New app helps Icelanders avoid accidental incest

Apr 18, 2013 by Jenna Gottlieb

You meet someone, there's chemistry, and then come the introductory questions: What's your name? Come here often? Are you my cousin? In Iceland, a country with a population of 320,000 where most everyone is distantly related, inadvertently kissing cousins is a real risk.

A new smartphone app is on hand to help Icelanders avoid accidental incest. The app lets users "bump" phones, and emits a warning alarm if they are closely related. "Bump the app before you bump in bed," says the catchy slogan.

Some are hailing it as a welcome solution to a very Icelandic form of .

"Everyone has heard the story of going to a family event and running into a girl you hooked up with some time ago," said Einar Magnusson, a graphic designer in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.

"It's not a good feeling when you realize that girl is a second cousin. People may think it's funny, but (the app) is a necessity."

The Islendiga-App—"App of Icelanders"—is an idea that may only be possible in Iceland, where most of the population shares descent from a group of 9th-century Viking settlers, and where an online database holds genealogical details of almost the entire population.

The app was created by three University of Iceland software for a contest calling for "new creative uses" of the Islendingabok, or Book of Icelanders, an online database of residents and their family trees stretching back 1,200 years.

Arnar Freyr Adalsteinsson, one of the trio, said it allows any two Icelanders to see how closely related they are, simply by touching phones.

"A small but much talked about feature is the loosely translated 'Incest Prevention Alarm' that users can enable through the options menu which notifies the user if the person he's bumping with is too closely related," Adalsteinsson said.

It's the latest twist on a long-standing passion for genealogy in Iceland, a volcanically active island in the North Atlantic that was unpopulated before Norse settlers arrived in A.D. 874. Their descendants built a small, relatively homogenous and—crucially—well-organized country, home to the world's oldest parliament and devoted to thorough record-keeping.

"The Icelandic sagas, written about 1,000 years ago, all begin with page after page of genealogy. It was the common man documenting his own history," said Kari Stefansson, chief executive of Icelandic biotech company deCODE Genetics, which ran the contest behind the app.

The Book of Icelanders database was developed in 1997 by deCODE and software entrepreneur Fridrik Skulason. Compiled using census data, church records, family archives and a host of other information sources, it claims to have information on 95 percent of all Icelanders who have lived in the last 300 years.

The database can be scoured online by any Icelandic citizen or legal resident. The app makes the data available to Icelanders on their mobile phones—and adds the anti- feature.

Currently available for Android phones, it has been downloaded almost 4,000 times since it was launched earlier this month. The creators also hope to develop an iPhone version.

Stefansson says the "bump" feature is an attention-grabbing but relatively minor aspect of an app that brings Icelanders' love of genealogy into the 21st century.

He also hopes it won't convey the wrong impression about Iceland.

"The Icelandic nation is not inbred," he said. "This app is interesting. It makes the data much more available. But the idea that it will be used by young people to make sure they don't marry their cousins is of much more interest to the press than a reflection of reality."

It may also be of limited use. Currently the alarm only alerts users if they and their new acquaintance have a common grandparent, and most people already know who their first cousins are.

Adalsteinsson stresses that the has other, less sexual uses.

"We added a birthday calendar to make sure you don't forget your relatives' birthdays," he said.

___

Lawless reported from London. AP writer Raphael Satter in London contributed this report.

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ahmedgnz
not rated yet Apr 18, 2013
Marriage between first cousins is considered incest in rare places around the world, and between second cousins nowhere at all. Societies like Finland with endogamous customs (marrying within family because of a limited mate availability, for instance) have been shown to have a lesser incidence of fatal or life-threating genetically inherited diseases (so-called "in-breeeding") than exogamous societies, where people invariably marry unrelated strangers. This is because in endogamous societies, fatal genetic mutations have been weeded out by natural selection early on by being so severe that afflicted individuals die before their procreative age. Highly beneficial genetic traits, on the other hand, tend to be conserved and passed on with more frequency in cousin-marriage societies than in stranger-marriage ones.
Lynorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
Marriage between first cousins is considered incest in rare places around the world, and between second cousins nowhere at all. Societies like Finland with endogamous customs (marrying within family because of a limited mate availability, for instance) have been shown to have a lesser incidence of fatal or life-threating genetically inherited diseases (so-called "in-breeeding") than exogamous societies, where people invariably marry unrelated strangers. This is because in endogamous societies, fatal genetic mutations have been weeded out by natural selection early on by being so severe that afflicted individuals die before their procreative age. Highly beneficial genetic traits, on the other hand, tend to be conserved and passed on with more frequency in cousin-marriage societies than in stranger-marriage ones.


this is so wrong. The exact opposite is true.
dnatwork
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
This is because in endogamous societies, fatal genetic mutations have been weeded out by natural selection early on by being so severe that afflicted individuals die before their procreative age.


Tell that to the Berbers.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2013
"New app helps Icelanders avoid accidental incest"

You would think that evolution provided these mechanisms. And it turns out it did:

"The evolution of human incest avoidance mechanisms: an evolutionary psychological approach
Debra Lieberman, John Tooby, and Leda Cosmides"

-And you might expect that these mechanisms would be better at discerning compatibility than social mores. Siblings might be farther apart genetically than cousins.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2013
Marriage between first cousins is considered incest in rare places around the world
Well except in many states in the US

http://en.wikiped...by_state
pres68y
not rated yet Apr 19, 2013
seems to add new credence to the old phrase:
"incest is best" :-)
ahmedgnz
not rated yet Apr 21, 2013
Marriage between first cousins is considered incest in rare places around the world
Well except in many states in the US

http://en.wikiped...by_state


Only in five states —Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and the Dakotas— is marriage between FIRST cousins a criminal offense —that is incest— but there are exceptions for such marriages performed in states that allow them —California, Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii. Other states just prohibit marriage between first cousins without criminalizing them as incest but also recognize such marriages performed where legal.
But the article gives the impression that marriage between second cousins (or maybe any type of cousins at all) is incest. NO US state prohibits marriage between cousins other than first cousins.
ahmedgnz
not rated yet Apr 21, 2013
this is so wrong. The exact opposite is true.



"In April 2002, the Journal of Genetic Counseling released a report which estimated the average risk of birth defects in a child born of first cousins at 1.7–2.8% over an average base risk for non-cousin couples of 3%, or about the same as that of any woman over age 40.[179] In terms of mortality, a 1994 study found a mean excess pre-reproductive mortality rate of 4.4%,[180] While another study published in 2009 suggests the rate may be closer to 3.5%.[1] Put differently, first-cousin marriage entails a similar increased risk of birth defects and mortality as a woman faces when she gives birth at age 41 rather than at 30.[181] Critics argue that banning first-cousin marriages would make as much sense as trying to ban childbearing by older women."

http://en.wikiped...marriage