And it is likely somewhat more than 3%.

Many Ashkenazi Jews have a 'genetic relation' that is in fact higher than their 'genealogical relation' would suggest because there has been such a high degree of intermarriage among a small population over the years. This is the case for all races, just maybe more pronounced in Jews because of the smaller population.


how little my ancestors have to do with me.

There's something sad about such a statement, and it epitomizes a certain cause of present day problems in society.

Are your genes the only things that "has to do with you"?

What about the built environment and society in which you exist with all of it's inventions and innovations from a strictly primal state of affairs?

Who built that society and environment around you? If you're like most people, your ancestors.

What aspects of your ancestors guided their building and structuring of society? Their genes. Your ancestors have very much to do with you, and you have much to be grateful to them for.

Edit:

p.s. As a corollary addendum, if your ancestors have nothing to do with you, what of your descendants? Why bother leaving an orderly and healthily functioning world to people "who have nothing to do with you"?

Safe to say, that we should pray for the well-being of future generations that most people today don't think this way, and be thankful that most people in the past didn't think this way.


What surprised me is when I realized that it was entirely possible (though maybe not probable) for siblings to share 0% of their DNA. That is, if one sibling received the "first" 50% of the father and mother's genes, and the other sibling received the "second" 50%, they would have 0 overlapping genes.


Wouldn't some of the genes be identical, ie you randomly get one of two identical copies? I'm thinking some of the essential genetic code sections might be of a nature where having them damaged would kill the kid.


That isn't possible. You got your Y from your dad if you are male. You got an X from your mom. So all siblings share mom's X and all sons share dad's Y. You also got your mitochondrial DNA from mom.


This 3% or whatever from 0.5^n is a lower bound. To get close to it, all your other relatives would need to come from completely somewhere else. But in reality, many of your other ancestors were probably related to him, because they had lived in his valley since they invented farming, or whatever. So you probably have some more of his genes from several great, great, great grandmothers who were related to him.


How does this mesh with the pop-fact that we share 98% of our DNA with chimps and 50% with bananas?

Is that a population level statistic?


Seems like it is assuming all of those ancestors had unique DNA when in fact they were probably all 99+% similar if you look at it from the perspective of the whole genome. I'm no biologist though, would be interesting to see a real explanation.


I don't know either, but I read on HN some time ago that the size of a CD were comparable to ... I don't even know, a human genome. So, assuming that's a lower bound, 1% of 600MB is still 48 million bits. 2^48 would be the number of different strings representable with 48MB, but maybe not all of those will be viable.


No, your ancestors were distant relatives, 2nd cousins etc...


Humans have 23 chromosome pairs. That is 46 halves. Therefore you can maximally have a common chromosome half with 46 people at any ancestry level.


I see the downvotes, but genetics isn't my thing. Can somebody in the know explain what the error is? Thanks.


I cannot say why he is downvoted but there are some mistakes in his comment. First, there would be 47 shareable elements as you have 46 chromosomes plus the mitochondrial genome. And then, any of the 46 chromosomes (besides the Y chromosome in males) can and do exchange segments with its homolog/sister chromosome of the same type (crossing over or recombination). While this does not happen all the time, it does happen, so you from some points in history you are inherating your genome from many more ancestors.


Chromosomes don't stay intact like (it sounds like) jonsen is assuming. Instead they cross-over or re-combine to make never-before-seen strands -- the new strand has one end from one copy & the other end from the other copy.

There are maybe 2-3 cross-over events per chromosome per generation in humans, e.g. https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/19005/how-many-r... .


Funny enough the right information was available and accessible that made it trivial for me to follow my direct lineage back to Charlemagne

Of course being 42 generations removed, he is only 1 of 4,398,046,511,104 potential direct ancestor paths back at that level.

That number made me realize that we don't have branches in a family tree, we have laurels in a family wreath.


2^42 is a number so large, it seems highly unlikely. The world population today is only 2^33. There might be - must be - multiple paths leading to the same person, for many persons. In any pedigree.


Being descended from royalty is less about genetics and more about the rules that govern inheritance amongst european houses. What matters to European royals is first son to first son. Drop all the bastard lines (Fitzroys). Then drop all but a few female lines. Those with no sons can stay (ie the current QoE). Don't try to democratize an elitist and unfair system by suggesting we are all participants. Something like half of Asia is genetically related to Genghis Kan. That doesn't mean he would have ever considered them family. But given the genetic car crash that is european monarchy (google "Hapsburg chin" or Haemophilia in the UK royals) I don't want to be related to any of them.

>> You are of Viking descent, because everyone is.

No. The real vikings (not the TV ones) were almost universally blond or red-headed. If you are black, your ancestors were not vikings any more than my ancestors were Zulu warriors. The genetic lines merge further back than the existence of these named groups, making us at best related to them, not descended from.


> No. The real vikings (not the TV ones) were almost universally blond or red-headed. If you are black, your ancestors were not vikings any more than my ancestors were Zulu warriors.

I'm confused why you think "blond or red-headed" has anything to do with whether you have any viking ancestry. Just because my father is blonde does not mean I am. And the point of the article is that our lines merge much sooner than we intuitively believe.

If you are black in any society that has had a mix of European and African ancestry more than ~200 years ago, you are almost certainly partially of European descent. Unless somehow all of your 200+ descendents avoided any sexual contact with any colonial. If you're of Western European descent, you are almost certainly of Viking (i.e. Danish/Norse) descent: they spent centuries pillaging and colonizing different areas of Europe (including England). Therefore, if you're black in the Americas, you're almost certainly descended from both Vikings and the ancestors of the Zulu (considering the Zulu were a kingdom from the 19th century, so you're right, it's unlikely everyone with European ancestors, or even everyone with African ancestors, is). If you're from any country that was a European colony more than 300 years ago, this is likely true, too.

And remember, cross-continental trade is old. People from the African continent have been having children with people from the European continent for thousands of years.


And remember, cross-continental trade is old. People from the African continent have been having children with people from the European continent for thousands of years.

One of these in no way implies the other. Do you have a shag with the baker every time you stop by the corner shop?

You've been indoctrinated with the multikulti propaganda, try to extract the poison, there are people who can help.

Asians and Europeans have admixtures with non-Sapiens human species, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Africans also have non-Sapiens admixtures, but different species.

No Africans have Neanderthal admixture, and no Asians or Europeans have the African admixtures?

Why? How does this jive with your thinly sourced theories?

Whatever theoretical breeding patterns of this sort you want to propose, it is in practice entirely negligible.

And like I said, I know it's not really you who is thinking and proposing it. You're just parroting your indoctrination. You can do better. We're here to help.


sctb is right, of course, that your comment broke the site guidelines egregiously. If you do that again we will ban you. But I need to address a different issue about your comments.

We've banned you for race war in the past and you're still posting such comments to HN, as well as using HN for ideological battle in general. If you keep doing this we're going to ban you again. It is an abuse of the site which destroys its core purpose. Neither we nor the overwhelming majority of the community want to see it here. Therefore, no more of this, please.


Please read the guidelines, which ask us to post civilly, and stop the condescension.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


How the fuck did that blatant overt racism not get banned?

This kind of thing is thoroughly toxic to HN.


Blond/red hair doesnt make you viking. But being black or asian does make it extreemly unlikely, just as being blond makes it extreemly unlikely that your paternal great-grandfather was an african king.

With the viking thing, mapping blond hair in the uk, along with family/place names, creates a diagram of the 1066 invasion.


And remember, cross-continental trade is old.

What is your source for claims of trade?

There is no evidence for trade between Europe and Africa going back thousands of years.

Sub-Saharan Africans never developed a written language, this would seem to be a not quite vital, but certainly helpful thing when engaging in trade.

Thousands of years ago there was very little, if any, industry to speak of in sub-Saharan Africa. What was being traded?

Edit:

The poster above referenced black Africans, a distinct population from north Africans, and "cross-continental" trade implying a great distance and regular contact between the African and European races.

While some could argue that it is technically cross-continental as we understand geography today, I don't believe a good faith interpretation(in this discussion) of 'cross-continental trade' includes trade conducted in ancient Mediterranean world.


Uh...

The Nile river valley in Egypt and the coast of the Maghreb was very much a part of the Mediterranean sea network back to the beginning of recorded history. The Phoenician alphabet is actually the ancestor of basically every written language save Chinese and its descendant scripts.

But you're clearly ignoring North Africa. Even without North Africa, Africa was still very much connected to the wider Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese worlds. Musa I of Mali was the person who gave away so much gold on his pilgrimage from Mecca that he literally broke the economy. The crest of the Niger river was a major center of learning (Timbuktu, Djenne), and the geography was known as far back as Greek times. The Ethiopian highlands were early converts to Christianity, breaking off from "mainstream" Christianity circa 200. The Indian Ocean coasts provided one of the major sources of trading fleets for the vibrant Indian Ocean trade, again back at least to Greco-Roman times.

That's the stuff I know off the top of my head.


> There is no evidence for trade between Europe and Africa going back thousands of years.

I take it you're not familiar with Phoenicia, Carthage, Macedonia, or the Roman empire?

> Thousands of years ago there was very little, if any, industry to speak of in sub-Saharan Africa. What was being traded?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Saharan_trade


>There is no evidence for trade between Europe and Africa going back thousands of years.

Are you serious? As one example, thousands of years ago (2,350 years ago to be exact) Alexander the Great (a European) conquered Egypt (which is in Africa by the way).

Of course there was tons of trade going on between Egypt/North Africa and Europe for long before Alexander the Great. And, of course, there was tons of trade going on between Egypt and sub-Sahara Africa at the same time (what were they trading? Incense, myrrh, oils, gold, resins, ebony, ivory, animals, etc.)

As for your nonsense about sub-saharan languages:

http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/08/08/11-ancient-african-wr...


> If you are black, your ancestors were not vikings

That is far too strong a statement. Virtually all black Americans have some verifiable level of European descent, so they would definitely have Viking ancestors. For actual Africans, it's less certain, but it's at least plausible that an African would have some Viking ancestors.

The Byzantines recruited Norse soldiers starting in the 9th century. They would almost certainly have all had Viking ancestry since that was about two hundred years into the Viking age. There were some pretty significant Scandinavian settlements there by the 11th century.

Even by the 9th century, the Byzantines had a lot of trade with North Africa and North Africa had a lot of trade with sub-Saharan Africa. If even a bit of interbreeding happened and spread some Viking genes to sub-Saharan Africa that would be plenty of time for them to spread to most of the population.

Obviously, Zulu descent is much less common because the Zulu didn't show up until about a thousand years after the Vikings.


>If you are black, your ancestors were not vikings any more than my ancestors were Zulu warriors.

This seems to be disproving a statement the author didn't make. He was specifically talking about people of European descent.


We are also all African descendents; it's only a question of how far back.


Indeed, with dark skin no less (c.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_the_Dawn_(book))


We are all everything, more or less. We know that even in fairly ancient times there was trade between Europe and Asia and Africa, which likely means trading genes as well.


And fish.


This is essentially factually untrue at this point.

[wrong-link]


I think you're misinterpreting the article you link to. Among other things, note that Morocco is in Africa.


8% of chinese men descended from Ghengis Khan?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan


8% with a perticular genetic marker, but the data from this article would seem to indicate that all Chinese are descended from Ghengis Khan if any of them are.


Growing up, I heard the same anecdote 10+ from all sorts of people:

"I'm descended from the guy who fell overboard on the Mayflower!"

I concluded pretty early on that the claim must be either dubious, or that any claims of ancestry become uninteresting past your grandfather.

Heck, if we are going back to pre-Colonial ages, the pool of people I am related to is likely in the millions. For a world that was much, much smaller than it is today. It seems so weird to me that people want to just follow occasional threads and tell you how special they are.


In the article, if you go back to 1000AD, you're descended from literally every European alive who has any descendants at all. I think that's a much more interesting claim than the headline.


Grandfather seems to be cutting it off a bit early. Even 10 generations ago you have a maximum of 1024 ancestors. Assuming 30 years per generation and that all of your ancestors were already in the US, you would be descended from at most about one out of every 400 people in the US at that point. In reality it's probably an even lower portion because there are probably people who show up multiple places in your family tree and the bulk of the US's immigration happened after that.


if you're interested in this check out the coalescent theory, a very elegant mathematical model of population genetics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalescent_theory

The Coalescent, from a book by John Wakeley: http://www.faculty.biol.ttu.edu/olson/Molecular_Ecology_and_...

a good intro to population genetics by Hartl & Clark: https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Population-Genetics-Daniel...


It's not quite on-topic, but I was a little surprised that the article didn't mention that Christopher Lee recorded two metal albums about King Charlemagne: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne:_By_the_Sword_and_... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne:_The_Omens_of_Deat... . He has a great voice for narrating a metal album, even though he recorded them when he was 80-something years old.


Interesting article, but the part about everyone having a common ancestor 3,400 years ago is questionable, at best. Recent studies have shown that some populations have been isolated for 10,000 years or (much) longer, such as aboriginal Australians.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/19/dig-f...


Thought the same. However, consider that it requires a single person of european descent mating with a single person of aboriginal descent to give to the offspring all european and aboriginal ancestry up to a few hundred years earlier. If the offspring mates again within the aboriginal population it starts spreading this ancestry. In a few hundred years it might have spread it to the whole population (even if not a single european gene is actually still present in the dna).

The point is: we consider ancestry a purely additive mechanism; in fact at each generation the amount of dna actually received from a specific ancestor halves, so that you can be of european, or asian or african descent and yet have practically no genes from that side.


> A thousand years ago, we Europeans share all of our ancestry. Triple that time and we share all our ancestry with everyone on Earth. We are all cousins, of some degree. I find this pleasing, a warm light for all mankind to share.

I've always found it mildly disturbing, to know that anybody you could possibly mate with is related to you somehow.


The vast majority of your recent ancestors' matings were within the village or between neighboring villages. You're the result of dozens of generations of cousin-mating, and a few generations of not-cousin-mating.


that's a pretty harsh thing to find disturbing, given that you're the product of 4 billion years of incest.


Well we also constantly mass-murder our cousins (cows, fish, pigs, etc.) So not sure mating is more disturbing. Well unless you're talking about cows.


And our actual cousins (all the wars). So not sure what's more disturbing.


This timing is apt for me, as my sister just recently emailed to tell me we are descended from Charlemagne :-)


Somewhat off topic, but I have often wondered if this sort of phenomenon could also occur within 'timelines' (as in the multiverse concept):

As the article mentions, initially our ancestry is basically linear -- one mother and father, two grandparents per parent, etc. But the further back we go, the more our lineage begins to resemble a mesh web with certain ancestors reappearing at other points.

Could the same happen with the flow of time? Say we were to go back 10 years, maybe there is only a single possible 'timeline' between now and then. But is it possible that the further we go back, there are multiple 'nodes' which cross over, much like ancestry?

Is it possible there were two, or more, say, 1900ADs, which then every e.g. 1915 was descended from, splitting again into different timelines before recombining, in much the same manner as biological descent?

Largely off topic, but an interesting thought experiment.


The convergence at a later time sounds highly improbable. The total state of the universe is so large that this would only work if there was something forcing the timelines to converge and never by chance.


Presumably, the number of 'possible' states of the universe is the exact same as the number 'possible' alternate universes. (Edit: unless you are using two different meanings of 'possible')

The question of convergence then simply boils down to: Are there any possible states of the universe that can arise from more than one prior state. Based on my limited quantum mechanics knowledge, it seems the only place this might be able to happen is in black holes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole_information_paradox


Think larger scale. Mass extinctions should do the trick.


I guess it would work if there is some kind of force that leads some timelines to go out of existence or converge back towards heavier nodes, something like a neural network structure.


I've always enjoyed the thought that there are multiple universes, and there are two opposing forces at play. Chaos causes the universes to drift over time. Another stabilizing force tends to bring them back together in the most efficient way possible. This stabilizing force is felt by us as experiences of fate, or a sense (or lack) of belonging. It's not that there's a preordained destiny, but a consensus among universes that you are either in or out of.


Have had very much the same thought myself.

If there were two opposing forces, always exponentially self improving towards maximum efficiency in two opposite sides: 1) ordered/creative/perfectionist/preservative/etc, 2) chaotic/destructive/disruptive/etc... suppose our universe sits roughly in the middle of these two, does that not seem to explain where we are?

Also, given the seemingly limitless propensity of the universe towards balance, and its apparently limitless capacity in both regards, it would seem natural to infer that both forces keep going in ways beyond that which we can directly observe.

Intuitively, certainly, it seems very right. Of course, it also gels very well with countless esoteric/mystical beliefs going back eons as well.


Temporal backpropagation?


The Hylean flow.


Sounds like something LeCun would say..."I actually invented time as a special case of a deep network back in 19xx...."


How exactly should that work? The differences would still be there. How would you merge it without removing them?


universe pull rebase


I think one problem here which is being brought up by many, and a problem that plagues many interesting ideas: what’s the physical mechanism?

More important is the issue of just what the multiverse theory exists to accommodate. Timeline splitting would be the result of nature not actually “choosing” one part of a superposition of probabilities over another; they both exist in probability space or something like that. Human events like choices are incredibly macroscopic compared to the events leading to a multiverse. Ten years of activity should, in theory, lead to uncountable branches.

Other than the laws of physics remaining constant, nothing else does in theory, and so were talking about massive and continuous divergence, and convergence. You’d have infinite universes, some existing along similar lines, others radically different, but there would be no one tendency to converge or diverge; it would be chaos, expressed physically.


    Conversely, the remaining 80 percent are the ancestor of everyone living today.
To nitpick, this is not necessarily true. You can imagine a person who had exactly one descendant, who had exactly one descendant, and so on, to the present day. This person would be the ancestor of only one person living today.


The point is, although your example is possible, the probability of this happening is pretty close to zero.


It's still effectively possible for someone to only have 1 kid that had a child that had a child etc. Each link could have multiple children as long as none of those descendants had children that survived to the present day.

This becomes more likely if you include genocides that may have quipped out large swaths of someones descendants.

You also have rather insular groups where a few thousand people may be largely segregated from the rest the world. That's not going to be particularly stable over hundreds of years, but you only need 1.


But as you go back in time, it becomes increasingly unlikely. At some point it is so unlikely it can be disregarded. And the point of the article is that point is closer in history than you might expect.


Not genetically in that spot but doing family stuff discovered that I'm on a very out there part of my family tree (male decendent wise) four generations of only one son :-). It reminds me that improbable isn't a good defense.


The statement isn't saying that they're everyone's direct ancestors, just that if 20% of people alive 1000 years ago do not have any current ancestors, that means that the remaining 80% are the ancestors of everyone else alive today, including lines with single descendants.


    Charlemagne [...] your ancestor. I am making an
    assumption that you are broadly of European descent,
    which is not statistically unreasonable but certainly
    not definitive.
That's a disappointingly exclusionary way to open an otherwise interesting article that attempts to convey the interconnectedness of humanity.

It's also a good example of putting too much weight into statistical "reasonableness" when making generalizations about your audience. Even if the expected audience is just native-English-speaking countries, you've excluded millions of potential readers.

The article is mostly about Charlemagne, so fair enough to frame the intro using him, but "he's your ancestor, unless you are a statistical anomaly"? I find that depressing.


Literally the next sentence:

    If you’re not, be patient, and we’ll come to your own very regal ancestry soon enough.
I get what you're saying, but finishing the opening paragraph puts that possible exclusionary feeling down rather quickly.


If this depresses you, you may need to talk to somebody about it. I feel left out every time I open Twitter, Facebook, or turn on the radio, but I get over it.




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