What is the difference between High index and Low index?
I get that there could be force fields, and crazy nanotechnology…
but what else?
Also with nanotechnology why would a civilization bother with slaves and serfs? Nanobots could do most work, faster and better.
Slaves are a pretty important piece in the Color of BE. We’re talking about an empire of Man in decline, and part of that decline is turning your fellow man into a commodity to be bought and sold. In that society, having slaves is better than a big pool of unemployed rabble causing problems. Strict control means less riots and all that.
Well, slaves because nanotech is rare and expensive and hard to maintain. You can either find another nanoartificer to maintain the nanofloorsweepers and nanohedgetrimmers, or just have a few slaves sweep the floors and trim the hedges.
What can high-index tech do? Interface with Psychology. Grant better skill and stat bonuses. Stuff like that.
There aren’t any self-replicating robots, nano- or otherwise, in the Iron Empires setting. That may be improbable, but once you accept that, then your only source of economic capacity that reproduces itself, by itself, without further intervention is people. So rather than invest in building up industrial machinery, you can just find a habitable planet somewhere, dump some peasants on it, innoculate them against the local diseases if you feel kindly or are in a hurry to get the population growing, and say, “be fruitful and multiply, oh yeah, and pay rent, you dirt-farming scumbags.”