Daniel Miller

Disappeared

Yesterday when I mentioned _why, I was uncoincidentally reading Where’s _why? – What happened when one of the world’s most unusual, and beloved, computer programmers disappeared. It’s an excellent read.

_why himself repeatedly stressed programming’s creative potential. In the (poignant) Guide, he writes, “Vitamin R goes straight to the head. Ruby will teach you to express your ideas through a computer. You will be writing stories for a machine,” he says. “The language will become a tool for you to better connect your mind to the world.”

Some years after his internet disappearing act, some documents supposedly from _why landed on the web. Like _why’s work, it’s postmodern, rambling; the brilliance is hidden and obtuse.

Nowadays we would label this kind of act as “information suicide” or something very sophisticated, because people are much more aware of the importance of ones’ identities, but in those days we simply called it “jerktoasting” and these people on stage were just a few jerktoasters who got caught. We were fascinated by them, because no one of us had ever thought of deleting ourselves. It seemed futuristic to do so and it seemed to exhibit willful antipathy to do so, which, in a way, somehow seemed quite futuristic as well.

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