Nanotechnology in No Heaven is a pervasive part of the setting. It’s everywhere from the weapons, armour, and clothes you wear to your blood vessels.
It’s a useful tool, being able to manipulate matter directly on a molecular level. There’s barely any need for repairs or surgery any more when miniature robots can take care of it for you. But there need to be strict guards on the use of nanotechnology, and on what the nanotech can use as fuel for its efforts.
After all, it would be a simple matter to turn nanotechnology into a bioweapon that can turn an entire colony population into grey goo while leaving all the infrastructure intact. It is because of this possibility that all nanotech has strict guards on their behaviour to prevent such “accidents”.
One prominent incident happened on Mars when – before the proper handshake protocols were implemented – a new colonist with experimental nanotech modifications came to Mars. The native Martian nanotech reacted to this strange new nanotech as a threat and began to fight against it, while the new nanotech reacted likewise to the Martian nanotech. It took some time for the incident to become contained and hundreds of people were killed or maimed by the rogue nanotech before it was stopped.
That incident is one of the prominent reasons why nanotech protocols are now much more locked down than they were before. No one wants their nanotech to turn on them and start using them for fuel.
In day-to-day work, most nanotech gets the fuel and materials it needs to do its work from its surroundings, being careful not to consume too much. For standard repair nanites, they will seek a specially prepared block of raw materials to use but will take what they need from other sources if needed. It isn’t unknown for broken weapons to repair themselves using the workbench they were left on as raw materials.
Medical nanotech is a bit different. Most materials needed can be taken from the body itself, but what they use has to be carefully controlled in case they eat the liver to fix a papercut. For the most part they use excess fats and proteins from the digestive process in their work. While this is a safe and efficient process, it does take some time. Depending on the severity of the injury, it can take hours or days to gather enough resources to repair it fully. Compared to the weeks of traditional medicine, this is a remarkable leap forward, but it still takes time.
In both cases where repair is needed – be it equipment or flesh – then the nanotech can be spurred into quicker motion by the application of the correct resources. Providing a block of weapons-grade materials and designating it as valid repair/construction material will vastly increase the time of repair. Likewise, injecting the appropriate solutions into the body provides medical nanotech with the resources they need for repairs without robbing the body of those same resources. This allows repair times to be reduced significantly.
One might think that the introduction of nanotech means that doctors and engineers are no longer needed, and to some degree this is true. However, nanotech can’t reset a broken leg, nor can it move a broken barrel into the correct position. While nanites can fuse the bone and repair the injury, they can’t realign the bone on their own and the same applies to anything similar. They work on a miniscule level, but that means that need help on the grander scale.
Beyond even that, in order to prevent nanites from going wild, they are strictly limited in what actions they can take without intervention from an outside operator. While medical nanotech will prevent you from catching most diseases and prevent tumours before they start, they are prevented from major procedures as they require much more in the way of resources.
Of course, nanotech isn’t just restricted to military and medical applications. Cosmetic nanites are relatively common from ones that control hair style and colour through to programmable nanite tattoos and even nanite clothing.
Most clothing in the No Heaven setting is impregnated with nanotech to some degree or another. In some cases it serves a cosmetic purpose allowing you to change the colour of your clothes on a whim, but for most it serves a far more practical purpose. Having nanotech-impregnated clothes mean that in case of emergency it can react to aid you, from creating a makeshift enviro-suit in case of atmospheric loss to stopping bullets.
As you can imagine, each culture reacts to nanotech a little differently, though it is generally accepted that the benefits outweigh the potential downsides.
The BDM are probably the most outspoken against it, and that mostly harks back to the historic event alluded to above where a colony was decimated by the introduction of rogue nanotech.
In broad terms, the various attitudes towards nanotech could be summed up in similar terms to computer OSes.
The FLC hold nanotech in regard, and probably have the most refined technology but it is tightly controlled by regulations and is only supplied by regulated manufacturers. Not unlike Apple devices.
The BDM recognises the utility but doesn’t fully trust it. Designed independently from the FLC nanotech, it still bears some of the hallmarks of the early nanotechnology that might otherwise have been erased in later iterations. Not unlike Windows.
The CWC have probably hacked their nanotech more than anyone else, constantly experimenting to make their lives better by using nanotech to make up for the hardships of their chosen lifestyles. It is common for CWC youths to program their own nanotech to produce body modifications rather than use nanotech designed for the purpose. Not unlike Linux.
In summary, nanotech represents the secret “magic” that means that you can recover from wounds quickly and survive combat even without armour. Medical, scientific, and engineering characters are able to manipulate various kinds of nanotech for a variety of effects from repairing broken limbs to crafting superior weapons to analysing strange artifacts.