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"I'm a farm boy. It's very interesting; you can detect self-starting characteristics in this society and they are strongest among people who have had some kind of rural upbringing and a very impressionable stage."
- Frank Herbert

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.
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
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Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
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