Accidental Incest App Helps Icelanders Avoid Banging Their Relatives

Iceland is a pretty small country, people-wise. There’s only around 300,000 people in total, and most of them are related.  In Michael Lewis’s 2011 book Boomerang (on the global financial collapse. It’s really good!), he explains that there are only about nine surnames in the country, and everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. And yes, they all know Bjork. “Yes, I know Bjork,” says a professor at the University of Iceland, whom Lewis interviews. “She can’t sing, and I know her mother from childhood, and they were both crazy. That she is so well known outside of Iceland tells me more about the world than it does about Bjork.”

Thanks to their generally closed society over the last 1,100 years and the fact that everyone has similar last names (ending in either -son or -dottir), dating and mating can be tricky. But a new app, which is loosely translated to mean Incest Prevention Alarm, is hoping to help Icelanders avoid sleeping with relations. Its slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”

But lest you think Iceland is just a bunch of yokels banging their cousins,  Kari Stefansson, chief executive of Icelandic biotech company deCODE Genetics, wants to make one thing clear. “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.”

So far, the app has been downloaded around 4,000 times. Weirdly, a study by DeCODE found a correlation between inbreeding and an increased number of children. The study found that third cousins had more children and grandchildren than people who were not related. “These are counterintuitive, almost dislikable results,” said study head Kari Stefansson. “These results show that, in certain situations, there’s a certain biological compatibility between couples, which seems good for the fate of future children.”


[Phone image courtesy of Shutterstock]