We’ve just about finished a new song ‘Nanobotoma’ for our 5th Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (HOGIA)’s 5th album.

The story behind the song is something like this…

The protagonist has a slowly progressive but incurable leukaemia. They are a scientist working on medical self-replicating nanobots, tiny machines that are designed to identify and destroy cancer cells. Unfortunately, as they built to self-replicate, there is an inherent Darwinian selective pressure on them escape the regulatory controls with which they were created.

In the story, the protagonist initially feels much better, but then starts to notice signs that the nanobots are proliferating out of control, becoming a mechanical cancer (nanobotoma – a term that as far as I am aware I’ve invented; I couldn’t find it on Google).

A nanobotoma that is restricted to one host is an evolutionary dead end. The protagonist is supposed to be in isolation during the medical trial of the device, but he noticed that the nanobots are affecting his behaviour. They have evolved to be transmissible by respiratory secretions, and are making him feel uncontrollably lonely, making him want to be physically close to people (which would help spread the nanobot tumour to other hosts.

I’m not saying the science of the story is likely to happen, but wearing my former consultant neuropathologist hat, I would say it is not implausible. I believe that there should be an international regulatory framework to oversea any use of self-replicating nanobots, and given the time taken to achieve international agreements, we would be better of pre-empting this situation rather than waiting to respond reactively in the future.

With retrospectoscope in hand

It may seem obvious now

But remember I was dying at the time

And that can be quite distracting

Was I supposed to know they’d learn to fly on breath?

That my machines could escape the quarantine

These tiny machines, spreading through me, dividing me. These tiny machines, spreading through me. Supposed to be saving me.

The cancer hunters spread

I’ve not felt like this for years

Small victories heap, the pile becomes a turning tide

I don’t mention the sparkle in the spit, that I flush down the sink.

I hide the silver fleck just beneath the skin, I don’t want to give in.

These tiny machines, spreading through me, dividing in me. These tiny machines, spreading through me, dividing me.

Out of control, regulation disengaged. No thought for the whole, you evolved, became worse than the disease.

I should have clamped down on the hope. I can’t stand the isolation. I need someone to hold.


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