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Assume a distant future where all humans have nanobots in their bloodstream that keep them alive indefinitely.

Now let's say there is a way to override those nanobots so that they can instantly be triggered to kill their host. What would be the quickest way for the nanobots to kill their host? Would it be to attack the heart, the brain, or all organs at once? Is there another quicker way?

For the sake of my story, it would be best if the death looked peaceful to the outside observer, but it doesn't necessarily have to be painless. Although, bonus points for anyone who can also give ideas for how the nanobots could kill someone in the most painless way possible.

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Don' do the same thing twice: I am guessing you want something subtle, where people appear to die of natural causes, yet quick so there is little chance of reversing the effects. There are a million ways to kill people like that, but the world is full of nanites that should be preventing just this kind of thing. If even dozens of people start dying from their heart's natural pacemaker cutting out and stopping their heart from beating (my personal favorite quick kill) then authorities will investigate, and HARD. Even the nanite manufacturers will investigate if their products appear to consistently malfunction.

Make every kill unique, or at least different enough to avoid suspicion. In this person, the nanites form a series of clot-like structures and cause a massive "stroke" where the "clots" dissolve immediately after death. A second person loses motor control in heavy traffic and dies of an "accident." The third has their nerves all stop firing while asleep and has no discernable cause for death at all - dying in their sleep (about as painless as you can get?).

  • Be fun and creative; your readers/gamers will want to be entertained. novel causes of death can be a fun storyline, and they'll never be sure if the person really died from natural causes or foul play.
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    $\begingroup$ Alternative option: make the attack temporal. Make the nanobots concentrate around the cardiac nerve to stop the heart from beating, but program them to disolve and return to normal activity ten minutes later $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Jun 27 at 15:07
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Simultaneous Nerve Termination

If the nanobots truly operate on a small enough scale and are numerous enough to circulate throughout the body, just having them simultaneously interrupt and block all the nerve transmissions in the body will cause instant brain death. No pain involved whatsoever.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a rather impenetrable barrier between the blood stream and the cerebrospinal fluid (the stuff that fills your head apart from the brain), and there is no direct contact between blood and nerves. Anything that feeds your brain must cross this barrier first. So, if the nanobots are only within the blood stream, this won't work. You need to assume that the nanobots actually enter into each and every place within the body. Because the cerebrospinal fluid is the last place within the body that nanobots would enter. However, with that assumption, this is indeed the fastest way. $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 26 at 22:35
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Poison. Many physical ailments and symptoms involve an imbalance of chemicals in the body, and so to cure them, the nanobots should be equipped with a system for creating chemicals (either in each individual nanobot, or in a central implant the bots can distribute it from). And because our knowledge of pharmacology advances over time, it would be ideal for the bots to be able to be able to generate arbitrary new chemicals. Of course, there are countless substances that would be less than ideal to have in one's bloodstream.

The benefit of this method is that poisons are an extremely broad class of substances. Want it to look like an accident? There's a poison for that. Painless? A whole variety. Extremely painful and ostentatious? Can do!

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The nanobots can invade the brain and heart, and activate the "emergency shutdown" controlled by the solitary nucleus in the brain. Immediate loss of consciousness will occur, together with a fall in blood pressure and bradycardia. At this point, control of the sinoatrial node allows completely stopping the heart.

Painless death will occur in a matter of seconds, leaving no traces.

Something like this occurs in the so-called "sudden death syndrome" which is usually the outcome of a QT cardiac anomaly - the victim will just suddenly drop dead with no warnings, usually after a physical effort or light trauma to the breast (e.g. a hit by a soccer ball).

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There are obviously a lot of situations in which killing someone in the quickest way possible is necessary. However, this technology is extremely suitable for assassinations. In that case, you'd want to do the opposite, give a kill command which is not instantaneous. You'll have time to get away, and it would be difficult to trace down exactly when and where the attack came from.

My choice of death would be to block the blood flow to the brain. This would mean the victim would be deprived of oxygen in the brain, slowly reducing brain function until it fully stops working, similar to how a stroke works but on a larger and more devastating scale. This method of suffocation is not only painless for the victim, they are unable to figure out they are dying as well, as the brain doesn't have enough function left to reach that conclusion. For outsiders it would simply look like the victim fainted or was having a stroke, only to find they are dead.

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There's a lot of ways to kill some one within their blood, you could have clots form to cause heart attack and/or stroke but those are survivable. You could take a page from Ebola and cause tons of internal bleeding by destroying tissue and cells as a bonus leading to a loss of clotting factor so even a pinhole can become life threatening making a blood transfusion risky. Another quicker method would be to destroy the alveoli in the lungs (the part where blood lung gas exchange commences ) causing the user to drown in blood or suffocate from lack of O2 CO2 exchange. However, as for painless and fast, the best option may be the release of tetrodotoxin well known as the ever so lethal puffer fish venom (and is actually synthesized by a symbiotic bacteria,) as it is known to cause a sense of euphoria similar to opioids and blocks sodium ion channels responsible for transmitting signals between neurons for pain, leading to an all around happy, painless, and quick death.

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