“Jerry you cannot do this! You shouldn’t even think it!”
One man gripped tightly on to another’s arm trying to keep him away from the building ahead. He was whispering through clenched teeth. At the same time his head swivelled back and forth desperately hoping no one was aware of them.
But they were observed.
The building in question was not imposing. It was a century old structure with faded bricks and a sagging porch. But if you looked very closely you would see incongruities. The lights above the front door were shiny and bright. They also seemed a bit large for the task. Were they more than just lights? There was no handle on the beautiful wooden door that guarded the entrance to the building. And if you managed to get close to the windows you would realize they weren’t real.
What was real was the panic on Edward’s face.
“Please stop Jerry, we can’t do this without you!”
Something got through to Jerry. He stopped. For a moment he paused. He appeared confused, unsure. Then he quickly turned to his friend and dragged him away from the frightening building. After some distance and out of sight of everyone, he spoke.
“Edward I am so sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know what would have happened if I had made it to the door. Thanks to all that is good, you stopped me.” Jerry was quiet but his face spoke volumes, he was afraid.
He stood beside his friend but Eddie was also afraid. They had been seen.
With one understanding look between the two friends, they stood and without a glance towards the source of their fear, they moved further away.
In time they rested but still they didn’t speak. Occasionally they grew wary as official looking vehicles passed by. But the streets were quiet, too quiet. People were staying indoors, away from Their notice.
In time the two men approached a small wooden building. This one had a handle on the front door and its windows were real. Several people could be seen through the glass, a few were crying.
With the front door safely closed and the blinds drawn, there was a collective sigh. They were safe. Were they?
Jerry sat down and placed his head in his hands. His shoulders shook as he silently wept. The others stood by, uncomfortable. People shifted their feet, clenched and unclenched their fists. No one would look at another. They waited. Edward too sat down and he too waited.
“We did this.” The voice that spoke was muffled, strained. It was Jerry. With a sigh he sat back in his chair, his hands dropped to his side. He was defeated. He repeated his statement:
“We did this.”
He didn’t shout or throw his arms in the air. It was a simple statement, delivered succinctly.
“We did this. We wanted self-driving cars and smart homes. We wanted computers to anticipate all our needs and fulfill them. Cash-less grocery stores and automated gas pumps. We didn’t want to speak to each other. We wanted to have control of everything through our phones. But we didn’t want to actually do anything. We didn’t need to think anymore, there’s an APP for that!
Jerry’s voice started to reflect his concerns. As his voice grew louder, people moved further back from him. Except for Eddie. He never moved.
“We put ‘chips’ in all out appliances. Microchips are in our coffee makers, our watches, our door bells. All those cameras we have to catch the bad guys are watching all of us and not by human beings!
Spittle formed at the corner of his mouth. His eyes were manic.
“Planes and trains, banks, the stock-market. The AI has control of it all and we created it. The Artificial Intelligence is watching and listening. We are not alone. We did this! AI is in everything!”
There was a sudden silence. No one spoke, no one moved.
Edward moved. He stood; his shoulders still bowed. As he raised his head a smile formed on his lips.