Ahsen Jillani


By Ahsen Jillani

“Welcome to the Seventh-Fifth Bank of Bikini-Atol – Where service comes first. Please listen carefully as our menu items have changed.”

“To continue communicating with a giggling A.I. robot, please press 5. To have a giggling robot read you the FAQ from our bank website, please press 4. To ask the giggling robot if you need any additional help, press 7. To ask the programming genius who came up with this number sequence, please hang up and try again later. All the programmers have burger grease dripping on their arms and cannot get to the phone. Your approximate wait time is 19 years, 4 days.”

“I want to talk to a human. I want a human.”

“Okay, no problem. Let me connect you. Goodbye.”

Knock knock. “Yes, I am your virtual date. May I come in?”

“Well, I guess. Would you like a glass of wine?”

“I’m sorry, liquids of any kind will short out my circuits.”

“How about doing the Waltz then.”

“I do not appreciate insults against Mr. Disney. I must depart in my self-propelled car now.”

“But what if there’s a malfunction and you fly over a chain link fence and your car door held together with toothpaste detaches and hits a nest of baby birds in the head?”

“Sir, we are A.I. We don’t make mistakes. Do you not watch YouTube and Tik Tok? Have a wonderful day.”

Duh, of course I’ve watched YouTube twice in the last two months. The medical information about guzzling down six gallons of olive oil, eight pounds of walnuts, avocado eggs ala nausea, avocado soup, almond butter bread, pushing pressure points on the body that make me faint for a few minutes, but I wake up with my polyphenols, polynomials, microbiome, Microsoft, estrogen levels, Omega 3, even helping my Omega watch to perfectly synch to the atomic clock. Then there’s this Filipino guy with three trillion views while he sings 40 songs for crying and enthralled judges, so emotional to even change their shirts for an entire season.

Of course that is not a blue screen behind this singer. Of course, out of synch videos of Elon Musk and Warren Buffett selling bitcoin are the real deal. Of course my nephew looked at me funny when he asked me how to turn on my TV. I handed him a basket with 11 remotes and said I had no idea. One remote even has a cord on it. Maybe 1981? “Careful with this one,” I told him. “It might launch the space shuttle. Or accelerate the Starship Enterprise to Warp One.”

Later, while watering my roses, this prospect of having infinite mass at light speed bothered me. Why don’t photons just fall down and through the floor of the universe? But maybe these pesky critters want to restrict our TV time with some sunshine and exercise. But the Enterprise cracking like a piece of dry naan bread kept me awake. It was the A.I. thing again – with Lt. Commander Data falling through space saying “Seventh-Fifth Bank of Bikini-Atol. Can you hear me now? May I help you? Our menu items…”

A lot has happened in my life approaching these twilight years. But the consistent element throughout has been this desire to purge the electronic noises, the useless phone calls, cars that talk to you, grocery checkouts that keep telling you to place the item back in the bag for the seventh-fifth time. My neighbor knocked at my door a few weeks back. “Your house is always dark when my husband and I go to dinner sometimes.”

“I am okay,” I said. “I sit in the dark. Sometimes I go up and continue to work on an oil painting.” So, this is nothing fancy. Sometimes I write a poem or a short story. None of these activities yield any masterpieces. But they yield peace. Nights become mornings and then the cycle repeats. People keep telling me to enjoy retirement. I keep telling them that if they could see the radio waves, the U/V, and infrared frequencies around us, they wouldn’t be able to see anything.

A lady who has been my friend for 20 years recently said I’d be dead in two years. I said: “There’s no life or death now, Jack. There are private jets and yachts, and $50 million mansions for corporate bosses who are now using robots that call you weekly because their databases remain out of date. That’s the reality. Pull the string in the back and a server fires up and goes yak yak yak and says, “No problem. We’ll update your information right away.”

It’s not a live person from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Outer Mongolia. It’s not even someone from Papua New Guinea saying, “Come enjoy the durian fruit and dance.” It’s not someone from Afghanistan saying, “Relax and squat next to fire and enjoy a chai while the goat cooks.” Who is making billions with nonsense robots saying, “Welcome to Seventh-Fifth Bank. How may I help you today?”

“Well, I want to make $47,000/day with Quantum A.I. Please connect me to Elon right away because I dream about a yacht that blows enough pollution in the air as a power plant – but the CEOs and stockholders. I want to be on that final obscene frontier myself.” Invest in A.I. That is God right now. Hang glide, sit with wine in a log cabin against a roaring fire, jog smiling and slapping each other playfully like in those drug commercials. It’ll be okay now. A.I. is here.

Ahsen Jillani, a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR firm focused on political and corporate clients. Contact: [email protected]