Here’s an MIT News article on recent advances in analog-based computing algorithms. In contrast to the binary nature of digital computing (a value can be either “on” or “off”, with no information representation state in between), analog approaches incorporate approaches such as differential equations, algebra and natural tendencies toward equilibrium or balance to enable vastly more possibilities. The current downside is the highly labor-intensive nature of programming, which the article suggests will become less a bottleneck over time.

The article also brings to mind a broader, emergent field of Biomimicry, which looks across all of nature for reference standards to apply toward technology innovation. Here’s a good starting point if you want to learn more.