Why is IBM’s WATSON – named WATSON? “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”

I was having a moment to critically think about IBM’s new Jeopardy playing supercomputer and realised some quite interesting.

Jeopardy! is an American game show featuring trivia in history, literature, the arts, pop culture, science, sports, geography, wordplay, and more. The show has a unique answer-and-question format in which contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in question form.

The basic function of WATSON, is to process data and generate questions. Computers usually answer questions. They take input and calculate a yes or no answer. WATSON asks questions. It has to, to be able to determine whether or not its answer is correct on the game show.

Using the story of Sherlock Holmes and his pal Watson, one could compare their combined detective prowess with the functionality of the human brain. Each Character represents a hemisphere of the brain.

The usual dialogue between these two individuals usually goes down like this:

Watson: “But how did “<example >> do this?”

(right hemisphere)
*creative idea generator

Sherlock: “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”

(left hemisphere)
*logic calculator

Using this basic dialogue example, and hopefully your child hood memories of Sherlock Holmes, you can see the basic relationship between the two halves of your brain.


Why you should listen to her:

One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor’s brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness …

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right. From her home base in Indiana, she now travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the “Singin’ Scientist.”

“How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I’ve gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career.”

Jill Bolte Taylor



On February 10, 1996, Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion (Garry Kasparov) under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4–2 (wins count 1 point, draws count ½ point). The match concluded on February 17, 1996.

Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded (unofficially nicknamed “Deeper Blue”)[11] and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½, ending on May 11. Deep Blue won the deciding game six after Kasparov made a mistake in the opening, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls.

The system derived its playing strength mainly out of brute force computing power. It was a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP Thin P2SC-based system with 30-nodes, with each node containing a 120 MHz P2SC microprocessor for a total of 30, enhanced with 480 special purpose VLSI chess chips. Its chess playing program was written in C and ran under the AIX operating system. It was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second, twice as fast as the 1996 version. In June 1997, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful supercomputer according to the TOP500 list, achieving 11.38 GFLOPS on the High-Performance LINPACK benchmark.

WATSON is the RIGHT hemisphere of Joshua Blue’s brain. The LEFT hemisphere is Deep Blue.



Project Joshua Blue is an IBM project with the goal of enhancing artificial intelligence through the development of better common sense reasoning, natural language understanding, and emotional intelligence capacities.


This paper contrasts the implementation of motivation and emotion in Project Joshua Blue with current approaches such as Breazeal’s (2001) sociable robots. Differences in our implementation support our different goals for model performance and are made possible by a novel system architecture.

Overview of Joshua Blue
Project Joshua Blue applies ideas from complexity theory and evolutionary computational design to the simulation of mind on a computer. The goal is to enhance artificial intelligence by evolving such capacities as common sense reasoning, natural language understanding, and emotional intelligence, acquired in the same manner as humans acquire them, through learning situated in a rich environment.


Project Joshua Blue: Design considerations for evolving an emotional mind in a simulated environment. N Alvarado, S Adams, S Burbeck, C Latta, Proceedings of the 2001 AAAI Fall Symposium Emotional and …, 2001 – aaai.org.

WOW, that is comforting, almost like this youtube video.

and this one:

Notice the screencap below, as soon as the man boards the ship, he immediately heads to dismantle the LOGIC part of HAL‘s personality.

For more reading about Kubrick’s film 2001:  A Space Oddessey, watch the clip below, Joshua Blue was mention @ the 2001 AAAI Fall Symposium

2 thoughts on “Why is IBM’s WATSON – named WATSON? “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson””

  1. Stop spreading misinformation! Watson, the AI program, was named after IBM’s founder: Thomas Watson. They have three Watson research laboratories named after him too. I hope nobody (or software) is reading your blog — life is hard enough if your information comes from credible sources!

    Any lazy jerk can come with their just-so story. It’s too bad they have to share it with others…

    Here’s why your blog is called “binary dissent”: It’s because you only believe simple binary theories like that left-brain-right-brain bullshit!

  2. Yes it was named after IBM’s founder, but why was the name selected now after so many years of IBM innovations? What makes this particular innovation worthy of the founders name? WATSON is JOSHUA BLUE is HAL.

    All theories are binary, they are either true or false. This blog deals with the ones, comments like yours represent the zeros.

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