If you've read any Isaac Asimov or seen the movie Bicentennial Man, you've heard the term positronic brain. The positronic brain was the factor that gave Asimov's robots their consciousness and decision-making abilities.
Recent developments in solid state circuitry may make the fictional concept a reality. Researchers at HP Labs have released the news that they have created a memristor, a component whose charge is determined by the total amount of charge, both positive and negative, that has crossed over it.
One obvious application of the memristor is as memory for today's computers. A benefit is that computers would come on instantly in the same configuration in which you turned it off. You wouldn't need to set up your desktop the way you like it every time you turn it on. It's all just the way it was when you turned it off.
A more exciting application is in the realm of analog computers. For the past 50 years computers have been digital devices using switches that are either on or off. Boolean and Aristotelian logic has ruled the day. Memristors operate in shades of gray, though, just like the brain of a living organism. Logic is naturally fuzzy. Decision making based on total input. Programming more a matter of hardware construction and training than of writing decision making software. We will be able to grow computers rather than programming them.