But it also has a more sinister implication. Let's suppose that my predictions about the future of genealogy are accurate. That is, that the large genealogy programs will continue to accumulate huge quantities of source records and that the search process will become automated. The analogy doesn't fit perfectly, but suppose that anyone interested in their ancestry could simply tap into one or more of these huge online databases and have the program find their "ancestors" back any number of generations automatically. Doesn't that spell the end of genealogy as we know it?
We may scoff at such a possibility, but just short thirty years ago, the idea that I could look at a screen and see my ancestry back 19 or 29 generations would have seemed like science fiction. We may wring out hands over the fact that there are still paper records out there waiting to be digitized, but we also need to understand that nearly all of us, I mean everyone on earth, now has a computerized record online. Here is an interesting quote:
There are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people on this earth (seven billion)—and it took a little more than 20 years for that to happen.In 2013, there were some 96 cell-phone service subscriptions for every 100 people in the world. Shouting is the likely the next-most widespread communications technique. See Quartz.Keeping track of all the people in the world right now is a data processing challenge and not impossible even with our present technology. So isn't genealogy pretty well already in the downward spiral? Right now, if I found a record that was not on the Internet someplace, I could take a digitized image of it with my smartphone and upload it in a matter of seconds. It seems to me that the main reasons why all the genealogically significant records of the world have not already been digitized are mainly social and political. But there is no question that all the present inhabitants of this world are likely to end up recorded on a computer somewhere.
In a sense, as genealogists, we are now working ourselves out of work. In order to keep going, we may have to become archaeologists and paleographers.
Now, just in case, after reading this, you decide that genealogy is no longer a challenge and you should go play shuffleboard or watch your grass grow for a challenge, then stop and think about all those so-called family trees out there. How accurate can they all be? Even with our huge supplies of records, it appears that entropy is winning the battle. We can quit and watch the heat death of genealogy or we can keep working and watch things slowly improve. There is a big difference between having the records available and knowing how to use them.