Dutch replica of Noah's Ark. By Ceinturion.

Genesis from where?

The first chapters of Genesis concern creation, the fall, and the flood. These stories all took place in Mesopotamia, nowadays Iraq. It is the birthplace of several ancient civilisations, such as the Sumerians and the Babylonians. These civilisations are much older than the Jewish nation, and they had myths about creation and the flood that are at least 1,000 years older than the Jewish Bible. When the Jews compiled their scriptures, they were in exile in Babylon in Mesopotamia. Most likely, they used existing myths from the area to write the first chapters of Genesis. A Babylonian creation myth, the Enūma Eliš, resembles the first chapter of Genesis:

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primaeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods, none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being.

Other parts of Genesis resemble the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. The epic tells that the gods became tired of working on Creation and created a man to do the hard work. For that, they put a god to death and mixed his blood with clay to make the first human in the likeness of the gods:

In the clay, god and man
Shall be bound,
To a unity brought together;
So that to the end of days
The Flesh and the Soul
Which in a god have ripened –
That soul in a blood kinship is bound.

In Genesis, God created humans in the likeness of the gods (1:26). God rested after six days of hard labour (Genesis 2:2-3). God then made a man to work the ground (Genesis 2:5) and made him from soil (Genesis 2:7). In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods created the first man in Eden, the garden of the gods in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The same happened in Genesis (Genesis 2:14). There is an alternative account of the creation of man in the story of Enki and Ninmah. The gods, burdened with creating the earth, complained to Namma, the primaeval mother. Namma then kneaded some clay, placed it in her womb, and gave birth to the first humans.

The original man, Enkidu, was wild, naked, muscular, hairy and uncivilised. The gods sent a woman to tame him with her nakedness and love. By making love to him for a week, she turned him into a civilised man of wisdom like a god. She gave him a meal and clothed him. In Genesis, Eve made Adam eat (Genesis 2:6). Eve and Adam were naked before they came to knowledge (Genesis 3:7). God gave them clothes (Genesis 3:21).

The Epic of Gilgamesh differs from Genesis, but the similarities are striking. In both stories, a god creates a man from the soil. The man lives naked in nature. A woman then tempts him. In both accounts, the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and leaves his former life. The appearance of a snake stealing a plant of immortality in the Epic of Gilgamesh is also noteworthy.

The flood story in Genesis closely resembles the account in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The stories are so similar that few scholars doubt the Epic of Gilgamesh is the source of the biblical narrative. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the city of Shurrupak at the Euphrates River had grown. The god Enlil could not sleep because of the sounds the city made. The gods then agreed to drown all the humans in a flood.

But the god Ea appeared to Utnapishtim, warned him and asked him to build an ark. With his children and hired men, Utnapishtim built an enormous boat, and he went on it with his relatives, animals, and craftsmen. The storm god, Adad, sent a terrible thunderstorm with pouring rains that drowned the city. Then the gods felt sorry for what they did.

After seven days, the weather calmed. Utnapishtim looked around and saw an endless sea. He saw a mountain rising out of the water. After another seven days, he released a dove into the air. The dove returned, having found no place to land. He then released a swallow that also came back. Then he released a raven that did not come back. Utnapishtim disembarked and made an offering to the gods.

Featured image: Dutch replica of Noah’s Ark. By Ceinturion CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

From Last Stand, Sci-Fi Short Film Made with Artificial Intelligence

The nature of reality

It appears we live inside a simulation created by an advanced post-human civilisation. Science sufficiently established several laws of reality, so if breaches in these laws occur, this is evidence of this world being fake. With the help of observations and induction, we can certify that these laws of reality do not always apply. The argument for us living inside a simulation thus hinges upon the following assumptions that appear plausible:

  • Science has sufficiently established a set of laws of reality.
  • The breaching of these laws is evidence of us living in a simulation.
  • There is evidence that these laws are breached from time to time.

Humans think they are unique and superb creatures, the apex of all that roams the planet. They attach great value to their inner selves and are unlikely to change their human essence once they can, so post-humans are likely to have similar motivations as we have. Hence, they might run simulations of human ancestor civilisations for research and entertainment.

The number of simulations for entertainment likely vastly outstrips those for research. It then follows that our most likely purpose is entertainment. The breaching of the laws of reality further suggests so. Simulations run for research are more likely to be realistic. Signs of control indicate that our universe is not a game but someone’s imaginary world. In a game, there is no need to control the outcome.

Being part of someone’s imaginary world appears to be our situation. This universe may come with a post-human owner we can call God. And God may use avatars in this simulation to become an ordinary human being.

Evidence of control indicates we are not sentient. We may not think and may not have a will. It could mean that we do not have intrinsic value to God and that God does not feel moral restraints when dealing with us. Bad things happen to people, and God could have prevented them from happening.

An individual can’t build this world alone or write out the script in every detail. It seems to require the use of artificial intelligence. We can already write scripts and make films in this way. So the owner of this world may only need to write the main storyline and the plot and leave the rest to the computer.

The simulation hypothesis sheds light on things that would otherwise remain unexplained. It makes a lot of sense. The strength of the evidence seems to outweigh the issues, such as a lack of scientific evidence for the paranormal, the limits of the human mind like attributing causes where randomness applies or seeing meaning when there is none, hindsight bias and the difficulties in establishing probabilities of meaningful coincidences occurring.

Featured image: From Last Stand, Sci-Fi Short Film Made with Artificial Intelligence

The Great Reset

During the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum (WEF) launched a plan, The Great Reset. It aims to rebuild the world economy more intelligently, fairer and sustainably while adhering to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These SDGs include ending poverty, improving health and well-being, better education, equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, jobs and economic growth. That sounds great, but is it a reset? It would be up to so-called responsible corporations and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to implement the agenda before 2030. Not everyone thinks that is a great idea.

The change is supposed to be powered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a fusion of technologies in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing. I get an uneasy feeling when I read that. It looks like an excuse for technology addicts to play with our future. Is it because I am against progress, or is it because of a rational fear that something is about to go seriously wrong even though I don’t know exactly what?

Under the umbrella of the Great Reset, so-called young global leaders of the WEF came up with new ideas. For instance, new technologies can make products like cars and houses cheaply available as a service, ending the need to own these items. A young global leader wrote an article titled, ‘Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.’1 She hoped to start a discussion, and the article produced a slogan that also became an Internet meme, ‘You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy.’ There certainly is an economic rationale for sharing items like cars, most notably if they become more expensive to keep because of technological innovation.

Property, for instance, a home, can give you economic freedom. If you own a home, you don’t have to pay rent. And you own some capital when you retire. Some people think the WEF is a sinister elite club scheming to achieve a secret agenda where the elites own everything, and the rest of us ends up with nothing. And that might happen anyway if current trends continue because that is how capitalism works. Capital accumulates and ends up in the hands of a few because of interest. It is not a secret since Karl Marx figured that out. And it leads to a crisis when the impoverished masses can’t buy the things that capital produces. With negative interest rates, there is no need for that.

Property rights have become a semi-religious value in Western culture. That prevents us from taking the property of the elites and ending their stranglehold on our political economy. Marx advised that workers or the state would take over corporations. That might not be a good idea because workers and governments often do poorly at running corporations. Markets and private enterprises can efficiently provide goods and services, but it comes with wealth inequality and happens at the expense of future generations. Our societies must find the right balance. At some point, the disadvantages of the current political economy start to outweigh the advantages.

We use far more resources than the planet can provide, and wealth inequality is now so extreme that we might need a genuine Great Reset. Taking the wealth from the elites and discontinuing enterprises that don’t provide for our essentials is not communism, as long as there are markets and private property. People should prosper if their work benefits society and enterprises often do better at providing for our needs. But we don’t benefit from the corrupting influence of oligarchs. Their wealth comes from inheritance, criminal and shady activities, and, most notably, accumulated interest on their capital. That arrangement may have suited us in the past, but not now.

Economists believe property rights are essential for economic growth, and that business owners should be able to do as they please. For instance, Elon Musk has the right to ruin Twitter because he owns the company. Should employees and others suffer from the irrational behaviour of their owners? In the Netherlands, a series of interesting trials took place, where corporations tried to escape the influence of their majority shareholder Gerard Sanderink, who allegedly didn’t act rationally in the interest of these companies.2 Limited property rights and a collectivist attitude have not prevented China from becoming a large and advanced economy surpassing the United States and may have contributed to China’s success.

The degree of individualism currently existing in the West may do more harm than good. They promote political fights and litigation and prevent us from doing what we should do. And perhaps, less privacy can go a long way in reducing crime. Property rights and individualism were crucial to start capitalism and made the West dominate the world for centuries. And so, we have learned to see them as necessary, inevitable or even desirable. But once the European imperialist capitalist engine ran, these features became less important than economic stability. If you start a business, you must be able to estimate your returns, but you can lease everything and own nothing.

Individualism and property rights also play a positive role in society. The cultural heritage of the West is extensive compared to other cultures, for instance, if you express it in the number of books written or discoveries made. Self-interest and personal responsibility can inspire us to work harder and do a better job. The Soviet Union failed to produce enough food for its citizens while there was enough arable land. In the Soviet Union, farmers had to work on collective enterprises where they could not do as they saw fit and didn’t share in the profits. The tragedy of the commons is that we don’t care for public spaces as much as our possessions. Homeowners usually take better care of their houses than tenants. The same is true for car owners.

As they are now, property rights protect the elites. And the WEF plan is just a fart in the wind, not a Great Reset. We face unprecedented worldwide challenges while wealth inequality is at extreme levels, so individualism and property rights need limits. And we need a proper Great Reset, or a switch from economic to political control of the world’s resources if we intend to live in a humane world society that respects our planet. It is what a corporation named Patagonia did in 2022.3 We can do that on a global scale.

It begins with seizing the wealth of oligarchs and criminals and all hidden wealth in offshore tax havens, including their so-called charities, placing them in sovereign wealth funds, and setting a limit on what individuals can own or earn. And perhaps, we need to build our future on values rather than balance sheets. And everyone should contribute. Capital accumulates by interest, and people who live off interest don’t work for a living. That might be as bad as being on the dole while you can work. And peddling unnecessary products that harm life on Earth could be as bad as being a criminal.

Laws should prevent people and corporations from doing wrong, but they often fail to do that. Corporations pollute the environment or exploit employees to make a profit. But consumers desire excellence for rock-bottom prices. It is profitable to break the law if you can get away with it or when the gain is higher than the fine. And if there are loopholes, they become exploited. The anonymity provided by money, large corporations and markets turn us into uncaring calculating creatures. That is why big pharma, the military-industrial complex, the financial industry, and the Internet giants threaten us. If corporations do right out of their own, many laws and regulations become redundant. If moral values can replace the law, it could be better.

Less efficiency, poorer service and a smaller choice of products can be preferable if that doesn’t lead to deprivation and starvation. For instance, why must you get your meal from a takeaway restaurant instead of preparing it yourself? Or why do you need to dress up in the latest fashion if you have ample wearable clothing? And you must work to pay for these things, so if you don’t buy them, you have time to prepare your meal or mend your clothes. We don’t want to give up these things, so in a democracy, we can’t fix this problem. Perhaps we might accept the change if God sends a Messiah who tells us this is for the best.

That might be wishful thinking, but what else can make it happen if it is not religion? Do you believe we will come to our senses, become one humanity, and do right on our own? That is wishful thinking. God is our only hope. As we are heading for the Great Collapse in one way or another, the End Times could be now. We might live inside a simulation run by an advanced humanoid civilisation.4 Hence, God might own this world, and you might soon discover that you own nothing and be happy. God’s kingdom might be a utopian society as early Christians lived like communists (Acts 4:32-35).

So what can we achieve by taking political control of the world’s resources and means of production by seizing the elite’s wealth and placing it in sovereign wealth funds? You can think of the following:

  • We can direct our means to the goals of a humane society, be respectful of this planet, and plan long-term.
  • We can dismantle harmful corporations or give them a new purpose without starting an economic crisis with mass unemployment.
  • We can make corporations employ people in developing countries and give them an education and decent salaries.
  • We can fund essential government services in developing countries and eliminate corruption insofar as it is due to insufficient pay of government employees.
  • We can make corporations produce sustainably and pass on the cost to consumers.
  • We can determine the pay of executives.
  • We can halt developments like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and nuclear energy if we believe they are undesirable.
  • We can end the incentive to produce and consume more and stop the advertising industry from tracking us.
  • We can end stress in the workplace if we axe bullshit jobs and redirect workers to the needs of society. A twenty-hour working week might be enough.

Interest stands in the way of a better future. The economy ‘must’ grow to pay for the interest. We ‘must’ work harder in bullshit jobs to pay for the interest. Corporations ‘must’ sell harmful products to pay for the interest. Corporations ‘must’ pay low wages or move production to low-wage countries to pay for the interest. And because of interest, money disappears from where it is needed most and piles up where it is needed least. Interest is our tribute to the wealthy. If we hope to live in a humane world society that respects creation, ending interest might be imperative. That is where Natural Money comes in.

Latest revision: 28 April 2023

Featured image: You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy. WEF.

1. Welcome To 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy And Life Has Never Been Better. Ida Auken. World Economic Forum (2016).
2. Zakenman Gerard Sanderink tierend in rechtszaal: ‘Deze rechtbank deugt voor geen meter!’ AD.nl (2023).
3. Patagonia’s Next Chapter: Earth is Now Our Only Shareholder. Patagonia (2022).
4. Are You Living In a Computer Simulation? Nick Bostrom. Philosophical Quarterly, 2003, Vol. 53, No. 211, pp. 243-255.

The farm

Nearly every Sunday, we went to our grandparents. For most of the afternoon, we visited my father’s parents near a village close to Winterswijk. They lived on a remote farm with my father’s youngest brother, my uncle Paul, who had continued and greatly expanded it. On our way home, we went to my mother’s parents for an hour and a half. In 1976, they sold their even-more remote farm in another village nearby. They moved to a small apartment for seniors in Eibergen. And to stress the remoteness, the Dutch call this area De Achterhoek (The Rear Corner). And Winterswijk is at the rear of that area. Thus a farm outside a village near Winterswijk is as remote as it can get in the Netherlands, linguistically, that is. This supposedly is a story in virtual reality. The Netherlands is a tiny country, so it is not like the desert of Algeria, the mountains of Chile, or the taiga of Siberia. Enschede is only 25 kilometres away, and Amsterdam is 125.

The atmosphere at both venues couldn’t be more different. My father’s family was noisy and outgoing, while my mother’s family was quiet and withdrawn. If we visited my father’s parents, all the aunts, uncles, and cousins were there. The men played cards in the living room and blamed their mates vociferously for each other’s mistakes. A dense smoke of cigarettes filled the room, so I often went outside with my cousins to play and get some fresh air. It was always fun to be there. At my mother’s parents, there never were aunts, uncles or cousins. Most people my grandparents knew were old too and gradually dying. They often discussed diseases like tumours, heart attacks and strokes, hospitals, treatments, mostly failing, and funerals, so I usually went outside with Anne Marie to escape the gloom.

Part of the local folklore in De Achterhoek is the rock band Normaal. Their greatest hit was Oerend Hard (Bloody Fast). It is about driving too fast on motorbikes and the accidents that come from that. They also made a song Ik ben maor een eenvoudige boerenlul (I’m just a simple farm prick), a sentence that reveals a bit of the mood in De Achterhoek. The local tradition is not one of pretence and elevated taste. And if you would ask the locals what Normaal is about, the answer would probably be høken, which is having fun in a rough manner. I was not a fan of Normaal, but they had a significant following in De Achterhoek and adjacent Twente.

For those who did not like to say they live on the edge of civilisation, De Achterhoek has yet another name, De Graafschap (The Shire), also the name of a place where an imaginary tale about Hobbits started. That is noteworthy because the character Frodo in the film looked a bit like me when I was young. I mention this to point out how much effort might have gone into this. Other elaborations of this kind in this account serve a similar purpose.

My uncle Paul was a kind man. We could get along, and it began when I was five. He praised my calculation skills and made me do sums on his lap while I became interested in his farm. And so I stayed with my grandparents quite often during the holidays. My uncle bred pigs. I fed the pigs, saw piglets being born and pigs going to the slaughterhouse, witnessed the artificial inseminating of sows dubbed KI, and saw tails being cut from piglets because they would otherwise injure each other by biting them off. And I became familiar with his business operations. Paul greatly expanded the farm to achieve economies of scale. And he focused on efficiency. The farm was clean because the manure fell through a grate, and the pigs lived in confined spaces. As you might know, pigs like to forage in the mud, digging up their meals.

Sows that didn’t give birth to as many piglets as the others went to the slaughterhouse. Paul selected sows based on the number of nipples for his breeding to improve his pedigree. A sow with twelve nipples could raise more piglets than one with ten. From his piglets, he chose the best sows. The others, including the boars, went to the slaughterhouse after being fattened. To Paul, it was a necessity. His business could only survive with efficiency and economies of scale. And I didn’t think much of it as it had been that way since time immemorial, except for the scale and efficiency.

There always loomed dangers, and Paul could fret. An infectious disease could erase his pedigree. And the price of pigs fluctuated wildly. He had years with high profits and years with massive losses. But his business went well. The old and poorly constructed farm was from the 1930s, so when he married in 1977, he had the old farm demolished and a new farm built. The new farm was an eye-catcher as it was in traditional style. It was huge and included a home for my grandparents. I heard he had spent a lot of money on it. People came to the farm to take a picture of it. It was indeed exceptional. But perhaps you should think for a moment, how many pigs were slaughtered for that? Do not see this as a reproach. It is a question you might ask.

Featured image: the farm that belonged to my uncle. Google Streetview. [copyright info]

Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau

Introducing Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau

In the autumn of 1989, I was a student. I left a dormitory because I did not fit in the group. Most notably, I could not get along with a particular Lady. I returned to my parental home to gather courage before trying out another dormitory.

There was not much to laugh about in those days, except for a few episodes of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau aired on German television. My parents lived near the German border so that I could watch them.

Clouseau was inept, but he always managed to solve the mystery. Guided by a few hunches and vague clues that only made sense to him, he ignored the obvious explanations of the facts and uncovered the truth by accident.

How could a bumbling clown like Clouseau be correct while competent people fail? The answer is that he is a fictional character in a story. The plot is always that Clouseau is right in the end, much to the chagrin of his superior officer.

And what about my claims about God? My business with the Lady from the dormitory had not finished. Over the years, peculiar incidents occurred that reminded me of Her. And in 2008, She appeared to make telepathic contact.

She made Herself known as Eve and implied that I am Adam. I concluded She could be God, and investigated this possibility. We could all be characters in a story. And so, I could be right if that is part of the plot.

Feature image: Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. Petersellers.com. [copyright info]