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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Lithocule  
  Tiny intelligent building blocks.  

Lithocule literally means tiny stone; in this case, a tiny building block. It is not clear how they maneuver.

In the book, uncounted numbers of these tiny parts are coming together in ocean shallows to create a new island.

...each lithocule knew exactly where it was supposed to go and what it was supposed to do. They were tetrahedral building blocks of calcium and carbon, the size of poppyseeds, each equipped with a power source, a brain and a navigational system.
Technovelgy from The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam Books in 1995
Additional resources -

This is an interesting way to present a stereolithograph technology; in fact, it inverts the current technology completely.

In standard stereolithography, the "smarts" are in the machine that has the design and control over where the particles settle to create the object. The polymer in the tank is "dumb" - it just deposits a solid bit when "told" to by the laser.

For more about stereolithography, see the entry for nanofax.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Diamond Age
  More Ideas and Technology by Neal Stephenson
  Tech news articles related to The Diamond Age
  Tech news articles related to works by Neal Stephenson

Lithocule-related news articles:
  - Duroquinone Molecule Nano-Brain

Articles related to Material
GNoME AI From DeepMind Invents Millions Of New Materials
Omniphobic Liquid-like Surfaces And de Camp's Telelubricator (1940)
MXenes - Atomic-Thin Metal Sheets Now Easier To Make
Do We Still Need Orbiting Factories?

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