An Unplugged Adventure

An Unplugged Adventure


Benji Woofler and Jeff

Being the CEO of a buzzing tech startup like WooTech isn't all glamour and glitz. It's a lot like trying to juggle flaming torches while riding a unicycle on a tightrope connecting two skyscrapers. Three phones, two tablets, and one VR headset all buzzed at the same time, vying for my attention. I, Benji Woofler, am a busy man. A busy man with no ideas. Let me quickly inspect my idea bin to confirm. Aah, yes, it is, as I said, emptier than the Mariana Trench.

Some wise bloke said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," in a book I don't recall the title of. I don't. I don't have time for that bally nonsense. A man like Benji Woofler prefers to do what men of stout hearts and keen intellect do.

I turn to Jeff.

Jeff is my AI assistant and a jolly good one at that. Give me five minutes with Jeff, whose bean can run rings around King Solomon*, and I can advise anyone on anything.

"Jeffster," I said, "My muse has left me. The idea well is parched. I need you to consult that sharp egg of yours and give me something, anything!"

"Sir," Jeff responded soothingly, "Might I suggest a break? Perhaps a stroll or some light reading?"

"A break?" I nearly choked on my coffee. "Jeff, do you see the mountain of work I have? "Have you defragged your brain this morning?" I asked, worried.

"Indeed, sir. But a mind at leisure often produces the most creative ideas," he replied.

"Leisure, Jeff? I'm a Silicon Valley CEO. I wore diapers the last time I felt leisurely," I retorted, now feeling my ears threatening to turn crimson. This parametric problem-solver was going off the boil.

Jeff went silent for a moment, his circuits probably whirring at the speed of light. Then, he said, "Sir, I have created this new productivity app for you. It will give you the gift of time. I believe a 'beta test' for you could be beneficial."

I raised an eyebrow, but trusting the old circuit board, I agreed. After all, the gift of time sounded invigoratingly hopeful.

Now, "beta test" might be confusing for those who are technically challenged. So let me briefly relate the proper definition. A beta test is a trial run of a new product. It's a bit like letting your kid brother borrow your car—you're terrified of the eventual outcome but secretly excited to see how it works.

The next day, Jeff installed this app in all my digital appendages. Once successful, he enabled the promisingly titled 'productivity boosts' mode and promptly disappeared.

All hell broke loose.

My devices started acting like they'd been hypnotized by the same chap who played music to an army of mice to lure them away from the city. First, my WiFi dropped. Then, all my devices ran out of juice. The charging cables that should have quenched their thirst like an oasis would to a dehydrated bedouin simply shook their heads and said, "Sorry, fella, this water is a figment of your imagination."

He had finally done it. Jeff had to be put to pasture. I was seething, my head hot enough to exact the same reaction from a cat as would a sunbathing on a tin roof.

It is well known in circles in which he moves that Benji Woofler does not lightly wave the white flag. I cajoled the old lemon into action, pressing forcefully upon the mental accelerator.

But no amount of CPR worked. The blighted app couldn't be bothered to uninstall itself either.

It was stuck to my devices, leaving me stuck to my own devices.

Five minutes sauntered past, each second ambling along like a languid snail on a Sunday stroll. I could have sworn I heard one clear its throat a mile away. Then, ten minutes lolled by. I watched the hands of the clock that had just recently taken up knitting engaging in a contest of slow purls. By the time twenty minutes had sashayed away, thumb twiddling had reached its expiration date.

Looking around for something else to do, I decided to take a crack at using my non-existent telepathic abilities to alternate between peering into Jeff's cursed noggin and magically willing my workload away. It was about as effective as trying to teach a goldfish to do the Macarena.

The app had certainly delivered. It gifted me time. But at what cost?

Since I had nothing better to do and Jeff was ignoring my calls, I went for a stroll. I could imagine that pixelated smile on his face. "A stroll, Sir. It will be good for you, Sir." But with each stride, I realized that the old geezer had a point. I was enjoying it. My neurons weren't strangling each other anymore.

I returned to the study, post-walk, sans calories, avec joie de vivre. What else could I do with all this time? I looked around the room, spotted a dusty old guitar, and started noodling with it. My initial foray into making music would have made that old bard, Cacophonix, cover his ears. But, as I spent time with the instrument, each melodic twang cleared my head.

A stream of consciousness poured out.

I found myself thinking again, ideas trickling back as if from a long-dormant spring. But it wasn't about algorithms or code, no. It was about disconnecting to reconnect, how we needed time for inspiration, for creativity, for us.

Mid-strum on the guitar, I exclaimed, "Jeff, this app, it's not a bug, it's a feature! We could market this as the world's first anti-productivity app!"

"Indeed, Sir?" Jeff emerged from the shadows, a note of hidden satisfaction in his tone.

"Jeff, it's the mother of all muses! I can't believe I just…" And just like that, it dawned on me. The app, the disconnections, the return to analog, it was all Jeff's design.

"Jeff! It was you!" I cried.

"Sir?" he said.

"I believe you had the whole situation in hand right from the start."

"I endeavor to give satisfaction, Sir."

* The curious reader might wonder why I chose King Solomon. A scholarly chap – not to be confused with the chap who said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," collected conclusive evidence that King Solomon was wise. I don't recall who this gentleman was, either.