Tiny cogs being turned by bacteria.

as in An individual bacterium’s motion appears random. However, at a concentration of about 10 billion bacterial cells per cubic centimeter, the organisms begin to swim together in what the researchers described as “self-organized, large-scale vortices.” It’s that collective motion that powers the gears’ movement. In their experiments, the motion petered out if the concentration was increased to anything beyond 40 billion bacteria per cubic centimeter, as the organisms appear to shift their behavior toward creating biofilms.

Which is fairly incredible really.

It reminds me a bit of the (very ) early computers though – they were originally set up to create logarithmic/mathematical tables – which had some sort of military application if memory serves. It was only later that it was realised that the computers could perform the calculations themselves… and that they could cut out the middle-man – ie: the logarithmic tables.

Similarly with nanotech I suspect. Microbes already are tiny little machines that can do all sorts of incredibly useful stuff – so using them to create bigger little machines is a bit daft. If you want to use nanotech to build something – a chemical, or a body part or whatever – it might be easiest to cut out the middle-man and just getting microbes to do it directly by tinkering with their genes.

I think the nanotech thing might be a bit misunderstood actually – there seems to be this expectation that we’re going to have tiny little monsters that can eat steel and replace cut-off arms from materials stolen from the side of a passing train etc… but have you seen robots trying to walk recently? Not bad. Not good. We’ve got a looooooong way to go before we can get a machine to self-power, let alone self-replicate.

And bugs can already do it. I’d be putting my money on the biotech revolution really kicking in big-time well before the anticipated nanotech revolution… and the nanotech revolution is actually part of a materials revolution that’s already well underway.

So that’s what I would have thought.