Close to Enschede, in the east of the Netherlands, is a village called Eibergen. I was born there on Iepenstraat, which means elm street. The assassination of US President Kennedy took place on Elm Street, and that event became part of a web of remarkable coincidences. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror film first released in the United States on 9 November 1984 (11/9) and in the Netherlands on 11 September 1986 (9/11). 9/11 refers to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, another event marked by an array of remarkable coincidences. As these words indicate, this is the beginning of a most peculiar story. More precisely, a story inside a story.

Eibergen means egg mountains, which could be a cryptic reference to a mother’s womb. The initials of my last name, KI, make the Dutch abbreviation for artificial insemination, a way to become pregnant without sexual intercourse so that a virgin can give birth. By the way, it also is the abbreviation for artificial intelligence, so if you think you are smart, think again after reading what I have written. The name of the nearby city, Enschede, may refer to the female reproductive organ. And the initials of my first and middle name, BH, make the Dutch abbreviation for a bra. The song A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash suggests that funny names, particularly of this kind, build strong character. The meaning of songs is relevant to this story too.

I lived in Eibergen until I was four, so I do not recall much of that time. As far as I remember, nothing unusual happened. You might expect something extraordinary to transpire if you know where this story is heading, but it didn’t. Often I went out on a tricycle to feed the sheep in the pasture at the end of the street. Being a shepherd may have been my calling. There often was a clock on television, and I was afraid of it. If it appeared, I took cover behind the sofa. My younger sister Anne Marie was born in 1971. I remember that my mother was pregnant. She was ironing. And I sang songs for the baby in the baby room while my mother was changing diapers.

Our home was in a block. Next door lived an older lady, probably in her sixties. She came from the former Dutch Indies and had a fish tank in the living room. On the other side was another young family with children. They had a daughter of my age and a younger son. I remember playing with them. And I once electrocuted myself by putting the chain of the stopper of the kitchen sink into a wall outlet. Others later said I had used scissors, but I am sure it was the stopper’s chain, which then was confirmed by my mother, suggesting my memories are of good quality.

My father went to work around 6 AM and returned around 9 PM. He loved his job. On Saturdays, he often went out with his friends, hunting, I suppose. And so, I hardly saw him. At home, he caught up on his sleep on the couch to wake up when sports started on television. So, when I was three years old, I once said to my mother, jokingly, I suppose, ‘Who is that man sleeping on the couch?’ That is what my mother later told me. My father probably took the hint. I remember that he took me out of bed every morning before he went to work and played with me for a few minutes for a few weeks.

When I was three, I fell on my teeth on the wooden table in the living room in a brutal smash. A piece of the wood broke off. My front teeth turned black until my permanent teeth came. And so, I became an ugly duckling for years to come. We also had a biking accident. My mother was biking, Anne Marie was in the front, I was in the back, and my mother had trouble handling the bags full of groceries at the handlebar. And then the bike fell over. In early 1973, we moved to Nijverdal, which means industrious valley. It suggests we left the mountains for a life in a valley, but the Dutch mountains are imaginary, and the name of a song by my favourite band, The Nits. The music you like may reveal your character. And I think that is correct in my case.

Featured image: my mother, my younger sister, and I (in the foreground)

Jokers on Files.

Joking jokers

In 2002, I started to work as an Oracle database administrator at a government agency near home. Most people in the Netherlands know about the agency because it processes traffic fines. For that reason, it isn’t popular with the general public, just like the Internal Revenue Service. So if someone asked who my employer was, I kept it vague and said the government or the Department of Justice. It didn’t take long before something went seriously wrong. On my second day on the job, one of the production systems crashed after running the batch jobs, leaving a corrupt database, and with the benefit of hindsight, that was a bit peculiar. After two days of searching, I still hadn’t found the exact cause. When I restored the backup of the previous evening, which was still valid, and ran the batch jobs, the database became corrupt again. It probably was a software bug, so I advised restoring the backup of the previous evening and upgrading the database software to the latest version and seeing if it would solve the issue. Instead, the IT director declared a crisis and set up a multi-disciplinary task force to deal with the situation.

The head of the task force was a corpulent project leader who decided we should find the cause, which I hadn’t uncovered. I just wanted to fix the problem. Every day at 10 AM, there was a meeting to discuss the state of affairs. Every day I proposed to upgrade the database software to see if it would help. And every day, my proposal was brushed aside. I would have done it myself, but I was new on the job, and they used VAX VMS, an operating system I wasn’t familiar with, so I couldn’t install software or restore backups on my own. Two weeks later, after our experts had all weighed in and also after hiring a database corruption expert from Oracle, the cause remained elusive, and managers were getting desperate. Finally, they were willing to consider my suggestion. And it solved the problem. It was a harbinger of things yet to come. During a review, they grilled me for not being interested in researching the cause. I said that solving a crisis was more important as it was a production system, and the users needed it to work. And by the way, the upgrade demonstrated that it was a software bug.

A few months later, my employer hired a security officer. Probably the audit department had advised it. He was a guy in a suit who soon began to make our work harder by implementing unnecessary procedures. For instance, we had to lock up our Oracle manuals in a secure location after work and bring the keys to the porter’s lodge. But our manuals were public information like Windows manuals. Today, you can find this information on the Internet. At the same time, Mulder, the system that processed the traffic fines, had a superuser named MULDER with the password MULDER. Everyone knew that and could mess with the traffic fines. I notified the security officer, but being a true bureaucrat, he had more important things to do, such as attending meetings, inventing procedures and making management reports. Other systems had this issue too. And so, I contacted a few senior programmers, and we fixed that problem.

There were other issues with access rights too. As they would say in the course Professional Skills, ‘There was room for improvement.’ If a new employee came in, the service desk made a ticket stating, ‘Create user account X as a copy of account Y,’ and sent it from one department to another. Usually, it took two weeks for the ticket to pass through all our departments, and system administrators made errors. Hence, account X was rarely exactly like account Y. If people switched departments or left, the defunct access rights usually weren’t deleted. Perhaps the audit department had figured this out, as our management soon initiated a project role-based access rights (RBAC).

RBAC works like so. You have a role in a department. In ordinary language, it is your job. For your job, you need access to an array of systems. Your job description determines which rights you need, for instance, reading specific data or changing it. As a rule, employees should not receive more access rights than required to perform their tasks. RBAC is about the rights an employee in a specific job role needs. Business consultants came in and defined job roles and access requirements. A programmer then built an administrative database. But the database wasn’t connected to our systems, so there was no guarantee that the access rights in our systems matched the administration. And if you know how things fare in practice, you know that the administration would soon become stale and pointless. People are lazy, make errors, and forget things. And that would change once the administration and our systems connected. If the administration connected but was wrong, people couldn’t do their jobs properly, so the administration had to be constantly updated.

In 2004, I secretly began building an account administration system named DBB using Designer/2000, leaving the bureaucrats out of the loop because they would probably stand in the way and make it harder for me. Only my manager and a few colleagues knew about it. DBB automated granting and revoking access rights in our systems the RBAC way. It took me nine months as I also had to do my regular work as a database administrator. But when I was ready to implement DBB on the production databases, the bureaucrats became aware of what was happening and tried to block it. In early 2005, I introduced it sneakily with the help of the people from the service desk who wanted to use it. They installed the DBB client programmes on their personal computers. And I was a database administrator, so I could install anything I wanted on any database.

The outcomes were spectacular. The service desk now created the accounts, so the tickets didn’t have to pass through so many departments. We created accounts in one day instead of two weeks. And the service desk could reset passwords on the spot instead of relaying the request to a department, bringing down the time to reset passwords from hours to seconds. And the access rights accurately reflected job roles. So, once DBB was operational, the opposition crumbled, and DBB became a regular application, even though not an official one, and we had RBAC forcefully implemented.

The logo of DBB was a drawing made by Ingrid. She had drawn it for another purpose. It features jokers grinning at a set of file folders. To me, these folders symbolised bureaucracy. DBB joked with the bureaucrats as the bureaucrats considered it a rogue system. Supposedly, I was one of those jokers, so I made one of them my avatar on the web. DBB was my love child, just like Fokker once was Jürgen Schrempp’s. And so, I ensured DBB could survive if I ever left the agency. I produced design documents and manuals and built DBB according to accepted Designer/2000 practices. We had a lot of Designer/2000 programmers, so they could easily have maintained DBB. But I hadn’t followed the proper procedures when building and implementing it, so it never became official. So, if something went wrong, it was not a mere incident, as would be the case with any other system, but a cause to replace DBB. And something went wrong once.

For over ten years, bureaucrats devised plans to replace DBB. Our management started two projects to replace it. The first effort stalled because they had underestimated the complexity of the matter. They might have thought, ‘If one guy can do it, how difficult can it be?’ In 2016, a new project team realised it was pointless to replace DBB as it was doing fine and replacing it was costly. The newer Java systems ran on Postgres databases and used web access, so they didn’t use DBB. And our management planned to decommission the old Designer/2000 systems so DBB could retire by then.

And so, I wondered how bureaucrats think and concluded that it is like so, ‘If I mess things up but stick to the rules and follow procedure, no one can blame me. If do the right thing but do not follow procedure, and something goes wrong, my job is on the balance.’ If something has gone wrong, the government hires consultants to investigate the issue and propose changes to the procedures to prevent it from happening the next time. Sadly, the next time, the situation may be different, and then it goes wrong again. You might think it is better to do away with procedures, but in a government administration, that might not be a good idea. The role of government is to provide and implement rules. Just imagine that every government employee does as he sees fit. Nevertheless, there could be room for improvement.

DBB not only joked with the bureaucrats. The joke was also on me and in a most peculiar fashion. In June 2010, I received a highly unusual request from a system administrator to drop a user account manually. That hadn’t happened for several years. DBB usually took care of that, but for some unknown reason, DBB failed to drop this particular account. The username was ELVELVEN. If you read that aloud, you say eleven elevens in Dutch, a reference to the 11:11 time-prompt phenomenon. Usernames consisted of the first one or two characters of the employee’s first name followed by the employee’s last name. In this case, the user’s last name was Velven. To me, 11:11 signals a combination of two related unlikely events. And indeed, the joke had a part two, and it was even more peculiar.

In 2014, I tested an improvement to DBB. My test signalled that an illegal account had sneaked into our systems. The username was AD******, the first character of the first name followed by the last name of A******* [the lady who might be God and appears to stalk me with coincidences]. Had she been employed with us, this would have been her username. And her name isn’t common, so this was unnerving, even more so because it was the only username that popped up. It couldn’t be her, or could it? It turned out that a guy with the same last name as hers had worked for us. His first name began with an A too. And the account wasn’t illegal. I had mixed data from two different dates in the test, which made it appear that this account had sneaked in illegally. Just imagine the odds of only this account popping up.

In 2005, my manager promised me a promotion. He told me that I had managed to introduce DBB. ‘You had a vision and you made it happen and you overcame all the opposition, and now we have RBAC,’ he said. He added that I was the best database administrator of the lot. I doubted that and said we had a tech genius in our department who was better than me. And then he said, ‘Having the right vision and making it happen are far more important.’ Only, he didn’t formalise the promotion, so I tried to make him put his promise into writing. I asked him several times to do that. And then, he took on a new job somewhere else, so I feared I would end up empty-handed. After all, I hadn’t many friends in high places.

Just before he left, I pressed him again to put his promise into writing. As the promotion had not yet come through, he wrote I could get a minor wage increase, and then he filed it for processing at the human resources department. A few weeks later, they summoned me to the human resources department. A bureaucrat had come up with a technicality. I couldn’t even keep the minor wage increase. That was a breach of contract, plain and simple, but to bureaucrats, only rules and procedures count. My previous manager had already left, so they blamed it on him, and his temporary replacement didn’t care as he also was on his way out. As I had put a lot of effort into having it in writing, and my manager had already fobbed me with a minor wage increase, I walked out of the meeting angrily.

When I arrived home, Ingrid told me that a freelance agency had offered me a job. It was the first offer of this kind since I started working for my employer. And so, I made a rash decision and resigned. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a remarkable coincidence that the freelance agency called me on this particular day. It didn’t take long before I started to have second thoughts. Out of the blue, a strong feeling emerged that it was a wrong decision. I can rationalise it by saying there weren’t many jobs for database administrators near home. And the issues with my son didn’t allow me to work far away from home while my physical condition didn’t allow for long travels. That may all be true, but these considerations were not the real reason. The feeling became so strong that I had no other choice but to reverse course and try to undo my resignation.

There was a new manager, and he accepted my change of mind. He pledged to do his best to restore my confidence in my employer. Due to a bureaucratic error, I missed the promotion again a year later. I began to distrust him and feared he might not make good on his promise. That didn’t happen at the time, but he soon gave the tech genius a higher pay grade and left me out. And several years later, after he had risen in rank, in another remarkable coincidence, he tried to take away the pay grade that came with the promotion when I switched to Java programming. Nevertheless, he was a very competent manager who later played a leading role in improving the IT department. After some years of bureaucratic wrangling, the promotion finally came through.

Book: the virtual universe

Religions claim that a god or gods have created this universe. The simulation hypothesis explains how the gods might have done this. We could all be living inside a computer simulation run by an advanced post-human civilisation. But can we objectively establish that this is indeed the case?

There is sufficient evidence that we live inside a simulation, and it allows us to establish the most likely purpose of our existence. The book does not promote a specific religion. It goes along with science, but there are limits to what science can establish. God is beyond those limits.

The book addresses the following topics:

  • Why our existence is not a miracle that requires a creator.
  • Why the simulation hypothesis is not scientific.
  • How possible motives of post-humans can help us establish that we live inside a simulation.
  • Why there is no proof in real life, not even in science.
  • How our minds can trick us, and how to avoid pitfalls in our observations and reasoning.
  • How laws of reality can help us establish that we live inside a simulation.
  • Why evidence for the paranormal is not scientific but strong enough to count.
  • How to interpret religious experiences and miracles.
  • How to explain premonition, evidence suggesting reincarnation, ghosts, ufos, and meaningful coincidences.
  • How coincidences surrounding major historical events indicate that everything happens according to a script.
  • Why do many people see 11:11 and other peculiar time prompts.
  • What predetermination tells us about our purpose.

By reading the book, you will discover that the world makes perfect sense if we assume it to be a simulation created by an advanced post-human civilisation to entertain someone we can call God.

The book is freely available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence. You can download your free PDF here:

Alternatively, you can buy a Kindle or paperback on Amazon:

The Virtual Universe

Religions claim that God or gods have created this world. The simulation hypothesis explains that we might live inside a computer simulation run by an advanced post-human civilisation. But can we know that this is the case? The book The Virtual Universe: Evidence Demonstrating That an Advanced Post-Human Civilisation Has Created Us explores the evidence. A revised simulation argument may establish that we live inside a simulation. Using the information this universe gives us, we might even discover the purpose of our existence.

The argument works like so:

  1. If this universe is genuine, we cannot be sure it is. A simulation can be realistic and come with authentic laws of reality.
  2. This universe may have fake properties, but we cannot find that out because we do not know the properties of an authentic universe.
  3. Breaching the laws of reality is unrealistic in any case. If it happens, we may have evidence of this universe being virtual.

It follows from (1) and (2) that we cannot use the properties of this universe reflected in the laws of reality to determine whether this universe is real or a simulation. Science may establish the laws of physics or the properties of this universe, but science cannot ascertain whether they are real or fake. But if they are breached, that is evidence of this universe being a simulation.

We can discover that we live inside a simulation if we notice that reality is not realistic, at least in some aspects. There is evidence that the laws of reality may be breached from time to time, for instance, paranormal events, premonitions, meaningful coincidences and memories of past lives. The evidence appears sufficient to establish that the scientific laws of reality do not always apply.

Post-humans could have similar motivations as we have. They might run simulations of human civilisations for research or entertainment. Research applications could be about running what-if scenarios. Possible entertainment applications are games or dream worlds in which imaginations come true. These simulations may not be realistic in some aspects as they reflect the rules of a game or someone’s imagination.

Simulations of civilisations are complex, so guaranteeing a specific outcome, for instance, someone’s imagination coming true, requires control over everything that happens. That does not apply to games. Unpredictable developments make games more interesting. Looking at how we currently employ computing power, the number of simulations for entertainment likely vastly outstrip those run for research. If we live inside a simulation, we should expect its purpose to be entertainment.

If reality is unrealistic in some aspects, that suggests that our purpose is entertainment. A simulation run for research is probably realistic. Evidence of control indicates that the purpose of this simulation is not a game but to realise someone’s imagination.

The owner or owners may use avatars and appear like ordinary human beings to us. If you are familiar with computer games, you know what an avatar is. Once you enter the game, you become a character inside the game, your avatar, and suddenly you have a virtual existence apart from your regular existence. Inside the game, you are your avatar, not yourself. Similarly, you might start your personal virtual world in which you make your dreams come true. In this world, you also become someone else.

If beings in the simulation can think for themselves, that raises ethical questions like whether they have rights that the creators should respect. Considering how humans treat each other, it is not a given that these rights would be respected even when our creators acknowledge them. In a realistic simulation, bad things happen to people all the time. In the case of control, the beings inside the simulation are not sentient. It means that we may not think and may not have a will of our own. Hence, we might have no intrinsic value to our creators.

Meaningful coincidences suggest that there is a script, which implies that someone or something controls everything that happens in this universe. We may live inside a story with a preconceived ending. The purpose of this simulation could be to realise someone’s imagination. And so, there could be a post-human individual we may call God. And God might use an avatar and appear as an ordinary human to us.

And how does God experience the simulation? If there is a script, She probably does not actively direct events. Perhaps, God is in a dream state, where She is not in control of Her role and follows the script She has selected. That can raise yet another question. Does God know that She is God when She is in this world? And you can go even further because we can imagine gods. So, whose imagination is this world after all? We cannot answer these questions because we cannot know God, but perhaps it is possible to disclose some of God’s avatars.

Latest revision: 9 November 2022

You can find it here:

What are the odds?

The law of large numbers

On 11 November 2017 (11-11), I went to Groningen with my wife and son. While driving, I noticed the date and time on the clock in the car. The date was 11-11, and the time was 10:35. It made me think, ‘It would be nice to look at the clock at exactly 11:11 today because it is 11-11.’ Then within a second, I noticed the distance recorder standing at 111.1. It had been 111.1 kilometres since I last filled up. Peculiar coincidences can occur by chance. With seven billion people on this planet, and so many things going on, these things happen.

An example can illustrate this. Imagine you have five dice. A remarkable incident is like throwing five sixes. That seems very unlikely. If you throw the five dice only once, it probably does not happen. On average, it only happens once every 7,776 times. But if you throw the dice a million times, you should not be surprised to see it happen 120 to 140 times.

The odds of 111.1 kilometres appearing on the distance recorder is one in 5,000 if there is a reset every 500 kilometres. So once the thought about 11:11 had popped up, the probability of this happening was 0.02%. Considering the odds of it being 11 November, it is 0.00005%. And then I had to look at the distance recorder, but it is next to the clock, so the odds of that happening are pretty high. The likelihood of the thought coming up on 11 November is not so easy to establish, but it is not low in my case.

The birthday problem demonstrates that strange coincidences happen more often than we think. If you happen to share a birthday with another person in a small group, it might strike you as odd, but the chance of someone sharing a birthday with another person is already 50% in a group of 23. But two people sharing a birthday is not a mind-blowing coincidence.

And when you are a member of this group, the probability of you being one of the persons sharing a birthday is much smaller, namely 6%. And if you randomly pick two people, the odds of them sharing a birthday is only 0.3%. Meaningful coincidences are likely to happen but less likely to you. And taking a small sample of events can seriously reduce the likelihood of meaningful coincidences happening. Furthermore, the more elaborate a scheme, the less likely it occurs. The probability of three people sharing a birthday in a group of 23 is 1.3%, and for five, it is only 0.0002%.

Possible avenues to circumvent the law of large numbers

So if some of the most significant events in history come with peculiar coincidences, that might be more telling for two reasons. First, there are only a few of these events, so the law of large numbers does not apply. After all, this is a small sample. If no intelligence is coordinating events in this universe, it is not so likely that meaningful coincidences turned up in this sample, and elaborate schemes are unlikely to occur. Second, if the most significant historical events come with peculiar coincidences, it more plausibly suggests that history is a script than when they happen in someone’s personal life.

To make the argument, you need to answer questions like, what are the most important events, and what are peculiar coincidences? Events such as the sinking of the Titanic or the Kennedy assassination may not qualify, even though the coincidences surrounding them undoubtedly form a strange and elaborate scheme. The beginning and the end of World War I meet the requirements as they are top-tier historical events. The same may be true for D-Day, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

And what to think of the number of meaningful coincidences in my life? It is not possible to establish how likely it is to happen. But you can make assumptions to get an idea. A highly unusual coincidence like the do-it-yourself store incident could be like throwing five sixes. Hence, the odds of such an event happening in any year in any life could be one in 7,776. If the same happens again, it could be like throwing five sixes twice in a row. The odds of that happening would be one in 60,000,000. On average, 100 people might experience something similar each year. But what if many similar incidents have happened in my life? That makes coincidence less likely.

The number of possible unusual events is infinite, so the odds of something strange such as the do-it-yourself store incident occurring could be higher than we intuitively think. It seems impossible to estimate the odds, but without a script, we should expect these incidents to be distributed more or less evenly across all people and timeframes. So is it at all possible to establish that there is a script? A listing of all the strange coincidences in my life can fill a booklet like this one. Many people have experienced meaningful coincidences from time to time, but few have witnessed so many as I have.

Deviations in the human mind

Deviations from the average are likely to occur. And some might be large. We may think something causes a high or low number while it is just randomness. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman came up with an example. A study of the incidence of kidney cancer in the counties of the United States revealed a remarkable pattern. The incidence of kidney cancer was the lowest in rural, sparsely populated counties in traditionally Republican states in the Midwest, the South, and the West.1 So what do you think of that?

You probably came up with a few reasons why kidney cancer is less likely to occur in these counties, such as a healthy rural lifestyle or low pollution levels. You probably did not think of randomness. Consider then the counties in which the incidence of kidney cancer is the highest. These counties were also rural, sparsely populated, and in traditionally Republican states in the Midwest, the South, and the West.1

The explanation is that those counties all had small populations. And with smaller samples, deviations from the average tend to be larger. Our intuition makes connections of causality, but our reason does not verify whether it could just be randomness. We like to think that some cause makes unusual things happen while they can be random events.

If we use a small sample of the most significant historical events to establish that someone is ‘writing history’, this issue may arise. On the other hand, a comparison with a sparsely populated rural county may not be apt. Perhaps it is better to compare this particular sample to the royal family, for it consists of the most significant historical events. If there is a high incidence of kidney cancer in the royal family, an experienced physician will tell you that randomness is an unlikely cause.

The things that could have happened but did not

In 1913 the ball fell on a black number twenty-six times in a row at the roulette wheel at the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Some people lost a fortune by betting that the ball would fall on red the next time. They did not realise that the odds of the ball falling on a red number never changed. The ball does not remember where it went the previous times. If we represent black with a B and red with an R and assume for the sake of simplicity that there is no zero, we can represent falling twenty-six times on black like this:


The probability of the ball falling on black twenty-six times in a row is one in 67,108,864. That is a long shot. What might surprise you is that the following combination of black and red numbers is precisely as likely to occur:


You would not be thrilled if that happened unless you became a millionaire by betting on this particular series of twenty-six. And even then, you did not think of the 67,108,863 sequences that did not materialise. We tend to consider only the things that did happen, but we rarely think of all the things that could have happened but did not. That could explain why events such as the ball falling on black twenty-six times in a row impress us. And I am even more impressed because twenty-six happens to be my lucky number.

This argument applies to meaningful coincidences but not to a prediction materialising as such a feat may imply that all the other things could not have happened. Just imagine the probability of you sitting here and now reading this page on a tablet or a mobile phone, but as a prediction from 3,600 years ago. Imagine Joseph telling the Pharaoh: ‘I see (your name comes here) reading a pile of papyrus pages, not real papyrus pages, but papyrus pages appearing on a thing that looks like a clay tablet. Do not be afraid, dear Pharaoh, for it will happen over 3,600 years. But if we do not set up this grain storage, it will not happen, so we must do it. And by the way, Egypt will starve if you ignore my advice.’

The odds for this prediction to come true were not one in 67,108,864, and also not one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 either. Even if you add many more zeroes to that number, the odds remain much smaller. The probability is so close to zero that no one can tell. Nevertheless, you sit here reading this text, perhaps even on a tablet. So how could this happen? The answer to this mystery is that so many things could have happened but did not, but something had to happen, and that is what happened. In any case, Joseph could not have made such a prediction by accident.

Chaos theory does not allow us to make such exact predictions. Just imagine that another sperm fertilised the egg of Adolf Hitler’s mother. The world would have been a completely different place. And there were millions of sperms out there that day. A precise prediction coming true, if it is not accidentally accurate, might imply that nothing else could have happened other than what happened.

The licence plate number

So what to make of the reference to the end date of World War I on the licence plate on Franz Ferdinand’s car? Few historical events are as important as the start and end of World War I. Hence, the law of large numbers does not apply. And it is one of the most important historical events, so it is part of a sample comparable to a royal family. And so accident seems unlikely. The assassination could have gone wrong, cooler heads could have prevailed, or the war could have proceeded differently to end on another date.

It might have been possible to guess the end date of World War I once it had started. If you presumed that the war would not take longer than twenty years, a random guess of the end date would be correct once in every 7,305 times. But something does not add up here. First of all, no one expected the war to last longer than a few months. And the licence plate originates from before the war. The assassination succeeded after a series of mishaps. So if the licence plate number contained a prediction, it would include a prediction of the assassination succeeding, Franz Ferdinand dying in this particular car, and this event being the trigger for the war.

That is hard to do. And so Mike Dash in the Smithsonian noted, ‘This coincidence is so incredible that I initially suspected that it might be a hoax.’2 And because it is not a hoax, investigative minds could have probed other options, but they did not. Conspiracy theorists also ignored it, even though this incident perfectly agrees with their beliefs.

There is a story about a Freemason named Alfred Pike, who allegedly disclosed a secretive plan of the Freemasons to bring about the New World Order and predicted both world wars with uncanny precision in 1871. Alas, nobody heard of this plan before 1959. Contrary to the licence plate number, this is a hoax. In the Netherlands, they would call it a monkey sandwich story. The licence plate number could have added some credibility to it. But then again, the truth is overrated. Usually, conspiracy theorists do not allow facts to get in the way of their beliefs.

Seeing meaning when there is none

Sceptics claim that AIII 118 is a random sequence of characters, but we see a reference to the end date of World War I. That is how our minds work. The argument is a bit odd. If you follow this reasoning to the extreme, this text is also a random array of characters. And still, you read words and sentences that have meaning to you. Indeed, the licence plate number would have remained unnoticed if the end date of the war had not been 11 November 1918. Only, the war did end on 11 November 1918. And it is the licence plate number of the car in which Franz Ferdinand drove to his appointment with destiny. And this event triggered World War I. That can make it meaningful and predictive. There are many times and locations where this sequence of characters could have turned up so that their appearance on this particular spot could have meaning.

Austrians speak German. Armistice in German is Waffenstillstand. So why does it not read WIII 118, or even better, W1111 1918? But if someone sends you a message, you do not quibble about such details. If I said ‘hello’ to you, you are not going to discuss with me why I did not say ‘hi’ instead. Only a philosopher with a lot of time on his hands might do that. Great Britain, the United States and France were all major participants in the war. These countries all use the word armistice.

It may be better to ask yourself what series of licence plate numbers were available in the Austrian Hungarian Empire at the time? Then you could check which combinations fit the purpose. You may end up with just one match: AIII 118. That makes it harder to believe that this sequence of characters is meaningless. The war ending on 11 November (11-11) adds additional inconceivability to this scheme. In other words, it seems impossible.

Only a few historical events are as important as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Armistice of 11 November 1918, for instance, D-Day, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 9/11. The scheme of coincidences surrounding D-Day is even more puzzling. A historian correctly predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, while the coincidences surrounding the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 are intriguing.

Other events of great importance are the American, French, Chinese and Russian revolutions. A few peculiar coincidences relate to the American Revolution and the French Revolution. At best, they are circumstantial evidence for there being a script behind everything that happens. The Independence Day coincidence and the parallels between Napoleon and Hitler are not particularly elaborate.

The Chinese Revolution of 1911 started on 10 October 1911. It ended 2,000 years of imperial rule in China. The date being 10 October (10/10) is not as remarkable as 11 November (11/11), even more so because there are no related coincidences. The Russian Revolution started a communist empire that lasted for seven decades. A bad omen marked the coronation of the last Czar Nicholas II of Russia. The communists later murdered him and his family.

Hindsight bias

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see patterns and meaning, for example, the meaningful coincidences in the most significant historical events. It may be the only way of doing this kind of investigation as we cannot predict the occurrence of meaningful coincidences in advance. If psychic abilities do not exist while there is a script, then premonitions coming true are scripted events. Hence, premonitions may come true more often than mere chance suggests, but you cannot predict when they do.

If this universe is genuine, we probably will not be able to establish that, but perhaps we can discover that it is a simulation. So if there is meaning out there, we have to look for it to find it. A random sample may not produce meaning while it may be there. It is about finding the most plausible explanation. We need to be careful as we are inclined to see meaning in events that could have happened by accident. It is not possible to make exact statements concerning probability, but it is plausible that:

  • The meaningful coincidences surrounding the most important historical events are not mere accidents.
  • The number of meaningful coincidences in my life deviates too far from the average to be the result of chance.

Latest revision: 14 May 2022

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman (2011). Penguin Books.
2. Curses! Archduke Franz Ferdinand and His Astounding Death Car. Mike Dash (2013). Smithsonian. [link]