In just five minutes, UT-D art-and-technology professor Maximilian Schich and Mauro Martino of IBM track some 2,600 years of Western culture by tracing the trip more than 100,000 individuals made from their birthplace to their death — in short, how they brought their talents, technology and thinking from one place to another. The results reveal several familiar mass migrations along specific routes — not so much a Silk Road as a Silk Web — like the Roman Empire and its dispersal or the great opening of the American West (“it’s a little like a map of budget airline destinations,” the voiceover says at one point as the web thickens into smaller, more remote areas).
Unfortunately, these tracings all seem to follow European and American artists, athletes, scientists, inventors, criminals, rulers, etc. But that’s probably because the data comes from Freebase, a Google-owned database of well-known people. We don’t follow, say, the interior travels of Chinese artists or African merchants.