In Designing a railgun to disable man-portable firearms, I asked about the specifics of the way that I had imagined for alien war-bots to disarm humans... but I was convinced by the accepted answer that my idea wasn't the best. So, I'm taking a step back and asking how.

The goal of the aliens is to prevent armed humans from damaging or destroying their war machines, and to protect the aliens and human noncombatants while allowing the aliens to go wherever they need. The means should be non-lethal and minimally- or non- harmful, and should leave the armed humans disarmed.

The means used should be as fast as possible, preferably short of causing permanent injury or death. Faster, more certain methods are preferable to slower, less certain methods. Temporary unconsciousness and/or disorientation are acceptable side-effects.

The aliens have the following technologies:

  • General purpose nanites/nanoassemblers that are individually as smart as a human or alien, with quantum computing capabilities and are capable of self-replication.

  • Nuclear batteries with an energy density 1000 times that of the highest-density chemical energy storage system. Miniaturisable fusion reactors down to 0.01m³ and 20kg.

  • Diametrical drives with thrust 110% of their mass, at 80% efficiency, dynamically reshapable scramjet/ramjets and Alcubierre warp drives.

  • Advanced IR/UV/optical and audio sensors and holographic emitters that can optically cloak an object in the visible spectrum, and auditory cloaking 99% effective up to 95dB. RF cloaking/jamming 200 years in advance of our own.

  • War machines (operated and maintained by nanites) with encrypted networking, perception/decision/reaction times well under 1ms, fast and accurate enough that no organic opponent can expect to prevail against them.

  • Weapons and explosives technology 200 years in advance of our own. Pretty much everything that we have today, just greatly refined, miniaturized and/or higher powered. Self-guided projectiles down to small-arms size. Dust-drift air current mapping. Pure fusion atomic weaponry without fission primaries.

What the aliens don't have:

  • Experience with human physiology or biochemistry. What they learned about humans, they got from the internet and TV shows. So, they know about human physiology, but haven't had time to fully integrate that knowledge into their weapons designs and refine them. So, no drugs or toxins (it's too easy to misjudge dosage rates) or other cutting edge (for humans) tricks. They could produce a taser or a thunderflash effect, and they have a pretty good idea of human physical/mechanical limits.

  • Experience with surface or subsurface waterborne combat. Capabilities equivalent to immediately post WWII.

So, what automated system could the aliens produce to non-lethally neutralize and disarm human infantry combatants as quickly and reliably as possible, from as long a range as possible, in the greatest possible numbers in the least possible time, preferably without being detected prior to, during, or after an engagement. The smaller the automatons the better, and the less the human combatants are injured the better. Human deaths should not exceed 1 in 81 if not given first aid or medical treatment.

I'm looking for an answer as quick, but better than 'shoot the weapon with a railgun on the right trajectory'.

  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify - what human weapons are the alien war machines vulnerable to? The previous question asked about firearms ranging from 9mm (assumed) to .50 BMG - are the aliens vulnerable to knives, rocks (including from slings), bows, clubs, air rifles...? Also confirming that threats from vehicles and heavy weapons are not of concern / are being managed separately? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 Heavy weapons and vehicles are being handled seperately. Depending on size, a war bot might be vulnerable to pistol rounds... but really hard to hit. They're capable, not invulnerable. The aliens are slightly tougher and harder to hurt than a human, slightly faster, and a lot less radiation resistant... but still vulnerable to the same types of physical trauma. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 5:47

1 Answer 1


A cloud of nanites quietly descends on a squad of armed humans.

Step one: Remove firing pins and disable triggers of other weapons. Fuse grenade pins and weaken pull ring attachments.

Step 2: Enter vehicles and communications equipment. Don't disable (yet), but have all apropriate wires ready to be severed at a moment's notice.

Step 3: Bootlaces can no longer be unlaced. Meanwhile carbon or silicon nanotube cords at assembled. More nanites (numbers are increasing every minute) start altering shirt cuffs.

Step 4: Time to reel them in. Cords connect each soldier's boots (those out of typical military uniform will learn a new definition of sock puppet). Cords gently wrap around behind to connect shirt/jacket cuffs. All cords for all persons yank firmly at the same time. All communication gear transmission capability disabled at the same time.

The squad is now sqirming on the ground with feet stuck together and hands sescured behind their backs. All comms are useless. Anyone struugling too effectively finds more cords joining the party.

Nanites call HQ to request prisoners be collected.

Edit: I'm having a glitch where hitting any button associated with comments just sends me to the top of the page. I blame the nanites.

So, I'll,answer Monty Wild's questions here.

Short Answer: Because I believe in the power of nanites and Monty's story telling skills. 😃

Long Answers:

  1. How are these nanites flying?

If nanites are confined to crawling like ants, their movement rate will be too slow to use in a combat (or combat prevention) situation. Even if sustained powered flight is impossible, a small group could assemble itself into a flying/gliding object about as small as a very tiny insect.

Nanite delivery above the targetted unit could be done via small drones or by the nanite controlled birds.

  1. How do they pull shoelaces around?

I was plotting to have the nanites prevent the laces from moving, thus preventing the boots from being removed.

If they can self-replicate, they should be able to build carbon (or silicon) nanotubes. Build multiple coiled nanutube ropes (visible only with a good magnifying glass) up on each boot and jacket cuff. When zero hour arrives (preferably when the soldiers aren't hiking), slightly larger nanite assemblies fly/crawl across the gap between the boots and around the back from one cuff to the next. Secure the loose end and start cranking in the slack. Enough strands of dental floss can tie up an elephant, and all they woul need is one initial human captive to work out the finer details.

  1. Where is the material to replicate the nanites coming from?

The gear of the soldiers would provide an array of metals and plastics. If there's anything exotic needed, Bird Express may need to be called on to make a delivery. Depending on the speed of repication, it's worth considering whether replication vs additional nannite delivery is the optimal approach.

  1. How is any of this fast enough to save someone from being shot by a quick-drawn firearm?

The arrival of the nanites should be nearly impossible to notice. Opening fire becausea very sharp eyed soldier thought an insect looked suspicious might be a slight risk, but that bug-like clump of nanites could disconnect and disappear like smoke.

The real issue is preventing the humans from harming each other. This is why entry needs to be unnoticed and why disabling weapons is step one. With that taken care of, the nanites can continue preparations and wait for the perfect moment to secure the prisoners.

  • $\begingroup$ 1. How are these nanites flying? 2. How do they pull shoelaces around? 3. Where is the material to replicate the nanites coming from? 4. How is any of this fast enough to save someone from being shot by a quick-drawn firearm? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the nanites can start by gumming up the trigger with sticky glue if they need to react in a hurry. Then do all the other stuff. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 14:43

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