This Was Your Brain On Drugs

“Unlike chemodrugs, the problem with cutting nanodrugs is that everyone knows what a nanite suspension is supposed to look like. It’s quite distinctive. So unless you’re willing to go the costly route of cutting your nanodrugs with other, slightly less expensive nanodrugs carefully tested for interactions, people cutting nanodrugs for quick coin will use whatever nanites they can find lying around. If the customer’s really lucky, that means a veinful of unprogrammed medichines. Not so lucky, and whatever not-for-internal-use swarm they just injected will send their immune system into overdrive and they’ll be in acute septicemic shock within a couple of seconds. Needless to say, it’s a one-time-and-run crime — yes, question at the back?”

“And if they’re unlucky?”

“Unlucky? You’ll know what that means when you see someone who’s snorted a snootful of factory-reject garden paste, or cleaning dust, or something else that’ll actually operate in vivo. Being used as still-living constructor raws starts out at messy and ends with grotesque. No pictures – you’ll know it when you see it, and that’s soon enough.”

– training lecture,
Exopharma Exclusion Agency,
Xintenta Pharmacology

Trope-a-Day: Nanomachines

Nanomachines: One of the very common forms of Applied Phlebotinium in the Empire, and the Worlds in general.  However, this being at least firm SF, they don’t cause physically implausible superpowers – and in general obey the laws of physics – do require energy sources (be it chemical or external power transmission), do need to dispose of their waste heat (a particular limitation on in-body nanomachines, given how little of it it takes to do serious damage to the host), and, by and large, require specialized operating environments to do their jobs.

And while they are incredibly useful in manufacturing, they are not the be-all and end-all; if you need a large steel casting for something, it would be ridiculously inefficient – and uneconomic – to nanofacture it rather than use a perfectly good robotic steel foundry to do the job.  Even in nanofacture, macroscopic machines with nanotech operating heads are actually much more common than swarms of independently operating assemblers.