Long long time ago an advanced cast civilization created nanobot network. However now it had fallen and people migrated away from the land. By the time they come back to land of their ancestors most of the lore was lost and the ruins of the old world was covered by earth. Sure, they are able to dig up some artifacts, but with their knowledge (high Middle Ages) all they have is strange green plates covered in mystical writings etc.

However they discovered that they are able to perform magic if they speak in ancient tongue. What really happens is that nanobot networks is recognizing commands and performing them.

  • Nanobots are coded by genetic patterns. The larger portion of network recognizes the pattern the more potent the magician is as nanobots are destroyed (run out of energy) after doing things - though they replenish over time. However part of network is broken and there was natural drift so not everyone is magician.
  • Depending on the type of command various access levels are granted. Creating food or playing audiobook are not a big deal. Putting a sedative into someone ('sleep' spell) requires nanobots to recognize someone to be from law enforcement lineage. Creating a fireball requires to have a 'license to kill' lineage etc.
  • Most common things (create food) are simple commands which can be spoken but nanobots can be programmed. People skilled in programming them are not necessarily those who are able to perform them (though it helps). Such programs can be stored and invoked by command by person storing them.

How would it transform the formation of societies which migrated back to such land? How much could be recovered from ancient audiobooks assuming they have no means to distinguish fiction from non-fiction and they have no index - and no idea what a nanobot is or computer or PCB etc.?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Questions asking "How would X influence society?" are often closed as too broad. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 11, 2017 at 11:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Consider Clarkes third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It doesn't actually matter that much if it's actually magic or not, if noone has the knowledge to differentiate between them. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2017 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ We know nothing about your society. Therefore the answer is "it depends". You should describe how your society is, what their values are, technology they have before discovering magic, how the nanobots recognize lineage. There are tons of works describing magical medieval societies. In what your scenario is different from those? - do that and the question might be reopened. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2017 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ That's the premise of Endless Space/Legend 4X strategy games. Galactic civilization of titular Endless turned out to be not quite endless. Newer species try to tame and use orphaned dust - ever present nanomachines left behind by Endless. In ES you fight for the galaxy, but EL sees you conquer planet Auriga, starting from ancient-level tech, going to about early modern period, all while surrounded by dust-"magic" for bonus magitek feel. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:10

2 Answers 2


Essentially, the initial key to this 'magic' is knowing and speaking the ancient language in a way that voice recognition can still determine the meaning of the words. However, this does not automatically grant anyone the right to your restricted spells (fireball etc.) as biological lineage alone would be too insecure a key (you do not want the children of law enforcement officers to run around playing 'cops and robbers' with real nnaobot technology or not even grown-up children as there is no need to inherit the parents' job. Thus, anyone learning the 'magic words' could listen to audiobooks or tell ALEXA to make some ice cream, but noone would ever be granted other spells, as no one with the rights for authorisation is left alive to program the nanbots in the first place.

Only reading/hearing books about programming and gaining the ability to hack into the code would allow medieval hackers to break into the system and edit the programming of bots including authorisation. Hardly anyone is likely to give this kind of power out of hand, so they would be the 'real' magicians performing the powerful tricks for which only they have access while they can share the 'magic words' of low authorisation gadgets 'spells' with a wider group of people. How large this group will be will greatly depend on the amount of nanobots and their availability.


Basically you would have your average fantasy world. There would be a ruling class of powerful mages, a middle class of lesser mages, and a lower class of nonmages.

There would be a lot more people and life spans would be longer, because they can create food and heal sickness. The average life of the people would be better.

As time passes the stories of the nanites would become legends with a core of truth mixed with a lot of fiction.

The old language would be the most valuable piece of knowledge a person could posses. Knowledge is more valuable when it is rare. Laws regulating and limiting the teaching of the old language would probably be common. Most likely these laws would limit the teaching of the the old language to the powerful mage class. But some information would leak out. There would be a middle class that could do simple spells.

The people who could use deadly spells. Would probably form a sub cast among the elets. A sort mage warrior cast.


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