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A powerful empire rules this world, which is divided into several sections. Each section is ruled and governed by various noble families, under the rule of the royal family led by the king and queen. Each family competes for power and seek any advantage they can get over their rivals. Magic has returned to the world and is present today. However, it is slow and complicated, requiring years of study and resources. As a result, mages are highly valuable and sought after.

An entrepreneurial mage has invented an artificial womb by combining magic with technology, allowing for the potential for children to be created in batches. Sperm and egg cells are taken from donors and grown within these artificial womb casings, which provide the blood pump, blood oxidizer, hormone regulator, etc. This has now seen widespread use...by those who can afford it. Gone are the days in which women had to risk their lives in childbirth to produce an heir, who may end up dying by disease or misadventure. They can now be easily grown or replaced, making the traditional nine month burden a more streamlined process. Children can be produced by the dozens, with the richest being able to produce hundreds at a time.

Wealthy families and nobility have adopted the technology for themselves, as practicality eventually overrides moral concerns. However, my concern is that this tech kind of cheapens the nobility of a bloodline if children can be mass produced like this. Bloodlines are important to families, similar to the times of Europe, and determine your station in life and access to resources.

How can noble families preserve the honor and integrity of their bloodline when children can be easily produced?

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    $\begingroup$ Why bother to have children at all when you can produce clones of yourself? They inherit 100% of your genes, and being nobility you have already established that you are a superior specimen of humanity... $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jul 26 '19 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ There's a practical reason for nobles to not want too many children. You either give your estate all to the firstborn (whatever that means when you have clones), and the rest of them have an incentive to stab that one, or you split it up among them and all of them have an incentive to stab each other. Not exactly conducive to a stable society. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jul 26 '19 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Cadence I suggest corporatizing your estate and having all of your clones become the perpetual shareholders. $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jul 26 '19 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Arkenstein XII these are not clones. They are different from each other. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Jul 26 '19 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Incognito Why are they not clones? You have the technology for artificial wombs, so surely you have mastered cloning? $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jul 26 '19 at 2:09
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It's in the royal families interests to limit the number of heirs. The more heirs each generation produces makes succession in later generations unclear. They'd want to produce enough heirs to guard against the premature death of the crown prince/princess and to be able to marry into other houses, increasing the power of their own house.

So, I think it is a self-constraining problem given the natural tendency for people to act in their own enlightened self-interest.

But, if you really want a mechanism to limit royal offspring. Then, maybe only the crown prince or princess can bear children. All royal offspring are sterile until they go through the ritual of investiture and are named crown prince, only then, they can produce viable ovum or sperm. Or maybe it's only when they become the queen and king can they produce viable genetic material. It might also be good for morale that if they inherit a titled seat -- Duke of SouthUmberland -- that they can also produce heirs, with permission by their liege lord -- and the appropriate ritual -- but they'd only be able to produce offspring per ritual requiring them to stay loyal to the crown to protect their own ducal dynasty.

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Biological Rights Management (BRM)

When you get right down to it, this problem is no different to the one faced by the movie and music industries since the late 90's insofar as at that point, it becomes very easy to duplicate digital entertainment, and the cost of that entertainment was still based on the production and shipping cost of physical media.

In many ways, this represented a post-scarcity economic model in distribution, but not in creation. Artists (well, let's be frank; studios) were trying to preserve their revenue models against wholesale copying of their product.

One solution (and it wasn't wholly successful) was Digital Rights Management, or DRM. The idea was that you bought your CD or digital file, but it would only play off the file you bought, or off the machine you downloaded it to. It didn't work because it didn't take into account the flexibility demanded by people in how they listen to their entertainment. In the modern world, Google Play and Apple iTunes have solved that problem by making it more convenient to buy music and have it registered to your online account than download it so while piracy still exists, it's not the boogeyman to music labels it was 20 years ago.

Applying this logic to your bloodline model, what you want is biological rights management. You basically lock certain DNA profiles to certain artificial womb accounts, meaning that only nobility can reproduce their own bloodlines. The masses, if they have access to this, are more likely to invest their energy in their own bloodlines anyway, but if they were going to use a different profile, the ones they would probably be after would be the ones from the nobility because it would be cool to raise a prince. After that, you'd go for someone with strength who can pull their weight for the family so to speak, or another trait that you think would add benefit to your family line.

These profiles you might not actually want to limit; having a stronger and smarter population in the workforce makes a bit of sense, if people don't want to go with their own bloodline. But for the nobility, you lock the profile out via Apple iGenes to a specific account, one that can only be accessed by the owner of the profile and used on approved devices.

Ironically enough, given the mass production capabilities of the more work-centric profiles, this may actually increase the perceived value of these noble bloodlines because they can't be mass produced unless the owner of the rights wants it so, and he or she won't. Choking supply of something always drives up its value so in this case, BRM will preserve the value of your noble bloodlines quite nicely.

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Create a two-class hierarchy between naturally born people and vat-born people. Naturally born people have priority in inheritance of titles of nobility. So a noble would go thought the trouble to have at least one naturally born child to inherit the leadership of the dynasty while creating a vat-grown clone as backup or several clones to have people to delegate authority to.

From a modern point of view, this might not seem logical considering that they are genetically identical. But the concept of "noble blood" was always more based on superstition than science. So it's not far-fetched to establish a dogma that naturally born people are in some way superior to vat-born people.

Some nobles might cheat here. They might claim that someone is naturally born while they are actually vat-born or challenge someone's legitimate claim by spreading rumors they are vat-born. This can lead to several interesting story-hooks.

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Bloodline comes with old style pregnancy: intercourse and 9 months of wait/struggle, followed by the risky delivery.

That's how you get blood transmitted, and you need to have a substantial wealth to be able to afford it.

Those cheap artificial wombs are good for making cannon fodder, true nobles follow the tradition for passing the bloodlines. For stuffing their ranks of soldiers they can use the artificial wombs, since the name of their house can still be effective in ruling the troops. But, again, that's cannon fodder.

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An heir and a spare

You underestimate how good the surviving noble bloodlines are at this. There's no marriage that doesn't bring benefit in terms of land, titles, or money (in no particular order). If they need to change the definitions of parenthood to maintain those factors then those definitions will change.

But no matter what, they will not overproduce noble children. You don't go to that much effort over hundreds of generations to throw it all away by having 25 mass produced kinder to split the inheritance between. The heir and the spare is all you get.

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  • $\begingroup$ hehhehhhehhehhe Heir and Speir. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Oct 29 at 13:02
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I highly suggest this documentary, as a harem essentially serves the same purpose as your womb machine: https://youtu.be/Mc668SpyNe0 They simply had the potential heirs Battle Royal each other, which ensured only the strongest became sultan. Since magic exists, maybe have them learn magic in the harem and kill each other in a magic tournament, so the next generation will be a better mage.

It's also worth noting that there are plenty of examples of kings or nobles just passing the reign to an adopted son. If that's not acceptable, simply lie and have anyone who knows it's a lie executed. It wouldn't be the worst thing you'll have to do as a ruler.

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Adding this as a supplement to EDL, who I think has the right answer, but really, as a king and queen, your ideal number of offspring is one son. Maybe one additional son would be fine to have as a "spare", but any more than that you're just adding future sources of challenge to your royal line of succession. Throughout European history, cadet branches (the descended lineages of the younger sons) of royal families have posed the biggest threats to established monarchies, as all of higher society's malcontents will seek to ally themselves with these families to overthrow the monarch and back an alternative with a viable claim to the throne.

As the king and queen, having daughters is probably not in your best interests. As soon as one of your lesser noble families gets a princess married to one of their sons, they suddenly have an interest in your downfall, as the descendants of their son and your princess might have a claim to the throne that could see this minor noble family catapulted into royalty. Or if you marry your princess off to foreign royalty, you might give that foreign country an excuse down the line to invade and conquer your country to impose the princess's descendants as the rightful rulers of your country, or establish a personal union that removes your kingdom's sovereignty.

In real life, royal families having daughters was (excuse the poor choice of word) unavoidable, and a great deal of effort needed to go in to establishing strategic marriages, marriages that would maintain a balance of power between all the competing sources of challenge to your rule. But in your world of external artificial gestation, it might be possible to introduce sex-selective abortion by taking a peek inside the womb.

It's worth saying though that this strategy is only ideal for those at the top of the aristocratic pyramid. For lesser noble families, your best bet at advancement is still getting a daughter married into a greater house. So there might be an incentive for these families to make sure they have their one son to inherit the estate, but then to just spam out as many daughters as possible to maximise their chances of achieving a beneficial marriage.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're assuming patriarchal male primogeniture, as was historically the case. If you have absolute primogeniture, however, then there is no difference between sons and daughters. Oldest child inherits and carries on the family name, regardless of sex. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Oct 29 at 15:03

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