Nanobots were first developed for medical purposes, of course. That’s where the funding was — both pharmaceutical companies and government grants supported the initial research. Army surgeons used the earliest models in the field, and eventually big hospitals could afford fleets of little medbots. Before long nanobots could do more than clear internal blockages and seal wounds. They could purify bodily fluids. Dispense chemicals. Stimulate particular areas of the brain.

That last application was tricky to develop. Predictably, as soon as the tech was ready, Congress wanted to futz around with legislation. For a while, people who could afford it traveled to less-regulated parts of the world for treatment. Neither mental illness nor cancer were solved, exactly, but they were a lot easier to deal with.

Artwork by psion005.

Artwork by psion005.

The original nanobot swarms had to be injected into the patient’s bloodstream. But the programming rapidly became more sophisticated, and the info-storage hardware was engineered to be extremely tiny. Third-generation nanobots could be swallowed. They’d swim to the area where they were needed. Or, to be more precise, where they were directed to go.

The espionage possibilities were obvious — spike a plate of salmon crostini at a party and hack all the guests’ pleasure receptors. Making someone too happy was a good way to disarm them, literally and figuratively. Nanobots were a drug and a scalpel combined. Anyone who thought they were worth targeting became very cautious about what they consumed.

Ordinary people, however, were thrilled. It took a little while, naturally — ten years had to pass before commercial nanobots really took off. When mothers give something to their schoolchildren, that’s when the big money starts rolling in! The grind of daily life and the respite of entertainment were both impacted. Nanobots regulated your emotions during the workday. When you got home, they made whatever you wanted to do better than it had been a decade ago.

VR enviros were touted as immersive in the 2020s, but now your brain didn’t need to be tricked — the holo scenes and the nanobots had integrated instructions. You really felt the sensations that you were supposed to. What a relief!