There’s one other entity by the last name, Watson, who’s nearly as famous as the Sherlock Holmes sidekick. In 2011, it beat two champion quizzers hands down, in the cerebral game show, “Jeopardy!,” and coolly walked away with a prize of $1 million.
The modern-day Watson is the world’s first “cognitive computer,” developed by I.B.M. It can answer questions posed in nuances of ordinary language, such as a pun—without being connected to the Internet.
Now, it’s trying its hand at what I.B.M. calls “computational creativity,” in which an artificial intelligence helps humans to think in ways they’ve never thought of before. One field that this technology can shake up thunderously is the food industry, in the area of whipping up unexplored flavors that’ll become commercial hits.
To that end, Watson has been tasked with coming up with its own recipes, by an out-of-the-box permutation and combination of spices, herbs, seasonings, and essences.
The Bengali Butternut BBQ Sauce is one such edible, algorithmic creation. Beginning with its very name, there’s nothing garden-variety about it. Its two stand-out ingredients are white wine and butternut squash.
A true mélange of the East and the West, it has, alongside American barbecue sauce mainstays like molasses, garlic, and mustard, a string of Eastern flavors: rice vinegar, dates, cilantro, tamarind, cardamom, and—turmeric, the staple of curries.
Coda: Watson reminds me of HAL 9000, from “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). Its naming is one of the most famous contemporary plays on a Caesar Shift cipher. A Caesar Shift of minus one, translates HAL into I.B.M.