Explanation of Science fiction about Nanotechnology


The scientific aspect of science fiction is what gives the genre its special capabilities, but it can also be a burden for its creators. Fortunately, experts in this genre have come up with several universal terms to explain something too complicated without raising too many questions.

The noble art of explaining sci-fi nonsense with a handful of easily digestible phrases has a long history in all media. Writers often need something that can do everything they need within the framework of a story without losing the suspension of disbelief. One of the best universal solutions for sealing a site is a technology that can do anything, but no one will notice it.

RELATED: 5 Brilliant Sci-Fi Inventions

Nanotechnology is a generic term for any form of machines that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. These tiny things, which are regularly called nanobots, nanites or nanomachines, are capable of anything. In real life, nanotechnology covers most areas of scientific research, from molecular biology to physics of semiconductor devices. Robots already serve as a good way to answer logic questions in science fiction stories, but taking them beyond the human eye makes them even more effective. This is reminiscent of an old thought experiment that assumed that everything was possible with a specification that is too small for any microscope. There is almost nothing in the history of science fiction that cannot be explained by the modern miracle of tiny technologies.

How in the Star Trek franchise do the Borg assimilate their prey with the Collective and fundamentally transform their bodies into these iconic cyborgs? They inject “nanoprobes” into the bloodstream. How does the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day change its appearance to mimic everyone it sees? Its “mimetic polyalloy” contains nanites that collect data and transform its shape into the desired aesthetic appearance. How do Iron Man, Black Panther and Spider-Man immediately change into their costumes when danger comes, without dragging them with them all the time? nanites; T’Challa has it in his necklace, Tony has it in an arc reactor in his chest, Peter has it on a small launcher that fires from the Avengers headquarters. There are countless other examples of using this trope to answer simple questions like this one. In fact, each of the mentioned papers contains other examples of nanotechnology in their countless articles.

The first examples of nanotechnology in fiction appeared even before it became known about the use of this concept in real life. An ordinary person practically did not know about the existence of this concept until the late 80s, when K. Eric Drexler wrote “Engines of Creation”. Drexler took Richard Feynman’s important but largely ignored 1959 speech “There’s a Lot of Room at the Bottom” to introduce this concept to the layman. This concept has about 50 years of history before being in the works of science fiction authors.

Arthur C. Clarke is one of the fathers of the art form, so it goes without saying that he invented the modern form of the trope. His 1956 short story “The Next Tenants” tells of machines operating on a micrometer scale. This fairy tale tells about a self-proclaimed mad scientist who believed that termites improve the intellectual and moral state of mankind. Guided by this idea, the scientist invents a bunch of new technologies that are ideal for these insects. The fairy tale suggests that an unnamed inventor somehow teaches bugs to use this tiny technique, but how it all works is not important. The main essence of the short narrative is the narrator’s confusion and mixed feelings about the scientist’s beliefs. Even in the first example, the narrative does not feel the need to explain how termites could build a civilization beyond “nanomachines, son.”

The strangest thing about nanotechnology in science fiction is that they are almost never in the spotlight of the works in which they are presented. a background element or a minor detail of the story. Even when nanotechnology is a threat that heroes must fight to save the world from, the discipline’s unique traits are rarely important. Most stories about nanomachines will work the same way if someone replaces every use of the term with the word “magic”. The idea of a story in which the specific unique features of subatomic matter manipulation are still available to any science fiction writer can be very interesting.

Nanotechnology can kill or heal anyone, endow incredible superhuman abilities, cause or resolve doomsday crises, and do almost everything in between. This is one of the most variable tropes in the genre, as well as one of the most easily explained. Science fiction authors have been using nanomachines for decades, it will be interesting to see what they are capable of in future works.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here