Your Family Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about memes and genes lately, having finally read Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene. Like genes, memes come from everywhere and are going everywhere, and just passing though any particular individual. Specific admixtures of memes or genes dilute pretty quickly, sharing only half their “uniqueness” with every preceding or subsequent generation. I attempted to illustrate this using font sizes. If the font representing “YOU” is 100%, then the adjacent generation (parent or child) is 50%,  and the generations subsequent to those (grandparent or grandchild) is again diminished 50% again, or 25% of “YOU.” The decline is exponential, and in just a few generations, nothing of your once-unique genetic identity remains.

click on image for larger version (4,000 pixels wide PNG)
click on image for larger version (4,000 pixels wide PNG)

It seems highly probable a Family Tree illustration like this exists already, but none turned up in my many google image searches. This one is of course CC-BY-SA, so feel free to share.

I was trying to illustrate something similar in this slide from a recent talk I gave at American University:

SitaTalk20100005You see where I’m going with this, right?


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

6 thoughts on “Your Family Tree”

  1. Fascinating! And heartening–suddenly i feel a lot better about some of my more questionable antecedents. 🙂

  2. What Any Lover Learns

    Water is heavy silver over stone.
    Water is heavy silver over stone’s
    Refusal. It does not fall. It fills. It flows
    Every crevice, every fault of the stone,
    Every hollow. River does not run.
    River presses its heavy silver self
    Down into stone and stone refuses.

    What runs,
    Swirling and leaping into sun, is stone’s
    Refusal of the river, not the river.

    Archibald MacLeish
    Collected Poems 1917 – 1952

  3. Really interesting visual metaphor. One thing that got me thinking, but that would not be quite possible to capture visually, would be the real level of genealogy of each of the elements that went into creating Sita. Really, for Sita (or “ME” in the chart) has, each of those shown is a parent. With humans, we generally get two parents. 🙂 Anyhow, each of those parents has an amazing rich lineage that couldn’t possibly be mapped here. And on the other end, of course, we can’t predict what the successors to any of these distribution mechanisms will be, but I’m sure it will end up being as complex as the left side. Anyhow, congratulations on a very thought-provoking visual! Be careful, or you’ll end up being a speaker at TED conference someday!

  4. Nina – pretty cool visual representation, from what I understand, of the assimilation of myriad memes in your mind, the ensuing creation of Sita Sings the Blues (a unique meme) and potential channels of propagation and conservation of the meme!

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