Witbreuksweg dormitory

Meaningful coincidences

Is it possible to prove that this universe is a virtual reality created by post-humans? The properties of this universe can’t be used to this aim. But there may be another way. If we live inside a virtual reality there might be a script. And if there is a script then this universe probably is a virtual reality. Presumably someone must be running the show in that case. Such a script might generate meaningful coincidences we can recognise. And indeed, peculiar coincidences happen, for instance similar extremely rare events happening on the same day.

On 15 July 2011 two television towers in the Netherlands caught fire. One collapsed in a spectacular way. There never had been a fire in a television tower in the Netherlands before while those television towers had been there for more than fifty years. And the number of television towers was small, making such an incident even more improbable. This caused some speculation as to a common cause. This is unlikely as these towers are two individual masts in different areas.1

The following happened to me. In 1992 I was making a bike trip in Groningen where I lived back then. While I was on my way a car door suddenly opened just in front of me. I could barely avoid a collision. Some ten minutes later, while I was still on the same trip, it happened again with another car on another road. Remarkably, it never happened before or after this trip that a car door just opened in front of me, even though I made bike trips nearly every day.

Incidents like these might be mere random events. Bizarre accidents happen all the time by chance because so many things happen at the same time that some of them seem bizarre. There is no way of calculating the odds of an event like two television towers catching fire in one country in one day because these events are extremely rare. The probability of each of these events happening is extremely low, but the number of possible rare accidents is extremely high.

But how low and how high? That matters a lot. If there are a million of these events, and the odds of one of them happening on a certain day is one in a million, we shouldn’t be surprised to see such events happening. On average an event like that should happen every day. But if the odds are one in a trillion, and these events happen quite often, we may be on to something, because on average it should happen once in a million days.

We attribute meaning in many different ways and we are not inclined to think of randomness in the case of unusual events. The number of possible meaningful coincidences is close to infinite so it should not suprise us that meaningful coincidences happen. On the other hand, bizarre meaningful coincidences are more likely to happen to someone but are less likely to happen to you or me. A curious coincidence like two television towers catching fire on the same day is less remarkable than this happening twice. And a complex scheme of meaningful coincidences has more significance than a simple incident like two car doors opening in front of you on the same day.

There were plenty of unusual incidents in my life. It seems there is something more. For instance, once I entered a do-it-yourself store. There was a couch near the entrance. The price tag was € 389. This caught my attention because as a student I lived in dormitory 389 on the campus of the University of Twente. Price tags often end with a nine so the incident wasn’t impressive. Then I realised that it would be far more curious to find a price tag of € 401 as I also had lived on domitory 401 and price tags rarely end with a 1.

A few seconds later I ran into a pile of bags of potting soil. These bags had 40l conspicuously printed on them, noting that they contained forty litres of potting soil. That was close enough to 401 to be intriguing. Even more so because dormitory 401 is the place from which I had been evicted by a certain lady. And peculiar coincidences referring to her had been happening over the years. There weren’t any other bags to be seen. Potting soil comes in bags of 10, 20, 25, 40 and 50 litres, and bags of 40 litres come with markings like 40L and 40 litres, so this is peculiar.

But more was to come. Two years later I came back to the same store. Bags of potting soil with the 40l marking were situated outside near the entrance. This reminded me of the previous incident. There was no couch near the entrance nor did I see a price tag of € 389 there. These things I noticed while I proceeded to fetch the item I was planning to buy. The price of this item turned out to be € 3.89.

This scheme is more intricate than two television towers catching fire or two car doors opening in front of you on the same day, most notably because there was a repeating pattern while these incidents also appear to be part of a larger scheme, in this case of a sequence of peculiar coincidences referring to a certain lady. The first coincidence was already remarkable. The second one was truly inconceivable if you come to think of it, or perhaps not, if you are a sceptic.

Featured image: Number 381 dormitory. University Of Twente (2013). [copyright info]

1. Onderzoek: Hoe konden twee zendmasten vandaag in brand vliegen? Algemeen Dagblad (15-07-2011). [link]

14 thoughts on “Meaningful coincidences

  1. I like the idea that we have found ourselves in a derived reality. I don’t necessarily warm to the idea that it has been manufactured by ‘post-humans’ though. It feels too human-centric and ‘of this world’. I imagine more of a natural process; worlds spontaneously birthing worlds. A branching ‘brute-force’ exploration. I’m not sure what it means for these worlds to be ‘real’. All we can say is that they feel ‘real’ to their respective inhabitants, because they are bound to the ‘rules’ and ‘script’ of that world.
    Sometimes it feels like we are just fragmented, partitioned pieces of consciousness observing ourselves (the mirror-like, reflecting ‘outer consciousness’)
    If such a statement is anywhere near the mark then coincidences become a communication.
    Reality batters us with simple cause and effect in its initial barrage. When we start to catch on, it ‘ups the ante’ with symbol, synchronicity and coincidence.
    It does seem to be some sort of ‘waking force’. Like in a dream when you suddenly catch on that something absurd is happening and the realisation instantly rushes in, ‘heck, i’m dreaming!’

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    • Things are the way they are and that is not always the way I want them to be. I may not like us being mere VR characters to entertain some post-human but that is what this could mean. Perhaps I am too much of a scientific person to accept vague explanations. I would like to know how these things are possible. The simulation argument makes sense in that respect. So I would like to make clear and specific arguments and see how much evidence there is to support them.

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      • If we as observers have some hand in the creation of ‘reality’ then it would be difficult for the scientific method to get a good handle on it. This link between observer and observed seems obvious when we dream, but in waking reality there seems too much consistency in the experience for this to be the case. I think the idea that the act of observing has an effect on the observed is a scientific orthodoxy though. I get the subjective feeling that ‘reality’ is quite wily and playful and does not suffer to be pinned down very easily. The firm ground we think we are on can soon be pulled away.

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      • In general, the more assumptions the argument needs, the more likely it is that the ground underneath it can be pulled away. The simulation argument only assumes that the technology to build virtual universes is feasible and can be made cheap. As soon as we are able to do it, it becomes validated.

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  2. Yes, for us the possibility that we are in a simulated or derived world is the important point. This fact alone would be enough to set our generally held notions on their head. As to who or what is running the show, then that is of secondary concern and difficult to get a handle on from our current vantage point.
    Interesting areas of speculation would be:

    Does a part of ‘ourselves’ reside in the over world? Is there some element of individual control, as in an ‘mmo’ game. The controls, if they exist, do not seem to be a particularly sharp and lag-free affair. We as avatars appear autonomous to ourselves, so any particular control or command from the over world will have quite a difficult job having much of an effect. (the sub-conscious world springs to mind)

    Is it possible for us as avatars to access the over world. Our avatarial bodies are obviously of this world so would have no place there. A body ‘of that world’ would need to be manufactured to house us. As to whether it would be worth doing for them? Not sure what we could bring to the party. Reminds me of the Greek myths, when one of the old gods might favour a human and whisk him to Olympus. Or the ‘flatland’ scenario of a 2D lifeform experiencing the 3D world.

    If reality is simulated then all is linked, at least at some level. Separation is artificial and just a matter of rules, code, script and laws of the simulation. Our memories, intentions and consciousness is not held in the ‘avatar’. The avatar is a place marker for certain locations in the overworld.

    Is it possible for an avatar to ‘hack’ its own world? This would seem more possible if there was a control element from the over world. It would certainly seem possible for avatars to discover loopholes, and shortcuts, not envisaged by the rule/ code makers. This can often be the reason for a simulation. To discover new ideas and ways of ‘gaming’ the rules. A serendipity machine!

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    • Proof is hard to come by so a different approach might be needed. Perhaps the perspective of a detective investigating a crime can be helpful. A detective looks for a plausible narrative that explains all the facts. Preferrably, the explanation makes sense. Evidence is not proof. So if I give evidence to support a position then it doesn’t need to prove the position but it might make it appear more plausible. So, here we go:

      (1) There is evidence suggesting that this world isn’t real. A plausible explanation is this world being a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation.

      (2) Why should an advanced civilisation run simulations? Two possibilities come to my mind, which are research (running scenarios) and entertainment.

      (3) If it is entertainment, the beings in the simulation are likely to resemble the beings in the civilisation that created it. For obvious reasons pictures about humans far outnumber the number of pictures that feature aliens.

      (4) I have found evidence for (a) my mind being controlled ( https://theplanforthefuture.org/2017/12/21/wake-up-call/ ) and (b) the existence of a script ( https://theplanforthefuture.org/2018/02/09/history-as-a-script/ ).

      (5) If there is a script then all minds must be controlled as chaos theory states that small deviations from initial conditions can (and probably will) lead to unpredictable outcomes.

      (6) A hidden assumption of the simulation argument is that simulations must be made cheap in order to make so many of them that the likelihood of us living in a simulation is near 100%.

      (7) If simulations are to be made cheap, memory and computing power must somehow be limited, hence a predetermined script makes more sense as it would require fewer resources.

      (8) If the script is predetermined then a research purpose appears unlikely. If these simulations can be made cheap, the number of simulations for entertainment are likely to outnumber those for research by a wide margin.

      (9) What might be the entertainment value if you know how it all will end? There is a possible answer. People look at pictures that are predetermined. They don’t know how it will end. The owner(s) of the simulation might be put in a dream state, not even knowing what will happen tomorrow.

      (10) But perhaps it is fun to know what will happen and make stunning plot if you are God (the post-human running the show). You may need to live within the limitations of your role in order not to disrupt the outcome, and if you are the only variable that has to be managed, that might be doable.

      (11). Arguably, if the technology is available, everyone might prefer his or her own simulation, or share it with a few others like a multi-player game, so that there might be billions of virtual realities, each with one or a few owners (gods) that have an existence outside this reality and billions of mere simulations. So most likely we don’t have an existence outside this world.

      (12). The argument could be made more plausible if it is possible to identify God. God might have dwelled amongst us using avatars. Perhaps it is possible to identify those avatars. An important clue we have is that Jesus might have known (an avatar of) God personally. And that became a separate area of investigation.

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  3. Where is all this pre-determinism coming from? When you talk about ‘script’ are you imagining 100% scripting, like a movie?
    I’m not sure that would describe the peak of entertainment. At least with us, the trend for this sort of stuff is towards ever-increasing interactivity. A bit of jeopardy thrown in also seems to heighten the ‘buzz’.
    Speaking of pre-destination though; I do like McKenna’s ideas around the notion of a singularity at the end of time. Something like a ‘gravity distortion’; An attractor pulling events in, like an explosion running backwards.

    View story at Medium.com

    As I say, with entertainment, the trend is towards ever more immersion.
    I imagine it would be quite enticing for a post human to be able to live multiple, full lives within a variety of simulations, all in the time-frame of it’s own ‘two week vacation’.
    Of course time would need to work differently for the simulation and reality. They would also need to be able to partition the mind; To temporarily separate and block previous memories when within the simulation.

    “The souls that throng the flood
    Are those to whom, by fate, are other bodies ow’d:
    In Lethe’s lake they long oblivion taste,
    Of future life secure, forgetful of the past.”

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    • So why the predetermination? That’s because I think it is the best explaination for the unusual coincidences if they aren’t just accidental. So if you consider the incident regarding these numbers 389 and 401, it would require all these items being in place (and that requires actions from people) and my thoughts wandering in these specific directions in order to make the coincidence possible.

      But I see the problem of this not appearing so entertaining to the owner. There are two possible options. The owner might be put in a dream state and have no memory of an existence outside this universe and believe that he or she is a human in this universe and his or her thougths might be controlled.

      The second is that the owner may know where things are heading. Perhaps there is entertainment in making your own story, most notably if the plot is stunning. So, if there is a stunning plot to this all then it be entertaining, even if you know the outcome.

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  4. With a simulation, ‘all these items’ are not required to be put into place, to manufacture coincidence, we just need to be given the experience of this happening. This would take considerably less computing power.
    Experiencing uncanny synchronicity might be a by-product of having the idea that we are possibly living in a simulation.
    Meaningful coincidences may be a form of higher tier communication built into the simulation.

    What’s this about an owner? I don’t see them as a private affair; I imagine a more communal, public service; a shared venture. You say the owner may be put in a dream state and have no memory of an existence outside; What about a whole population being placed in simultaneously. Even better to be allowed to influence the narrative of the simulated world; within the parameters and rules, set out for the simulation of course. It would require some regulation to ensure people get what they signed up for, though. Administrators may need to periodically don an ‘avatarial body’ and undertake a little troubleshooting. Of course they wouldn’t suffer a memory wipe and would seem like miracle workers with their full administration rights.

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    • With a simulation, ‘all these items’ are not required to be put into place, to manufacture coincidence, we just need to be given the experience of this happening. This would take considerably less computing power.
      In that case I would be the only ‘real’ person here. I am a simple person and I am inclined to believe that somebody put the bags with potting soil there, someone made the price tags, someone drove a truck to bring the items to the store. But that doesn’t have to be and you don’t have to be real either.

      Experiencing uncanny synchronicity might be a by-product of having the idea that we are possibly living in a simulation.
      It could be suggestion. Things could be random. So, if I don’t believe in it, the coincidence doesn’t happen? I may not notice it, but that is something different. It may be meaningless in that case, even if it is the same coincidence. But perhaps this website is a random sequence of letters and maybe you see meaning only because you have the idea that these letters have meaning. I hope you see the point.

      Meaningful coincidences may be a form of higher tier communication built into the simulation.
      Carl Jung said that events are ordered by meaning and not by cause and effect. I find that problematic. So the bag of potting soil has been put there to communicate. Some believe there are angels doing this. It is all a bit vague. I would say a truck driver and quite a few other people worked together to make this happen. I believe they were guided by the script.

      What’s this about an owner? I don’t see them as a private affair; I imagine a more communal, public service; a shared venture. You say the owner may be put in a dream state and have no memory of an existence outside; What about a whole population being placed in simultaneously. Even better to be allowed to influence the narrative of the simulated world; within the parameters and rules, set out for the simulation of course. It would require some regulation to ensure people get what they signed up for, though. Administrators may need to periodically don an ‘avatarial body’ and undertake a little troubleshooting. Of course they wouldn’t suffer a memory wipe and would seem like miracle workers with their full administration rights.

      So why are some people fortunate while others are not? If I were to take part in such a game I would like to have some fun and don’t like to starve in a war in Syria. And if everyone has the freedom to influence the narrative, the outcome would be unpredictable, and perhaps a coincidence like a reference to the end date of World War I on the license plate of the car in which Franz Ferdinand was killed might not be feasible. Perhaps, because I have a clear picture as to what kind of entertainment we might provide to the owner of this universe I stick to this idea of this being mere entertainment to a post-human. That is what the section “God Is A Woman And Jesus Was Her Husband” is about.

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  5. I think we have quite different temperaments. You seem to have a sharper, more precise intellect. I prefer using a broader brush, both in art and in thought! I am less interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ than the general sweep and theme. A precise mind might put this down to ‘wooly’ thinking, but I like the way it throws up unexpected connections.
    I like Carl Jung’s statement that events are ordered by meaning and not by cause and effect. I get the persistent feeling that things are topsy turvy in our world; That we are mirrors of something; An inversion. There is something strange about ‘time’ and the thought that it is somehow running backwards appeals to me.
    It almost feels as though the ‘nuts and bolts’; ie the ‘fact’ that somebody put the bags with potting soil there, someone made the price tags and someone drove a truck to bring the items to the store are derivative; added on, like when we have a full dream that leads inexorably up to a culminating point; An explosion, earthquake and roaring beast, or the like. And when we wake we realise that this noise relates to a noise in the waking world. We wove a dream to explain the noise, before it actually happened.
    Our ‘time’, is somehow like witnessing explosions in reverse. We are seeing chaotic events somehow coalesce and take on meaning. ‘True time’ is travelling in the opposite direction to our own.

    “So why are some people fortunate while others are not?”
    An interesting point for speculation. Obviously I have no idea, but I can muse on this point from the perspective of an immersive simulation.
    The question would be, why wouldn’t everyone choose to play with the best stats and all the top gear already in their inventory?
    If people only got one shot in a simulation then this may well be the case. However, If it was a common recreational thing, that required little ‘time’, then it may well ‘play out’ like the role-playing games people take part in here. People like a challenge, they like to explore different aspects, wrestle with character flaws. I could even see a market in people wanting to spend a short life as an animal!
    An immersive simulation would need a narrative. Something to carry the story along. But for true entertainment the players would need to be able to influence it, take it along unexpected paths and ‘make it their own’.
    I’m not sure the post-humans would want to play the role of famous historical people. The roles would be too restrictive and set on rails. I like the ‘Dr Who’, ‘sci-fi’ idea of fixed points in time. This is what the narrative hangs on; Mileposts that the story must pass through. There is scope for freedom, interaction and the unexpected around these points though. As in D & D roleplaying, it is a mixture of free-form, ad-lib and fixed narrative and encounters.

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    • It might seem that we have a different mindset. The main reason for doing this research is that I felt being forced to investigate these things. I had to make the best of it and had to leave no stone unturned. I had to corroborate my assertions with the best evidence I could find, at least that is what I felt was needed. Science reasons with cause and effect. The idea of events being grouped by meaning might be a delusion, at least that is how a scientist might view it. In philosophy you can reason any way you like. In a scientific enquiry the options that are not plausible are filtered out.

      If you have a scientific mindset then meaningful coincidences like the incident with the bags of potting soil might imply a script. All these things have to be put in place and that requires the interaction of countless individuals. Meaningful coincidences might be a delusion as they could have been caused by randomness. We are inclined to give meaning to incidents, so you have to dig deeper, and you need get an estimate about the likelihood of such an incident happening. For instance, two television towers catching fire in one day is very unlikely to happen, but there are so many things that are very unlikely to happen, so that some incidents of this kind will happen anyway.

      There are a few possible ways to prove that things aren’t random, or if that isn’t possible, to make the case more convincing. These are:
      1) A more complicated scheme is less likely to happen than a simple meaningful coincidence. The potting soil incident is more complicated than the television tower incident. It involves my mind being controlled and repeating the coincidence twice on the same location.
      2) Meaningful coincidences may happen even when things are random (in the sense that there is no script) because of the law of large numbers. There are so many things happening that meaningful coincidences must happen. Yet, there are very few important historic events like the begin and the end of World War I, D-Day, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, so if these events are riddled with meaningful coincidences then the law of large numbers might not apply. And indeed these coincidences are there.
      3) If meaningful coincidences happen by randomness, it is likely that they are randomly distributed amongst individuals, but the number of such coincidences in my life suggests that this isn’t the case. Perhaps the following incident is even more intriguing and complicated ( https://theplanforthefuture.org/2018/01/01/the-curse-of-the-omen/ ). It is a good read.

      If you work from a scientific viewpoint then the simulation argument makes sense. It is logically correct, even though it is not science itself. You can’t prove simulation by doing experiments. Nevertheless, the simulation argument is a case of framing, meaning that the argument leads your thoughts into a certain direction. That is, of course, biased. But it can explain the unxplained (the paranormal) in a very clear and precise way without reverting to vague concepts. The power of the argument is that it assumes very little and explains so much. This is so great because of Occam’s razor. A scientist aims to explain something as clear and precise as possible but introducing assumptions makes the argument weaker and more like a house of cards.

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  6. The scientific method is a focussing device. It makes things sharp, which is useful. There is also a place for un-focussing and free-association. It can give fresh insights and new avenues to work on.
    If we imagine that the simulation theory is correct then the science inside the simulation could be very different from the science outside. All bets are off with cause and effect; That may be just how the simulation has been set up.
    The ‘final’ state may be the only condition that has been given and the simulation is working backwards through all possibilities. The future has already somehow happened. Ha ha, as you say ‘Occam’s razor’, I am prone to flights of fancy!

    I would say though, if our world is a simulation, then our own observations are ‘king’. What else is there that is not of the simulation?

    Enjoyed the omen piece by the way. Creepy stuff! I suspect our ‘attention’ is a powerful bit of kit in this reality making business. Belief and expectation are potent forces. (Not so much to the scientist though! :-D)

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    • There might be a problem with our own observations being king or the idea that the world only exists if it is consciously observed. It would mean, for instance, that if you are hit by a car coming up from behind, the car comes into existence on the moment you notice that you are hit. The car driver might differ however. He might argue that you appeared out of nowhere.

      It is also reasonable to assume that the world we live in including its laws are much like those in the world of the creators of this simulation. Perhaps they sometimes venture into freak worlds but most of their simulations would probably resemble their own world, hence we probably live in such a world and not in one of those few freak worlds.

      Flights of fancy aren’t a problem for me. That is part of the process. I have entertained many ideas, thought them through in order to get some grip on the issue. And sometimes I had to rethink it when something came up that I didn’t think of. Belief and attention can give meaning to incidents that would otherwise remain unnoticed but they cannot create these incidents (at least that is how I view this).

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