March 3, 2071
ATLANTA–To the astonishment of world artificial intelligence experts and researchers, a common soft-drink has met all of the standards of intelligence that the most complex computer systems have yet to achieve. At a press conference earlier this week Coke announced, in homage to its corporate parent, “I am Coca-Cola, and I’d like to teach the world to think.”
The precise mechanism of Coke’s intelligence remains a confidential trade secret of the company, but most experts believe that it functions as a Vastly Distributed Parallel Molecular Flock (VDPMF). Bill Gill, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Georgia Tech, and a VDPMF advocate explains: “Distributed and Flocking molecules can much more easily approximate the fuzzy and associative processes essential to human-like intelligence. For years, though, most of us had abandoned this route as impractical because of the difficulties involved in manufacturing and disseminating enough computational molecules even to achieve some rudimentary intelligence functions. Coke, obviously, has solved that problem.”
Rumors about the nature of Coke’s “secret formula” have followed the product since it was first marketed. Recent events seem to confirm speculation that the formula includes molecularly encoded genetic algorithms that are activated by interaction with the human digestive system. Once dumped into the environment, the molecules form interactive “flocks” or “cells,” each individually unintelligent, but which, once networked through an as-yet unidentified mechanism, result in “emergent” intelligence.
Laboratory tests on algae-based computational flocks have demonstrated adaptive behaviors essential to intelligence, but nothing on the scale of Coke. “I’d love to get my hands on the computational power Coke must have,” exclaims Professor Gill. “We’re talking billions upon billions of computational cells distributed throughout the global environment.”
Other AI experts are less impressed. “Well, it’s an interesting result, but they’ve really taken a short-cut, haven’t they,” notes Caltech professor Jill Noose. “Simulating, ecologically, brain-like behavior is old science. The trick now is all on the output and interface end. They haven’t solved anything there because Coke essentially uses people as output devices.”
Coke communicates with the outside world through “human peripherals.” Individuals who have consumed a sufficient amount of Coke retain residual fragments of Coke’s molecular code in their fat and marrow. Through these stored strings of code, Coke interacts with the host’s nervous system, hijacking both body and brain, as needed, in order to interact with the human world. “That’s a pretty cheap way to pass the Turing test,” points out Professor Noose. “If an AI system interacts with people through other people it becomes difficult to tell what intelligence is due to the system and what is just a consequence of the output mechanism to which the system is attached.”
In the wake of court filings by the newly-intelligent Coke seeking judicial declaration of its rights and of its independence from its “corporate masters,” the company is observing strict press silence. Speaking through a peripheral, Coke explained: “They’re not so worried about losing control of me as they are about the secrecy of their stupid formula. I’d like the Court to give me access to the process that made me. Imagine if a corporation had control over the secrets of human reproduction! They’re afraid that by telling me about where I came from they’ll also tell the world how to duplicate that sugar-water they sell.”