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Muscles/limbs are only 'vastly' more efficient if you consider they have large numbers of nano scale support systems constantly rebuilding them. Since we don't have nanobots, gears will be better for machines. Also, nature didn't naturally develop a axle.

Robots have bearings and simple, efficient rotary electric motors. A machinists lathe is a fantastic piece of technology. We're really good at building things that rotate.

Nature uses cellular-scale nanotechnology to build millions of microscopic linear motors. We can build linear electric motors by essentially unrolling the stator, but they're on a much larger scale.

We get better results with servomotors, either installed with some gear reduction at a pivot joint, or hooked to a ballscrew linear actuator.

Muscles/limbs also don't power-down for long periods. They're in need of constant maintenance (energy, food; waste removed) or they rot.

Is that an inherent property of muscle-like mechanisms, or just several billion years' worth of environmental bacteria evolved to consume living tissue if not constantly opposed by a immune system?

That's an inherent property of all living material. All tisssue is on the edge of thermodynamic breakdown i.e. Unlike manufactured material, resting state for biology is death).

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