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A powerful and benevolent organization have developed some impressive nanobots. For ethical reasons these nanobots are sent out into the world to prevent deaths. Within a couple of weeks there are no deaths, no miracle stories either, people are just not getting sick or having accidents. However the nanobots have potential to be abused and no one wants a back yard tinkerer or nutter producing grey goo. So the organization needs to keep this secret from the world, at least until the nanobots can be made tamper proof.

What can be done to keep these nanobots secret? For example, hacking census data and quietly buying out funeral homes can be done.

EDIT People aren't looking out for or expecting anything like this. If you show people data showing that everyone has stopped dying they are unlikely to believe it unless everyone else does and there is strong evidence. Wont people dismiss the possibility as a conspiracy theory.

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    $\begingroup$ They should self-destruct. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton May 22 '16 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ A deconstruction of Death Takes a Holiday! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 23 '16 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ How do nanobots prevent accidents? $\endgroup$ – Graham Kemp May 23 '16 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ Uh... what are you doing with the elderly? Do the nanobots just keep them alive in their current bodies, or do they... repair the damage aging has done? Have you accidentally created functional immortality (Except for beheading. That seems to work every single time)? $\endgroup$ – subrunner May 23 '16 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson Wouldn't that make your nanobots omniscient/straight up future-seers? $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate May 23 '16 at 14:08
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You can't. Too many people need to be hushed up.

Every doctor and dentist will notice they suddenly have no patients. Every hospital and nursing home will see their current patients magically get better. Health insurance companies will see claims plummet. Drug and medical equipment companies will see orders shrivel to nothing.

Anyone doing a blood test will notice the nanobots directly or indirectly. They could see the foreign substances of the nanobots themselves in the results, or just the dramatic and unexplained improvements. With a powerful enough microscope, they'll see the nanobots directly.

If all that is somehow hushed up, there's the money trail. If the health care industry suddenly loses most of their business, accountants and economists will notice. There will be ripple effects through the economy. Who keeps paying all the medical workers when there's no work? That's 19 million people in the US alone.

And then there's the simple problem of people recovering from what should have been a fatal or crippling accident. How do you cover that up?


Even if you could cover this up, what you're asking about is security through obscurity and it doesn't work. Trying to cover up the nanobots will probably make it more likely someone will be able to hack them for nefarious purposes and there will be no defense.

Law enforcement and investigation agencies cannot coordinate with each other. Security researchers cannot analyze the nanobots for security vulnerabilities. If they do and discover a vulnerability, who do they report it to? Do they risk being hushed up if they do? If a strange phenomenon starts happening, local agencies won't know to look for possible rogue nanobots allow it to get out of control.

Instead you'd coordinate with law enforcement and security researchers to harden your nanobots against attack, and prepare ways to discover and disarm rogue bots. Security "white hats" would attempt to break the nanobot security and report any possible vulnerabilities to be fixed before they're exploited. Law enforcement and local officials would know how to look for exploited nanobots and test regularly for them.

This is similar what is done to ensure encryption remains unbreakable, or to know when it's become vulnerable.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first two thirds of your answer has flawed logic. Just because people aren't dying doesn't mean that people will assume nanobots are the cause. The OP also stated that there were no miracles. The sick die. The healthy prosper. As far as he money trail will goes it will not necessarily lead to the assumption that nanobots are the cause. However, I do agree that you have a good solution. $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III May 23 '16 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ @AarthewIII The first 2/3rds addresses the OP's idea that they'll just hush everything up and nobody will notice the strange health effects. Once it's noticed, it will be investigated. If people stop dying and getting sick they'll do a battery of tests on people to figure out why and find the nanobots. As to the sick dying, the OP stated "people are just not getting sick or having accidents", so people stop getting sick I guess. As for the "no miracles" part, I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. $\endgroup$ – Schwern May 23 '16 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern I read "no miracles" as probably meaning someone with terminal cancer will still die. $\endgroup$ – yobddigi May 23 '16 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ yes but no one new will develop cancer. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson May 23 '16 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Then Schwerns predictions still hold true only over a matter of months rather than days. People will notice if the cancer wards are suddenly emptying. $\endgroup$ – Murphy May 23 '16 at 13:54
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For ethical reasons these nanobots are sent out into the world to prevent deaths.

Nope.   Secretly releasing nanomachines with known security flaws on an uninformed and unconsenting public is neither ethical nor reasoned ... it is well-intentioned folly.

The scenario you describe is likely the result of some idealistic fool making an unauthorized release, and then the organisation trying to stablise the locks after their horses have bolted.

Within a couple of weeks their are no deaths, no miracle stories either, people are just not getting sick or having accidents.

How do nanomachines prevent accidents? Also you cannot prevent all deaths without miracle stories.

I presume you intend that the nanomachines prevent health decline but don't dramatically improve recovery. No spontaneous remissions or regenerations. Cuts heal normally -or at least not noticabley faster-, but don't become infected. That sort of thing.

Even so, the organisation is racing against time.

People are going to notice a world wide lack of disease outbreaks, a notable lack of complications after emergency surgeries, no cases of food poisoning, gangreen, frostbite, or such, and they will look for a reason why. If the nanomachines are not secure, they will be found and tampered with by people trying to figure them out.

What can be done to keep these nanobots secret? For example, hacking census data and quietly buying out funeral homes can be done.

Nope.   Such attempts would prove counter productive because sooner or later some health organisation is going to notice discrepancy between their internal data and public reports and that will lead investigators to realise human intervention is involved.

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The short answer is you can't hide them. And if you can't hide, your best bet is to work on the second angle: how to keep your bots safe?


The simple act of looking in a microscope will get your nanobots exposed. Blood samples happen everyday, there's no stopping that. Nanobots might trigger metal detectors or interfere with sensible electronics enough to get investigated. Then there's the sudden drop in death rate. The accumulation of things out of the ordinary would raise eyebrows everywhere.

So how do you protect your bots? The bad news is that tamper-proof does not exist. Even worst is that beyond any security measure you can imagine, there's nothing you can do against hackers having direct physical access to their nanobots.

What you can do is mitigate the risk by lowering the probability of the risk occurring and/or lowering the impact of the risk happening. My suggestion would be to repurpose the nanobots entirely.

Each batch of nanobots should be programmed (by having direct physical access only) with a single purpose, with an expiration date. They shouldn't be allowed to outlive their purposefulness. All operations would be done in a controlled environment (e.g. hospitals), and patients wouldn't be allowed to leave until the bots are out of their system.

The bright side is that you don't need the secrecy anymore (not that you would be able to keep that secret either), and with those tweaks the risk should become acceptable. Although it doesn't cure death anymore, it should still able to prevent a lot of people from dying early.

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  • $\begingroup$ I still think the pharmaceutical companies wouldn't be happy with such thing taking place in a hospital so it would have to be private clinics, but there is no way you would have a far enough reach. $\endgroup$ – yobddigi May 23 '16 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @YobdDigital In an ideal world, private companies don't run the public health system and the lawful civilian government doesn't allow itself to be bullied by them. Realistically, what are they going to do? It's competition, either they get cheaper or they offer a better service. Nanobots would likely be stupid expensive, so there's that. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate May 23 '16 at 9:33

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