The human genome has been completely mastered and understood by the end of this century, which has led to a service industry revolving around genetic codes. Gene editing to prevent diseases are now possible, as well as linking the use of technologies to a specific genetic structure for security purposes. A business of gene splicing is also possible, in which a person can buy the code of another individual to incorporate into their offspring. Renowned people, such as celebrities and other popular individuals, sell their genetic code to the market for the masses to purchase. Want a little of Kim Kardashian's DNA in your daughter, or have your son inherit Barack Obama's charisma and good looks, their code can be purchased for a 'reasonable' fee in which they get a cut of the proceeds.

The technology has gotten to the point where a simple skin sample can be taken from a person in order to recreate their genetic structure. There is an underground black market for DNA in which samples are taken from people without permission. Wealthy people are specifically targeted for this crime. A rich individual could simply be cut by a knife to have their DNA stolen and redistributed. This posses a problem. Long lost brothers or forgotten bastard children can come out of the woodwork, legally able to claim an inheritance from their rich family due to a nation's laws. Royal lineages would be forced to accept them into the family tree, making it possible to claim a kingdom. Gene linked tech such as safes or checking accounts linked to families could be accessed, making their money vulnerable. This stolen DNA can be propagated within society by children who have them, leading to a bunch of people walking around with illegal DNA.

Banning this tech is not possible, as there is too much money being made to close the box of Pandora. Simply killing people who have illegal DNA within them would never make it pass government oversight. However, the rich need to protect their generational wealth so it can be transferred to the next generation. As such, they need to protect the exclusivity of their genetic structure. How can the 1% prevent their DNA from being propagated?

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    $\begingroup$ Is this a future earth scenario? If so, you have sources from soup to nuts (e.g., police samples and every 23andMe/AncestryDNA collection service that would have vast libraries of samples. But, perhaps more to the point, celebrity has a lot more to do with luck and good PR than actual talent. Genius and beauty could be spliced from almost anyone. Consequently, we're really only talking about the superficial, "get a piece of Kim (everyone else already has)!" industry, like Tabloid newspapers, in which case history has already answered the Q: sue the snot out of people. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ How can publishing houses prevent the illegal copying and distribution of the works they publish, such as books, photographs, films, and music? It is the exact same problem, isn't it? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottWhitlock: I don't think that's true. There are natural drives that, during the historic and prehistoric periods under which we evolved, promoted propagation of the species; but those drives don't get magically updated when situations change so as to reduce their effect. (For example, there are plenty of people today who don't want children but do still want to have sex. That used to be very difficult and error-prone to achieve, but nowadays is very easy.) $\endgroup$
    – ruakh
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 4:14
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottWhitlock: For a simpler example: we feel a powerful urge to breathe when we have too much carbon dioxide in our blood, but we do not feel such an urge when we have too little oxygen in our blood. Our existing urge is generally "good enough" to ensure that we do breathe enough to keep our oxygen levels up; but people have sometimes died after intentionally decreasing their carbon dioxide levels so as to suppress this urge: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freediving_blackout $\endgroup$
    – ruakh
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ Genes != wealth. Usually wealth begets wealth. Also, this very much sounds like a recipe for world ending disaster. Cloning others' genes reduces the gene pool. Repeating enough times through the generations can make people effectively siblings, which leads to bad things for the human genome. Mutations/variations are a good thing and help us adapt as a species. It might be an interesting twist to your story. $\endgroup$
    – c1moore
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 4:48

15 Answers 15


IMO, most approaches to this are going about it the wrong way...

Problem: People can copy DNA easily. How to ensure that if you're super-rich, someone can't use your DNA to create someone else who on the surface, is related to you?

The most obvious approaches, all focus on making copies distinguishable somehow, or copying difficult in law, or as a fallback, just ringfencing money with trusts. A kill switch in the DNA (but such tech that can copy DNA can figure a prevention easily). Sterility that it is a High Crime to reverse engineer and only a family has its own solution (it never stopped a criminal with billions to play for). Blacklist DNA (grey market tech, anyone?). Trusts and legislative changes and so on...

In other words, an arms race between fakers and families. And we dont want that, do we? Thats no real solution.

There's a simpler solution by far. You don't stop DNA reuse. Rather,

You make copying and editing totally pointless by controlling legitimate reproduction

Thats totally under your control, so its a lot easier and more reliable.

So what we do is....

A family alters its genes to ensure all offspring are sterile. Thats it.

It becomes the family norm, that you're sterile at birth. Note that doesnt mean you cant bring a fertilised egg to term, just that you cannot get pregnant/impregnate because some convenient part of the process is blocked by your DNA. Non-viable sperm, blocked fallopian or other tubes/ducts, whatever.

That means the only offspring, period, who can possibly exist, are lab created. In effect artificial insemination is the only way this family reproduces. If your married child and spouse want a kid, they will have to attend a suitable clinic for the megawealthy, which will take both of their DNA, and an egg, manually fertilise the egg, and implant it. Its fully recorded. And that becomes the norm.

Being that we control the process we can ensure that all family members are sterile in a way that doesnt prevent this process. We can even publicise it - its not even important to keep secret how its done.

You have to ensure hospital records cant be faked, but thats easy. A combination of extreme security, immutable backups, and heavy documentation, covers that. (If they can't protect those records then the implication is that in this world, the super-rich cant protect their banking and other investment records either.....)

The outcome

Now, a family member can't accidentally have a child at all. Therefore all children are known, and medically recorded as such, without possibility of error.

Copy and play with the DNA all you like - you'll never be able to claim some other person you edit is the unrecognised bastard offspring of some family member after a hot party, or whatever, because every last possible offspring is legally verifiable as such.

  • $\begingroup$ This will not work. If your technology is sophisticated enough to make described genetic alterations safely, any cell can be used to produce offsprings. You will still need to change the law so only 'certified' offsprings are legitimate. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ That's not a problem. I agree such a law would help, but even without it the presumption is clear that the offspring isn't a genuine offspring. To be genuine they would have had to be created by the family member, deliberately - and why would they? If they want a kid, they can have one via an megawealthy AI clinic. "And you're sharing their DNA but claimjng to be created from DNA in secret by the family member despite that, rather than the far more likely stolen DNA by some stranger chancing it? Well, lets see some heavy duty proof, because that's extremely unlikely....." $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 8:03
  • $\begingroup$ Existing laws do not differentiate between artificial insemination and natural insemination, with the exception of anonymous sperm donation (certified clinic required). If one cannot prove that the source of DNA is proper and anonymous sperm donation under current laws this person will be legally obliged to take responsibility for children. You need a law to limit legal offsprings only to those that were created in a specific place using a specific method. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ I dont think current laws work that way. Although obviously we cant test it. The key is the phrase "stolen DNA". A person legally, doesnt inherit because they share DNA. Rather, they inherit because they are genuine offspring, and DNA matching is significant because it's a rock-solid proof they are genuine offspring. If DNA matching is no longer that rock-solid proof, then it lacks that evidentiary force. (And double that, especially if we know that it's not only NOT rock solid proof, but there's ALSO extremely strong corroborative evidence they WERENT genuine offspring as no record exists)... $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ If the DNA were stolen, then clearly they wouldn't be genuine offspring. And even now, the burden of proof of being genuine is on the claimant. So it still would be. And with no lab record and a known problem with stolen DNA being copied for gain.... Well,good luck proving your rather arcane claim that some family member illicitly created you themselves from a blood cell or something, to deliberately avoid an AI lab, and when no records exist of you. Next please..... $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 8:29

This is a legal problem rather than anything else. While today DNA is used to establish paternity/maternity, we already have legal exceptions. For example, several US states do not allow sperm donors (especially anonymous) to claim paternity rights if an insemination procedure was performed by a licensed specialist. UK law protects anonymous sperm donors and does not allow forcing paternal responsibilities on them.

As reproductive technologies evolve, the law will also change to accommodate them. The rich who need to protect their wealth just need to lobby for the laws favourable to them. For example:

  • paternity/maternity can only be recognised if DNA donors explicitly agree to accept parental obligations;
  • no commercially available (legal or illegal market) DNA can be the sole reason for establishing blood relationship;
  • change inheritance laws to make wills non-disputable (if a will is present, no one except people named in the will can claim inheritance);
  • require proof of 'natural insemination' or any other active involvement in the process of baby creation (for example, DNA donor has a pre-established relationship with the parent of a child, donates their DNA non-anonymously to a specific person, etc.)

I would suggest reading about existing laws related to assisted reproduction and see how they can be improved to achieve your desired goal.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, DNA isn't magic. It won't trump the legal system unless you rewrite the law. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus We already have to deal with this in some legal cases. Imagine one of a pair of identical twins commits a crime and leaves DNA evidence at the scene. If you compared this DNA with the other twin, you might be putting an innocent person in jail, so DNA alone is not sufficient evidence to convict. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 18:02

You really don't need to change all that much. In most cases*, biological relatives have no claim on your assets, unless you die intestate. So you make a will leaving your money to the people (or charities &c) you name. If you want to disinherit (adult) biological children or siblings, fine.

With royal lineages, the problem has been solved long ago. Bastards don't inherit (unless they can raise a sufficiently large army: see e.g. English royalty since 1066 :-)). And if they ARE accepted as legitimate, actual parentage doesn't really matter. (As in the case of a certain British prince, who looks nothing like the rest of the family...)

*Support of minor children & spouses aside: check the Law site if interested in details.

  • $\begingroup$ Not all countries are like that. For instance, "You cannot disinherit your children under French law, as a certain amount of one’s estate is reserved for them. Half of your estate goes to your child if you have one, two-thirds in the case that you have two, and three-quarters if you have three or more children. You may, however, provide for a certain child to receive more than another." parispropertygroup.com/blog/2016/… $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Stephan Branczyk: I'm certainly no expert in French law, but all the French would have to do to fix this genome-copying thing would be to change their laws to be similar to that of most of the English-speaking world. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ What you're describing has already happened with the introduction of EU inheritance laws. That being said, the first time a narcissist billionaire generates millions of cloned copies of himself, they will reenact such laws to deter such actions and to ensure that the resulting clones don't end up destitute and homeless. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Stephan Branczyk: First, anyone creating millions of clones (or even dozens) would run afoul of population control laws. You get one child per person, whether it's a clone or not. Aside from that limit, why would you expect such clones to end up destitute? Since they would have whatever part of the billionaire's talents are due to nature rather than nuture, they'd be expected to be much more successful than average. Just like natural kids: most of us expect them to support themselves once they reach adulthood. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf your proposal fails in the initialization: French law follows a totally different tradition. It is not common law. the EU inheritance laws follo the French/Roman tradition of law. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 16:32

Whenever they produce offspring, they certify it as "fruit of their loins" adding to their genome a unique key, which is produced in the same way as single use cryptographic keys are produced today for securing on line transactions.

The public key is known, the private keys aren't, and are given by the two parents.

Without the unique certification any clone will immediately be recognized as an illegal copy.

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    $\begingroup$ With this scheme, the clones will also have a valid-looking signed certificate - because they can simply copy a valid certificate - but if two people have the same certificate number, you know the younger one is a clone. If the certificate includes a hash of the entire genome, then the certificate can only be faked by cloning the entire genome, not just copying the certificate. If the certificate includes the planned date of birth then it's easier to identify copies. $\endgroup$
    – Robyn
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ and what if the two parents are in fact the parents but they also use uncertified genetic code from one of these wealthy individuals? "I'm sorry sir, you are illegal, please prepare for compensatory termination." $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Sure hope the cloning facility doesn't bundle every clone with malware that enables anyone to perform man-in-the-middle attacks $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Robyn The certificate can simply include time of conception. So only a person with the exact age to match the certificate is deemed valid. $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't work. Its based on an assumption that if you are an offspring, you'll have access to a private key by the parent/s, as the answer states. But suppose you arent. How do you distinguish between: 1) claimant A who is the genuine offspring of Mr Wealth, who had an affair but used non-family private key to keep the maid happy but secretly ensure future deniability after the affair would end, 2) claimant B whose coded DNA was genuine using the correct key but daddy now disapproves of them and claims it doesnt match their key (which they obviously wont produce for verification..... $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 8:58

Include kill switches within the genome of offspring.

If the problem is simply that cloned offspring need to not be around, simply include some genetic kill switches in the genome. Unless the person gets a very specific and expensive chemical treatment regularly, one that won't be immediately obvious to someone scanning the DNA, they'll die a horrible painful death. Maybe in the womb, maybe in five years, but regardless, if you clone them and don't have whatever treatment, then your clones will die.

If they fix whatever defect then you can detect the lack of the defect and know they're a clone.

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    $\begingroup$ It's also active in the intended offspring, yes. It's hard coded in the genome, and if you want to access genetic resources like inheritances and safes, you need to have the kill gene. The switch is in the genome. People can't externally trigger it, as that would be a massive oversight. You need to produce some expensive chemical to disable the kill switch, and the nature of that chemical is hidden to everyone else. Unauthorized clones will die as they lack the treatment. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ So the offensive, Monsanto way? $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ Real life offers the best ideas. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't even need to be regular treatment or expensive. Just needs to be specific and in a small time window so it's expensive to figure out what it is. $\endgroup$
    – Perkins
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ If genetics are this advanced, a grey market in determining and creating solutions for kill dna, will arise. Since it has to have a very major effect on a living biology, you wouldnt be able to hide it, or have it be unfigurable. Run the dna in a living being simulator and see what your computer model of a human biology dies of, or whats different. Its going to be effectively impossible to create one that cant be deduced by an analyst, and a solution determined that doesn't require removal or fixing the defect. Effectively rediscover any of many valid neutralising treatments. Cheap too. $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 7:21

Most of this is legal, not biological.

Trust funds

The wealthy stop owning their own wealth. They often don't, nowadays, for tax and other purposes. They carefully ensure that the funds then get transferred to their selected beneficiaries.

"I'm the dead man's long-lost brother!" "Yeah, get out of here, he didn't own a cent, and you get nothing."

And if the laws say this doesn't work, they change the laws.


Royal lineages would not have this problem because the laws of succession require that the heir be born in wedlock, which none of these claimants have.

In fact, under some laws, this would mean the trust funds aren't needed, the children are bastards and have no claim. And in the countries where it is allowed, the laws could be quickly changed to prevent it. Any objections would be swiftly overridden by pointing out that it's for the protection of the manufactured children, who exist only so that criminals can exploit them and are in personal danger from that. Remove the motive to create them, and exploitation is not possible.

Gene-linked tech

Would become much more limited in use, owing to the greater ease in breaching it. But that doesn't differ from other security measures, which have grown less useful with time.


A variation of Dutch's answer, which the lower nobles and the wealthy-but-not-so-much might find easier and more accessible to implement: when a child is born, implant a subdermal chip on them that contains identification data. If you wish to know if someone is legit, scan the chip.

Less secure (chips can be cloned or stolen - though current real-life examples do include chips which self-destruct when removed from their original place), but much cheaper and simpler to implement than editing your offspring's DNA.

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    $\begingroup$ I was about to answer the same, but with a tag line of "something you have and something you know". The "have" part is obviously the DNA, the "know" part is a bit...tricky. A passphrase which is "hypnotically implanted" into a person can be stolen by anyone who knows the trigger. And you need someone who knows the trigger. Public key cryptography helps here - with an implanted chip. Everyone knows every VIP's public key, and only the implanted chip knows the private key. If the chip breaks: a passphrase, learned as a kid, which must only be delivered inside a Trusted ID Validation Center., $\endgroup$
    – Klaws
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 11:35

So if I understand your dilemma, you want clones to be able to legally claim the fortunes of the rich and powerful, but not so often as to completely wipe out the multi-generational ruling class. I have a few ideas.

  • The government turns a blind eye to the assassination. The rich and powerful simply have many of these clones killed, and then bribe/lawyer-spam the courts to get away with it. It’s illegal, but the rich and powerful commit crimes irl and get away with it there too.
  • The children of the rich and powerful get a special organ that sets them apart, which is difficult but not impossible to copy. For this explanation, I’ll use the Appendix. After the baby is born, their natural Appendix is removed and replaced with one that is, say, Orange, or contains some other obvious demarcation. When pretenders to the family dynasty come along, if they don’t have the right Appendix, they lose legal rights to the family’s wealth. However, since this is a major operation that requires doctors and aids, it’s still possible to find out what the Appendix key is through a little bit of espionage, though very difficult.
  • It is possible to sue these clones to disinherit them, but the process is very difficult; it’s hard to differentiate between a clone from the black market and some kid a rich guy just abandoned. As such, the rich and powerful are able to strike down some of the lazier attempts at fraud, but the more careful and planned ones are difficult to smack down. It never gets too big though because legal cloning and gene splicing requires records, which makes it much easier to prove fraud. That means that it must all happen on the Black Market, which is prevented from getting TOO big simply because they have to constantly avoid the authorities.

A retro-virus rewrites the DNA in all your exposed cells

If you want to protect your DNA, you will undergo a treatment with a gene-altering virus, which will change the DNA of all your easily exposed cells (skin, hair, blood, ...) The changes will only alter parts of the DNA, which are not relevant to the function of these cells.

But your true unaltered DNA will only be found in your inner organs, reproductive parts or bone-marrow. This means everyday contact and small wounds will not leak your true DNA.

Of course your DNA can still be stolen if someone abducts you to extract your DNA with medical equipment. But you are rich and should have ways to prevent being abducted and cut open, because then your DNA is probably a lesser concern.


A pandemic-like shift in civilization would probably be necessary.

The wealthy would likely start living in sterile environments with minimal to no contact between "unapproved" individuals, controlled disposal of everything they touch or use, and strict security protocols surrounding physical contact of every kind.

This would likely result in the literal physical separation between the haves and the have-nots.

Furthermore, if the legal usage of genetic snippets was endorsed, then a licensing scheme would likely be devised surrounding it where people would have to purchase a license in order to have a given DNA sequence in their genome, with encryption based on their before and after genetics.

Woe betide those occasional mutants who happen to have genetically similar codes.

Genetic tracking and tracing from birth would likely be necessary in order to maintain not only records and licenses, but also purity against unintended changes.

Enforcement would be a nightmare... probably something like random spot checks during purchases or a police 'genetic-traps' version of speed traps.

In reality, only the wealthy elite could support and sustain such a lifestyle... the general masses would probably not be able to persist with such restrictions.


Pandemic and Kill Switch

  1. Create a pandemic that targets the genes of certain individuals (perhaps tailored to an individual family) that makes them (or their offspring) sterile.
  2. Each family controls the "cure" to their family's sterility.
  3. It is "highly" illegal to research a cure into any family's sterility other than your own.
  4. Maybe, make the pandemic an accident of the past that mutates fast enough that it keeps returning.
  5. Maybe, there is no "cure". The damage is done and the only way to breed is via an expensive tech. Perhaps, nanobots that make you fertile for a short period of time (weeks) before they lose effectiveness.
  6. Maybe, there is a registry. When a wealthy individual is born, they are registered and something (perhaps nanobots) are implanted to identify them as the original. The nanobots would be unique to a given family and would be highly protected (secure family clinic). If you show up with duplicate genes, but don't have the correct identifier, you are an illegal clone.

Other possible solution:

  1. Genes are no longer an identifier, a child receives an identifying marker when they are born. The marker is difficult and/or considered impossible to duplicate.
  2. Original genes are stored for future use upon birth, then the child is altered in a controlled fashion over the course of (some long period of time). the progress of the alteration is well known and easily identifies the age of the individual. Correct age + correct genes == original.

The gene-editing machines won't work with black-listed DNA

If we rephrase your initial question a little bit, to sound more like

I have individual items X of high value, and a process Y which can create copies of X. How do I ensure unscrupulous persons won't use Y to create illegitimate copies of X?

You could easily swap in X = "paper currency", and Y = "high-quality photocopiers".

Luckily, this is a solved problem: there are secret patterns embedded in the paper currency which virtually all photocopiers (at least the ones good enough for the fakes to be a risk) are configured to find and prevent copying.

With enough money and influence, it shouldn't be too hard to find a point on the supply chain which is hardest to recreate, and have them install a check on every part they produce to check an external list of DNA strands to not work with. From there, you just have to charge a premium for the elites who want to protect their genome to get on that list.

There's certainly still risk of some after-market component without this check, but the quality will be much lower - and hopefully we'll be able to tell the difference between President Beiber with 320 teeth vs 32 teeth.

  • $\begingroup$ That's not how DNA works. It's not a cheap (or expensive) copy, it's a duplicate. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 9:03

Wealthy people are not wealthy.

Their properties are controlled by opaque trusts and their children have nothing to claim. When they die their inheritance would be distributed according to their wills without needing to comply with any inheritance law.


The rich heirs would sue the fraudulent claimants to the ground before claimant would even get a chance to state his claim in full. (They would sue a legitimate claimants too if they estimate they have a good chance of winning. We already have this in current societies too).

For how it would look like, simply look at current "intellectual property" situation. Let's say you as a private individual has written a patent or some copyrighted code, which some big/rich entity claims is their own. Could you imagine the outcome if you, as such righteous person, would try to get justice and go sue Google/Apple/Microsoft/... ? Good luck - you would be literally destroyed before you could say "but justice".

Now, imagine going against someone with such resources and not being in the right (eg. trying to lay a fraudulent claim). They would utterly destroy you and your whole family for next 5 generations just to make example of you.

So, as the golden rule says - whoever has the gold, makes the rules.


You can't realistically have (barring magic) a combination of technological cloning and "long lost siblings" who suddenly come out of the woodwork. The reason is simple: records.

"Yeah, our mother had me in secret a few years after you."

"Un-huh. And these medical records showing she wasn't pregnant at the time you claim, these photos showing she wasn't pregnant at the time you claim, and you have no birth certificate or medical records of where you were born so..."

As others have mentioned, simple changes in inheritance laws would be all that would necessary. No special high-tech security (except for documents and records) needed at all.


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