Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau

Meeting Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau

In the autumn of 1989 my life had gone off the rails after I had been forced to leave a dormitory. I moved back to my parents’ home to gather some courage before trying out another dormitory. I promised myself to lead an insignificant life. Even a complete failure like me must be capable of achieving that.

There wasn’t much to laugh for me 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 it was possible to watch German television.

Clouseau was completely inept, but he always managed to solve the mystery. Guided by a few hunches and some vague clues that only made sense in his mind, he ignored the most obvious explanation of the facts, and discovered the truth by accident.

The German dubbing made him appear even more clumsy. How could a bumbling clown like Clouseau be correct while the competent fail? The answer is that Jacques Clouseau is a fictional character in a story. The plot was always that Clouseau is right in the end. The world we live in could be fiction too. And so I could be right.

Empty Space: A Haunting by M John Harrison - review ...

Illustration for the first edition of Utopia

Welcome to Utopia

Until very recently nearly everyone lived in abject poverty. Most people had barely enough food to survive. In 1651 the philosopher Thomas Hobbes depicted the life of man as poor, nasty, brutish, and short.1 Yet, a few centuries later a miracle had happened. Nowadays more people suffer from obesity than from hunger while the life expectancy in the poorest countries exceeds that of the Netherlands in 1750, the richest country in the world in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1516 Thomas More wrote his famous novel about a fictional island named Utopia. Life in Utopia was nearly as good as in the Garden Of Eden. The Utopians worked six hours per day and took whatever they needed. Utopia means nowhere but the name resembles the word eutopia which means a good place. The pun may have been intended by More. His book inspired writers and dreamers to think of a better world while leaving the hard work to entrepreneurs, labourers and engineers. Today many people have more than they need but still we work hard and feel insecure about the future.

Why is that? The answer lies within the dynamic of capitalism. The capitalist economy must grow. It is not enough that people just work and buy the products they need. They must work harder to buy more, otherwise businesses will go bankrupt, investors will lose money, and people will be unemployed and left without income. To forestall this disaster, we are made to believe that buying more stuff makes us happy.2

Capitalism brought us prosperity so most of us won’t ask questions like why are there still poor people or are there limits to our desires? It might feel like biting the hand that feeds us. And answers aren’t easy to come by. Alternatives to capitalism made people poor. Capitalism may have helped to reduce poverty more than anything else. But the dynamic of growth appears to be halting when people are going into debt to buy stuff.

Perhaps before long we live inside our own make-believe fairy tale virtual realities writing our own life’s stories. In that case we won’t need a lot of stuff any more. Finally there could be enough for everyone, and perhaps far more than that. Machines may do more jobs so more people might have more leisure time. That might happen because we ourselves may live inside such a virtual reality already. So in the future there may be no economy or even money but for now we may need a way to make the economy flourish without the need for growth in order to make this possible.

Featured image: Illustration for the first edition of Utopia by Thomas More.

1. Leviathan. Thomas Hobbes (1651).
2. A Brief History Of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.

I am as real as you want me to be

In 1989 at the age of twenty I left my parents’ home to move to the campus of the university. Students lived in groups. Newcomers had to do an interview before being admitted to a dormitory. It was my seventh interview. A female student asked most of the questions. She seemed to be the boss. She attracted my attention in other ways too. During the interview she said to me: “You have been warned of me during a previous interview.” She then mentioned the specifics of what had been said and the name of the student warning me. And indeed it had happened that way.

I was admitted and moved in. She often said peculiar things. For instance, she repeated the acronym HAFMO like a mantra many times. These letters formed the initials of the first and middle names Hans van Mierlo, the leader of the Dutch political party D66. He was good-looking and popular with the ladies. D66 was a pragmatic liberal party favouring referendums. The party later played an important role in the reforms that made the Netherlands one of the most liberal countries in the world.

Elections were upcoming so I guessed she would vote for D66 but that may not have been the reason why she said this. D66 and Hans van Mierlo have been used in a peculiar scheme related to D-Day. This is strange. Strange was another word she repeated often.

She was intimidating. It was better not to stand in her way. She dominated the scene. Once she said that all the women in her vicinity adapted their cycles to hers, perhaps to illustrate that point. She occupied herself with cryptic crosswords. These are about hidden meanings of words. She wanted the living room to be redecorated. And so it was done, like everything else she requested.

After a few weeks she began to make hateful remarks towards me. That was only when the others were around. When we were alone she tried to connect to me. And she was quite good at that. On one occasion she told me that you should always faithful to each other. This was a bit out-of-place as it was something a lover might say. She had a fancy man so I didn’t think much of it. And I didn’t give her reason to think that I fancied her. She nevertheless managed to get under my skin like no-one else had ever done.

She singled me out. It was as if she had moulded the group into her little version of Paradise and that I didn’t fit in. After some time a few others wanted me to leave too. She reproached me for being rude and hurting the feelings of others. The hysterical scenes she made convinced me that it was better to leave. I was a hapless autist and not much aware of the feelings of others but not willing to hurt these feelings. In other words, I wasn’t fit to live in such a group. And so there was no reason to suspect a hidden agenda.

Since then I never saw her again. It took some years to get my life on track. In the decades that followed a series of peculiar coincidences transpired, suggesting that my business with her wasn’t finished yet. Some of these incidents were eerie. For years I believed them to be just coincidences. That was until the autumn of 2008.

Wake up call

It was the autumn of 2008. The financial crisis was getting serious. A few weeks earlier I had discovered a solution for the financial crisis based on the money of Wörgl and ancient Egypt. Every time I woke up at night and looked at the clock, it showed times like 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 or 5:55. Then out of the blue, my wife Ingrid told me that she too was waking up at night and seeing those same time prompts again and again. And I hadn’t mentioned this to her before. This went on for about a month. Then it stopped.

On the internet you can find stories of people being nagged by time prompts, most often 11:11. And so this thing is called 11 phenomenon or 11:11 phenomenon. You can type 11:11 into the Google search bar and see for yourself. World War I ended on 11 November 1918 or 11-11-18. A reference to this date was found on the licence plate of the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. The assassination triggered World War I. It is a mysterious coincidence. So what could it mean?

Our minds trick us in different ways. One of them is selective remembrance. Maybe you have experienced a few strange coincidences. These incidents stick to your memory. On the other hand, you won’t remember thousands of mundane events that also happened because there was nothing special about them. Hence your memory might record your life as a sequence of peculiar events, bizarre coincidences and strange accidents.

Nearly every day I see some number and then, within a second or so, I see the same number again somewhere else, often on licence plates. But when I watch out for recurring numbers I don’t see them very often. Possibly recurring numbers trigger my brain. Recording them then becomes a conscious process so that for every special combination, countless others remain unnoticed.

tin foil hat

Only, I found this explanation difficult to apply on the waking up at night and seeing those time prompts again and again. There were hardly any exceptions if there were any at all. To add insult to injury, Ingrid had the same experience at the same time. This wasn’t just my mind tricking me. This wasn’t selective remembrance. Something made me wake up and look at the clock at these specific times. This could be mind control.

It makes sense. If the licence plate number on the car in which Franz Ferdinand was killed wasn’t a mere coincidence then everyone’s mind may be controlled. World War I consisted of countless actions of countless individuals. If you can make the war end on 11 November 1918 this implies complete control over every mind and every action. And so we could be living inside a simulation running a script.

On the Internet you can learn that repeatedly seeing 11:11 is a sign from angels. I don’t believe that. If it is not selective remembrance then it is mind control. There had been peculiar coincidences in my life from time to time. Some of them pointed at a certain lady I once met. I began to suspect that she had something to do with this. And it soon turned out that my business with her was not finished yet.

Featured image: 11:11 time prompt.

Other image: Tin foil hat. Morton Devonshire (2007). Wikipedia. Public Domain.

Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scroll

A few possible scenarios

For most people life has improved in recent decades. Perhaps the future will be even better. New technologies bring new possibilities. But there are reasons to be concerned. Terrorists could spread deadly diseases, governments and corporations may soon know more about us than we do ourselves (they may already), machines may become smarter than people (they may be already), and climate change could make large parts of the planet uninhabitable. In the meantime futurologists have been busy thinking about what the future might look like. If things don’t go wrong then a few scenarios seem likely.

Soon machines and algorithms may take over most of our tasks and humans will become obsolete as workers. That already happened in many fields but until now new jobs have been created that replaced the old ones, mostly in the service sector and the bureaucracy. Soon much of human decision-making may be done by algorithms. An algorithm is a rule or a set of rules like “if this happens then do that.” A very simple example is “if the temperature falls below a certain threshold then turn on the heating.” This particular algorithm relieves us from the tedious task of turning the heating on and off. More complex algorithms executed by computers may soon make better decisions than humans.

In a decade or so we may not be driving our own cars any more. We may just tell them where to go. Cars may plot a route, drive us there, and keep us safe. It may be forbidden to drive a car yourself as human drivers cause more accidents than computers. A few decades ago, when Knight Rider was a popular television series, this seemed a distant possibility, but today the technology is already there. Algorithms can make many decisions. We may still decide what we want, for example where we want to go to, or what kind of book we like to read, but algorithms may decide the specifics. You may accept this because the algorithms are better at doing these jobs than you are.

Some people fear that computers or robots will one day take over the world and either control or destroy us. That is not likely to happen as it would require a desire from computers and robots to do this. Computers and robots don’t have a will of their own. They act the way they have been programmed. Something may go wrong or humans may intentionally make them so, but it is unlikely that computers and robots will do this out of their own. Having a will requires having desires and emotions that have biological origin. Animals and humans have desires and emotions but computers and robots do not.

Second, humans may enhance themselves using bio-technology, cyborg engineering and information technology, and evolve into beings that differ from humans existing today. These beings may still be like us in many ways. That is because we think of ourselves as special so we may not be willing to alter our ‘precious essence’. The ‘improved’ humans can be called post-humans because they have been created from humans. They may live very long, and because algorithms may do most of the decision-making for them, they may have a lot of time on their hands. Boredom may be their biggest challenge. This brings us to the third option. These post-humans may create virtual realities with simulations of humans to entertain themselves. They may live in tubes like brains in vats because living inside their virtual reality has become their existence.

The future could be a combination of the three options. Machines and algorithms will take over our jobs so that we will become obsolete as workers. We will be enhanced with new technologies and live very long. And we will create virtual realities with simulations of humans to entertain ourselves. If that is going to happen, and the technology to create these virtual reality universes becomes cheap, there will be billions of virtual universes for every real universe. If that is true then we almost certainly live in a virtual reality ourselves.1 And this technology may be made cheap by eliminating free will so that everything happens according to a script. That would greatly reduce the required computing power to run the simulation.

So if there are billions of virtual universes for every real one then what are the odds of our universe being real? The answer is one in a few billion. We can’t know at what point in time we live, before or after the invention of virtual reality universes, but we have to assume that it is after. That can be explained as follows. Assume that every year has an equal probability of this technology being invented and that we are going to create this technology in the next 100 years or 1,000 years. It will not happen later than that because by then we will have done it. But what are the odds of it happening in the next 100 or 1,000 years compared to the billions of years that already have passed? So it is more likely than not that we ourselves live in such a virtual reality universe created by an advanced humanoid civilisation.

The owner or owners of a virtual reality universe may be indifferent towards the fate of the simulated humans inside it, that’s us, just like we are indifferent to characters in a computer game. That is not surprising. Animals are more real than simulated humans, but most people don’t care much about animals either, except for their pets. And many people are indifferent to the fate of their fellow humans except their family, neighbours or friends. The owner or the owners of this universe may play roles in this virtual reality using avatars, just like we can use avatars in computer games.

So do we live inside a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation? And is there a script? The licence plate number of Franz Ferdinand’s death car is a clue. The evidence is substantial. It corroborates the first chapter of the Bible where God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” And so the old texts drawn up by Jewish priests in the fifth century BC strike back with a vengeance. But why did the religions of the God of Abraham come out on top? The God of Abraham was one of the many gods humans imagined. Is it possible to make sense of that?

Featured image: Dead Sea Scroll – part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 57:17 – 59:9). Public Domain.

1. Are You Living In a Computer Simulation? Nick Bostrom (2003). Philosophical Quarterly (2003) Vol. 53, No. 211, pp. 243-255. [link]