If the latest research at IBM bears fruit, we could one day be using computers far more powerful than even the best today, thanks to attempts to model a processor on the human brain.

Working with five universities and the US Darpa defence agency, IBM will use simulations of the brain's neurons to create the first step on the way to a new kind of 'cognitive' computer.

Ambiguous information

IBM's Dharmendra Modha explained why the project was receiving government backing: "The mind has an amazing ability to integrate ambiguous information across the senses.

"There are no computers that can even remotely approach the remarkable feats the mind performs."

Feline goal

After perfecting the neuron simulations, the team will move on to the intermediate goal of building a system that is as complex as a cat's brain.

Any human-like computer that ultimately comes from the project will likely have the ability to think for itself. And we all know where that can lead…