Oh I hope I’m wrong. Please tell me I’m wrong. It’s quite possible. It’s 1am and I’m still kind of drunk. But as I was trying to get to sleep, this question bugged me:

“How many people lived and died for me to be here?”

In other words, “How many direct ancestors do I have?”

The reason this is an important question is because I know that I am the legacy of those ancestors. In most cases, the ONLY thing they left behind to show they were here, were their children and grandchildren. Their DNA. I am their legacy.

So how many direct ancestors do I have?

I know I had two parents. They had to live for me to be here. They each had two parents. And so forth and so on, back in time. Let’s say that, on average, each set of parents procreated the next generation when they were about 30 years of age. How many ancestors do I have?

This problem bothered me enough that I had to get back up and knock out a simple spreadsheet to work it out.

I got as far as 10,000 years (approximately 8000 B.C.E.) and gave up.

If I go back 60 years, I have 6 ancestors – my parents (2) and my grand-parents (4) = 6.

If I go back 90 years, I have 14 – the above plus my great-grandparents (8).

Now… if I go back 500 years, I have 262,142. Feeling the burden of responsibility yet??

Go back 1000 years – 34,359,738,366 (aka 34 billion).

Go back 2000 years – 295,147,905,179,353,000,000 (295 quintillion).

Go back 10,000 years – 34,996,011,596,528,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000 (yeah.. whatever. But it’s 3.4996E+100).

Now… how old is the human race (fundamentalist Christians need not answer)? According to Wikipedia

“The most widely accepted view among current anthropologists is that Homo sapiens originated in the African savanna around 200,000 BP.”

I don’t think Excel could handle those orders of magnitude.

So unless I’m wrong (PLEASE tell me I’m wrong), this many humans lived, scratched out a living in the dirt, fought desperately against the elements, and then died – all so I could be here. So YOU could be here.


Here’s the question I am asking myself – WHAT AM I DOING TODAY TO LIVE UP TO THAT RESPONSIBILITY?


Here’s my spreadsheet.

Please tell me I’m wrong.

I’m going to try to go to sleep.

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