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Imagine a world slightly more developed then ours. For example internal combustion engines are becoming obsolete, they have fuel cells and electric cars. They also started using genetic engineering to eliminate certain diseases and even improve humans. For example, parents could agree to test their genes and even alter inseminated egg cell in vitro. Majority of population still doesn't use this technology and procreate in natural way. However, they do have ability to use genetic manipulation on certain diseases even after that person is born (stem cells etc ...) Age of space exploration and colonization is still somewhere in the future, and is not relevant for the story.

Elite of a certain country in this world is a firm believer in Zodiac signs, horoscope and all associated stuff. Country in question is not largest or most powerful (i.e. they are not US, China or Russia) but they are technologically advanced, with technocratic tendencies, resembling some mix between Germany and Japan in our world. They do have some remnants of democratic institutions, but decisions are more and more made by this technocratic elite. However, their grasp on power is not so firm, they mostly rely on good faith of general population, i.e. belief that they are working in benefit of everyone. General population of the country is heterogeneous, but on average they are mostly interested in their little lives and not about some distant greater good.

Anyway, aforementioned elite is firmly convinced that tough times are ahead for entire world (turbulence, famine, shortages, wars ... ) But if they have quality population, it would also be a opportunity for their country to expand and become leading on the planet. To this end, they already experimented with genetic engineering, but some things are missing. They have determined that date of birth and therefore associated Zodiac sign greatly influences person's character. Therefore, they would like to boost certain signs, and almost completely eliminate others. For example, they would like to eliminate Gemini because of their fickle nature, only female Cancers and male Scorpios would be allowed, reduce number of Leos because of their narcissism . At the same time boost Taurus because of their firmness and Capricorn because of their grim determination etc ...

Question is, how would they do it ? Date of birth depends on date of conception. Forced abortions and impregnations are out of the question, their control over general population is more of psychological one. Also, directly explaining idea would made them look foolish, and may alarm their enemies that they expect war. They do have centralized water supply, so this could be used to increase/decrease fertility at certain time. Final goal would be to create certain mating and non-mating seasons. Any ideas are greatly appreciated, and best answer would be one that would explain smooth transition (i.e. boiling the frog) from have kids whenever you like to April is a good month for giving birth but June is not. Some use of mandate and force is allowed, but it must be done with measure, since we don't want too many questions or riots and rebellion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 16 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ You mention the idea shouldn't be explained for fear of looking foolish, but how secret should the program be? I.e. can people notice some months have many babies? Can be government promote the months explicitly (i.e. propaganda or financial stimulus)? Wouldn't that make them look foolish? $\endgroup$ – Mark Sep 16 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ In an episode of The Orville, Caesarean sections near the beginning of a bad sign were common. $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 16 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Idea is that new distribution of birth becomes gradually accepted as new normal, without much explanation of why. You have many real world examples, and I don't want to get political here :) Real cause would remain hidden from public until the last possible moment. Government could apply carrot and stick, but again only gradually. $\endgroup$ – rs.29 Sep 16 at 21:22
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Gamification of life

You start with introducing gamification into your society. Everything that can be measured by the sensors of some device everyone is carrying around (i.e. a smartphone) is processed to produce a social score of that person. Not enough hours at the workplace? Score goes down. A walk in the park in the evening? That's healthy, score up! Also, if you want that high-paying job, your social score needs to be in the top quartile of the whole society!

Next step would be to introduce personal decision making into the social scoring app. If you're not sure what to do with your free time, just ask the app which activity would give you the higher score! Also, only the app can give you that info in advance, because the scoring rules are constantly being revised and are dependent on things like the season, the weather or even the day of the week.

Then, if all that is regarded as being normal in your society, you can set the rule for "having unprotected sex" as scoring very low in certain months and very high in others. For working around the last uncertainty of early or late births, refer to Ash's answer.

Sounds dystopian? Search the web for "china social credit system"; what I describe here is just a small extension to what already is implemented in the real world.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like Glasshouse by Charles Stross - and all the more chilling as a result. $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Sep 16 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory SMBC. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Sep 16 at 20:37
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People's most sensitive spot is in their wallet.

Give financial contributions to the families with a baby born in the "right" months, apply financial penalties for the families with a baby born in the "wrong" months.

This will easily skew the mating of couples.

This already happens when incentives are barely prospected on the purchase on certain goods, like cars or solar panels.

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    $\begingroup$ This would work for reducing certain birthsigns in general, but not for birthsign/gender combos (e.g. female Cancers and male Scorpios). I can't think of any ethical means (e.g. excluding forced abortions if a baby of the wrong gender is likely to be be born in certain months) to account for that sort of thing. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Sep 15 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman unforced abortions then? You don't get paid if it's a female Scorpio. Let the free market figure it out! $\endgroup$ – user253751 Sep 15 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ @user253751 Free market solutions only work for rich people. Elective abortions will work only if they are free and culturally encouraged. $\endgroup$ – Otkin Sep 15 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin The free market solution will encourage people to have elective abortions if their baby isn't going to fit the criteria. You do not have to be rich to do that. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Sep 15 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ (bonus: saying "let the free market figure it out" gives you an excuse to claim you're not doing eugenics. You're setting up all the conditions so that eugenics happen, but technically you're not doing them! How dare anyone question the will of the people engaging in voluntary transactions?) $\endgroup$ – user253751 Sep 16 at 10:03
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Two easy ways:

Change the date of birth using drugs

Date of birth isn't just related to date of conception, its the day the baby leaves the mother, that's a property of the hormone levels in the mother. We have drugs that can change that so the baby gets the desired star signs.

Tocolytics will delay contractions. Its usually used in the case of premature babies but it could be used to change your new babies starsign to the next one.

Oxytocin will bring contractions on now, it is used to induce labour. This can be used on the last day of a good star sign before a bad one.

Bringing the baby earlier or later could be explained as needing to get a birth around the schedule of the doctor, or around the schedule of the midwife / birthing suite.

The only person in on the conspiracy needs to book all the birthing suites out for "maintenance" during the bad star signs, when a woman hits about 8 months they'll go to schedule her in, and realise they need to tweak the timing a bit using drugs.

Encourage cesareans using fear and body-shaming

Tell all the horror stories of natural births. Give women a fear of tearing, a fear of death in childbirth. A fear of crippling pain and torture. Give them an (unrealistic) fear of being stretched an undesirable as a sexual partner. And then give them the solution, free cesareans! Just cut it out of you, its minor surgery.

Once again, your cesarean suites are "closed for maintenance", or your birth complication specialists (who need to be on call while any birth are happening for legal reason) are "on holidays" during the undesirable star signs. Bookings will be made around the bad star signs.

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    $\begingroup$ I saw a chart once of frequency of birthdates by day of the year. It was noticeable that there were spikes of births just before major holidays, and very few births on the holidays themselves (e.g. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, 4th of July - it was US-based data, etc.) Implication being that doctors were intentionally inducing birth before the holidays so as to be able get the day off. Not sure if pushing births forward by up to an entire month in order to avoid a specific zodiac sign is as safe or practical, but there is at least some precedence. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Sep 15 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ You cannot delay labour for a month without consequences for the baby and the mother. You also cannot induce labour too early. Time of conception matters as it determines the window for birth. $\endgroup$ – Otkin Sep 15 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin Assuming the bad signs are adjacent to good ones, then you wont need to offset by more than 15 days. Do you value the zodiac above everything else? Then it doesn't matter if they're a bit premature because the star sign is the most important thing to you. If you don't value the zodiac enough to deliver 2 weeks early, then you don't truely believe in astrology. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 15 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ This assumption does not align with the info provided by the OP. They want to eliminate Gemini and all male Cancers and reduce the number of Leos. These are three adjacent signs. A male with a date of birth projected to the 21-22 June will have to be born over a month premature or at least 1 month (or better 2 months) late to satisfy government plans. $\endgroup$ – Otkin Sep 15 at 17:28
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For a subtle effect, then people are more likely to ... be intimate with each other at certain times. It may be possible to try and use these influences to manage times of birth.

Let's call the times nine-months before a bad time to be born the 'stress months'. During stress months, alcohol sales are restricted (sad, but likely to have an effect). Public transport is sabotaged so that commutes take longer and require more changes. Similarly encourage road-works at these times.

Generally the plan is to keep people stressed enough that they are not interested in sex.

Let's call the other months of the year - nine months before a good time to be born the 'festival months'. During these times there are plenty of public holidays, and the government offers subsidies to eating meals out together.

Sports leagues are organised so that finals are played during festival months (it is said births peak after such events) a general laissez faire attitude means that the power-supply has regular blackouts (again it is said this leads to a peak in births).

Generally the plan is to give people plenty of time to relax and spend time with loved ones.

I would doubt that you can ever get massive reductions through this method, but a 20% difference in birth-rate between different months sounds achievable. If done well though it could be almost invisible.

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Cultivate individuals according to sign after they are born.

“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” - Donald Rumsfeld.

It is tricky to arrange births according to a calendar and especially tricky to skew gender of births according to calendar. Trickiest of all if you don't want your people to know your reasons.

It is much less tricky to skew opportunities and training for individuals once they are born. There are any number of reasons why your male Scorpios and female Cancers receive awards and scholarships. There are reasons why your Leos might get attractive opportunities to emigrate, or an especially harsh prison sentence. You want Taurus and Capricorn but you don't want them for the same reasons. Go to work cultivating these children after they are born.

Fickle Gemini may not be a good choice for a colonel or agricultural planner. Circumstances (that you influence) will steer your Gemini into other career paths. A Gemini creatif might be a gifted musician, and music is balm for your grim Capricorns.

Inborn traits govern possible contributions to society. Your shadowy puppeteers can make sure each individual gets encouragement or discouragement to fulfill their astrologic potential for societal contribution.

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess they could enlist all the people of "unwanted" birthsigns into the more dangerous jobs in the military, etc., while keeping the more desired groups at safe desk jobs. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Sep 15 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman - you might want someone capable at those dangerous jobs... $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 15 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ I might, but this superstitious authoritarian government referenced in the OP might have other priorities. If they truly believe that Geminis are inferior or whatnot, they might see no problem in deliberately setting them up to be cannon-fodder while being more protective of their Tauruses and Capricorns. (Question is how long it would take anyone to realize that was what they were dong...) $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Sep 15 at 16:31
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I am surprised nobody took upon this, specially after the centralized water supply hint. Since the government controls the water supply used by the whole population, it could add some contraceptive drugs during the "wrong" months, but aphrodisiac ones during the "appropriate" ones.

This should be combined with the stress/festival months of Neil answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Simple, yet effective. +1 $\endgroup$ – Llewellyn Sep 16 at 21:08
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CRISPR

CRISPR is both a beautiful opportunity and incredibly scary. Here are the basics, but you can easily search for more. It is still a new developing field, but holds incredible promises.

CRISPR is a method to change DNA. previous ways to alter DNA always were either too general, too complicated or simply too expensive. Most had even two of these. Enter CRISPR. A relatively cheap method that can easily be used to alter specific genes.

How it works

Bacteria have a much more simple immune system. If they survive an attack from a virus, they store part of the DNA of the virus. If this specific pattern is encountered, it is cut out and replaced with a sequence that renders the virus harmless. The cutting is done with a special enzyme.

This can be hijacked. We can manipulate this defence of a bacteria to react to a certain sequence and replace it with anything we want. This can be produced at larger scales and administered relatively cheaply.

What this means is that even when a kid is born, you can change her or his DNA. you just sequence it to check the specifics, see what needs to be altered according to the zodiac signs and change it. You'll have missed an important part of the development, but with so much more to go it won't be a problem to change the genetics after birth. It might take several treatments to change it, but you'll get very specific results.

This of course won't work for the gender. The advantage is that the male and female zodiac times are apart. If you think the person might be born in the male or female time, you change the gender preemptively. It won't matter that a part of the zodiac sign before and after have nearly only male or females, as long as the required zodiac time has only male and females.

Researchers aren't sure if the real differences start in the first or second trimester, but the placenta end some other factors accommodates the specific gender. As changing a gender has never been done before to my knowledge, it can't be estimated what the consequences are. It can be more rejections, but just as well the body is able to adapt. You just want to do it as soon as you can.

What is scary is that this can be potentially done without the populations notice. Potentially you can change the DNA of large amounts of the population that have a specific sequence.

In conclusion

With CRISPR you can do highly specific, relatively inexpensive scalable gene alterations. In a society that has invested a lot in this, it'll probably be cheap and quick to deploy on the whole population. Each child can be changed and, up to a point, even older people can be made to fit the profiles. If they go far enough, they might even do things to trick DNA to think they are in different development stages, allowing much more impressive feats. Your mind as agile as a 5 year old, allowing the learning of languages? Growing again? Muscle growth from sports like a 25 year old?

But changing DNA to fit zodiac signs? If they've done enough research in what fits for each zodiac sign they will be able to. Just make sure you'll also control the environment. DNA isn't always rock solid, like giving blue eyes. It's also a potential. Potentially having the kindness of a Virgo doesn't mean they will grow up to be if the environment won't allow it.

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I see two ways to do this.

Top Down

The elite secretly mandate this. They do this through kindness. There are a large number of free clinics, and they all offer care for pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant.

They can secretly provide a form of contraception during the times that no children are wanted. For the times where only one gender is desired, they can provide something that would cause the undesired gender to abort.

The one problem is that they cannot provide the covert services at 100% success, because then people would associate the clinics too much with the problems of concepts during those times. This could be helped by being popular and truly helping with other problems as well. And the elite could massage the information sources so there is less obvious connection between the time of birth and the zodiac sign.

Bottom Up

Rather than a secret program, the elite could instigate an "educational" program to convince the people that giving births according to the zodiac is the best thing possible for their children.

After enough protesting from the poor, the elite could have the government give in to the will of the poor, and provide help for the people to do what they want.

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