Amusing: IBM’s Jeopardy-winning knowledge bot was named Watson, after IBM’s first president, Dr. Thomas J. Watson.

In Robert Heinlein’s 1966 novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of the main characters is named Mike, nicknamed so after Mycroft Holmes in a short story written by the same Dr. Watson, before founding IBM:

Mike was not official name; I had nicknamed him for Mycroft Holmes, in a story written by Dr. Watson before he founded IBM. This story character would just sit and think—and that’s what Mike did. Mike was a fair dinkum thinkum, sharpest computer you’ll ever meet.

Mike is a computer, of the HOLMES IV (High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, Mod. L.) variety. And it turns out that Mike is designed to answer messy natural-language-type questions:

Remember Mike was designed, even before augmented, to answer questions tentatively on insufficient data like you do; that’s “high optional” and “multi-evaluating” part of name. So Mike started with “free will” and acquired more as he was added to and as he learned—and don’t ask me to define “free will.” If comforts you to think of Mike as simply tossing random numbers in air and switching circuits to match, please do.

By then Mike had voder-vocoder circuits supplementing his read-outs, print-outs, and decision-action boxes, and could understand not only classic programming but also Loglan and English, and could accept other languages and was doing technical translating—and reading endlessly. But in giving him instructions was safer to use Loglan. If you spoke English, results might be whimsical; multi-valued nature of English gave option circuits too much leeway.

There’s one big difference between the two: in the story, Mike “wakes up”.

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