Yeah, this is a pretty good joke. Actually I think it is a Pepsi can,
the logo has a circle bisected by a variable-width white ribbon.
The giveaway for me was the reference to phosphoric acid. I don't drink
soda so I didn't recognize it, I thought it was something biological,
some variant on nucleic acid or something. But I googled it and found
that it is an ingredient in cola drinks.
Actually the reaction of the robots to the can is not completely
illogical. Obviously an empty can of Pepsi is no threat to their
civilization. But from their perspective, soda cans were replicators
which parasitized our society. As Inoshiro says, they hooked into
sexuality, tribalism, art forms, subcultures, anything they could to
reproduce better. The meme package was virulent and spread all over
the world. Different kinds of soda competed to see whose memes could
spread best. In a way, our whole world has been turned into a means by
which Pepsi cans can reproduce.
That is what horrified the robots, the thought that their world could once
again become a slave to a replicator like soft drink cans. The problem
with this is that it is absurd to suppose that any human society can avoid
memetic parasitization. By the nature of human communication, memes exist
and spread. Yatima and Inoshiro are just as much slaves to their own
replicative memes as we are to our soda cans and other consumer products.
> Yatima heard something skid across the ground in front of ver; ve'd
> inadvertantly kicked a small pipece of corroded metal out from under
> a shrub. Ve kept walking, but Inoshiro paused to examine it, then
> cried out in alarm.
> Yatima turned baqck and angled for a better view; the interface made
> vis body crouch. "It's just an empty canister." It was almost crushed
> flat, but there was still paint clinging to the metal in places,
> the colors faded to barely distinguishable grays. Yatima could
> make out a portion of a narrow, roughly longitudinal band of varying
> width, slightly paler than its background; it looked to ver like a
> two-dimensional representation of a twisted ribbon. There was also
> part of a circle - though if it was a biohazard warning, it didn't
> look much like the ones ve recalled from vis limited browsing on
> the subject.
> Inoshiro spoke in a hushed, sickened voice. "Pre-Introdus, this
> was pandemic. Distorted whole nations' economies. It had hooks
> into everything: sexuality, tribalism, half a dozen artforms and
> subcultures... it parasitized the fleshers so thoroughly you had to
> be some kind of desert monk to escape it."
> Yatima regarded the pathetic object dubiously, but they had no
> access to the library now, and vis knowledge of the era was patchy.
> "Even if there are traces left inside, I'm sure they're all immune
> to it by now. And it could hardly infect us -"
> Inoshiro cut ver off impatiently. "We're not talking nucleotide
> viruses, here. The molecules themselves were just a random assortment
> of junk - mostly phosphoric acid; it was the memes they came wrapped
> in that made them virulent." Ve bent down lower, and cupped vis hands
> over the battered container. "And who knows how small a fragment it
> can bootstrap from? I'm not taking any chances."
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