I am called to the Giza Plateau near Cairo in Egypt where a giant building project is being undertaken by the Pharaoh. I meet with the Grand Vizier amidst reports of many people being killed during construction.

 

The Vizier greets me warmly and we walk to the site, where I see that a giant cube is being built. The walls are around 30 metres high. Men are hauling massive stones from the ground up the sheer sides of the cube using ropes that are tied under the stones – the ropes occasionally break with the stone plummeting to the ground as a result.

 

“Does that happen often?” I asked indicating the stone lying on the ground with men standing around scratching their heads.

 

“It happens frequently because the ropes are not strong enough to haul the stones up the walls for more than 15 metres. I am not sure what we are going to do as Pharaoh requires another 110 metres of height over and above what we have now.”

 

“Well, the first item I must give you is a warning that none of the people working are wearing a hard hat, proper boots, or protective clothing in contravention of edict YTGF7777-88d8d of the construction worker’s code.”

 

“But if a ten ton stone lands on your head it won’t matter whether you’re wearing a hard hat or not.”

 

“It’s the thought that counts. You have to be seen to be trying to look after the welfare of your people.”

 

“Appearances are everything. Even though people are willing to die to help Pharaoh.”

 

“Are they being paid to do this work or forced to be here?”

 

“They aren’t being paid, but they do get accommodation and food provided for them.”

 

“And they are allowed to leave when they wish?”

“Not really – it is thought an honour to be here and help with this building. The work is very tiring and we don’t force people to work for too long as they can cause their fellow workers problems if they are fatigued.”

 

“It would count as volunteering I suppose, but even then this site is still a work environment and the employment safety laws still apply.”

 

“I understand completely – would you like a closer look?”

 

“Why does Pharaoh want to build a cube?”

 

“Because it is perfectly uniform in three dimensions, width, height, and depth. It’s perfect like him and he believes it will be his legacy for future generations and they will know him because of The Cube. There will be paintings on it and an inscription that will read ‘Look upon my work ye mighty and despair’ or something similar.”

 

“That sounds very poetic – how big will the letters be?”

 

“Two metres high roughly.”

 

“Where is all the stone coming from?”

 

“It’s coming from quarries along The Nile and is being carved on the edge of the plateau before being moved up here on stone rollers.”

 

“Is The Cube being built on a right of way – there seems to be a path heading to that corner? I will have to ask you to move the whole structure 1 foot to the left – I will issue you with a Blocking Right of Way notice B76-909-JJJJ-2929.”

 

“That means relocating 100,000 tons of stone.”

 

“You’re breaking the law – some poor sheep herder will have to drive his flock around the whole structure. Whilst you are doing that I would also suggest re-aligning the whole structure with that tree on the horizon – that will impress people in the future. They will try and prove the alignment relates to where a particular heavenly body appears over the horizon on the longest day of the year, or the shortest day. Perhaps burrow into the structure too and leave some parts of The Cube hollowed out, that will confuse them no end.”

“Oh I see leave a few mysteries for those to come to solve.”

 

“Except they’re not mysteries, you are just playing with their minds – leave a boat under The Cube for example, have a few empty rooms containing hieroglyphs, build steps down into the sand that don’t go anywhere.”

 

“I like the way you think – all these items will allow the name of Pharaoh to endure beyond his time to the stars and back.”

 

Just then a worried-looking man ran over to the vizier and asked him for a private conversation. They were away for about two minutes before the vizier returned.

 

“It seems we have a major problem,” said the vizier stroking his chin, “but perhaps you can help us?”

 

“What is the problem – are the stones too heavy to be hauled up off the ground for the required distance already?”

 

“They are and as I said earlier we have another 100 metres to go straight up.”

 

“Well, might I suggest a pyramid then, a stepped pyramid with a base angle of 52 degrees or so, whatever angle it has to be to rise to 139 metres. You can drag the stones up the various levels. Or build a spiral ramp.”

“Or use the Wand of Osiris which allows the stones to float lighter than air.”

 

“Why don’t you use that for everything?”

 

“Well, I do – I go around straightening things and making sure they’re aligned, closing gaps to make sure the rats can’t get in, making the structure waterproof, not that there’s much rain here of course. But I wouldn’t use the Wand all the time, because that would defeat the purpose of channelling the people’s efforts into creating monuments and making sure they have a common purpose of helping cement the legacy of Pharaoh rather than uniting to oppose him.”

 

“It also tires them out so they can only think of sleep when they’re not working.”

 

“There is that too, but they do get a day off every month.”

 

“That’s insufficient time – I will issue you with a notice as you’re contravening edict 8282-3ij3393-333fl relating to worker’s rest time over a calendar month.”

 

“Most people only work for six weeks at a time and then return to their home villages for the rest of the year.”

 

“It is still a contravention of the law.”

 

“Perhaps they won’t have to work as hard on a pyramid as they do on a cube.”

 

“Let’s hope so for their sake.”

 

“Less working hours, better working conditions, I think you’ll agree.”