Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Chris McKinstry is dead, and I won't be shedding a tear.

It looks to be true; there has been independent verification (such as it is - I will never know for a fact if the person ever existed in the first place) that Chris McKinstry has indeed committed suicide in his home in Chile.

For those who are not familiar with the back story, CMK was an individual with some fairly insane theories, a researcher of AI and a former operator of a big scientific telescope somewhere in the Andes. He was also a semi-regular contributor to the Joel on Software offtopic forum, a.k.a the circle jerk mentioned on the sidebar.

Initially this space was to be occupied by a long-winded and entirely heartless discussion of the mindlessness of this act. Mark Wieczorek said that CMK knowingly made his death an Internet moment, so I felt no remorse or pangs of conscience for criticizing it. I was going to talk how, as an atheist and a person who knows for an absolute fact that there is no soul and no afterlife, I consider suicide to be an act of unimaginable stupidity; how a lot of my own life was spent in deep anguish, how I wished every day that my existance would cease - and yet I never for a second gave realistic consideration to killing myself.

However, any point I would have made is completely moot now; the McKinstry suicide was indeed an Internet moment, and as such it has not escaped the pitfall of any Internet moment: futility.

In knocking himself off on public Netovision, Chris McKinstry has both succeeded and failed. He succeeded in becoming an Internet personality of minor significance, a candidate for a footnote in the history of the medium; this is an achievement I admire regardless of the means. In my philosophy, prominence is quite good, but simple rememberance is much of the way there. McKinstry failed in achieving his goals of becoming a martyr of the new age, inspiring outcry at the cruelty of a world that chewed up and spit out a simple visionary who believed before anyone else that the mind was a seven-dimensional hypersphere and thought a trajectory on it.

It is now Wednesday night, and McKinstry's moment has passed.

It has been outshone by a development of which it was a direct cause. Because Chris McKinstry's last words, a narrative of his final hours, appeared on the JoS?off board, some rather disturbing attention was drawn to it. This was a cause of considerable concern for our landlord, Joel Spolsky, who decided enough was enough and had us evicted.

?off was on thin ice to begin with. It was founded just after the US presidential elections of 2004, as an outlet for all discussions on the matter so that they would not crowd the main JoS forum. It was then driven ever deeper into the bowels of joelonsoftware.com, hidden away from the world in an ice-white corner of cyberspace where nobody could hear you scream. The defining characteristic of ?off was that it was uncensored; it did have moderators who filtered out spam and an occasional outburst of keyboard Tourette's, but no topic was taboo, and no opinion too outrageous. On more than one occasion it generated considerable insight.

Then again, I can see how Joel would not want to be associated with us.

The shattered remnants of the community are regrouping on Ectopia, a backup board prepared some time ago by one of the regulars for just such an occasion. It looks like FCE all over again, and the next few weeks will be critical. However, even now the predominant topic of discussion in this social group, one directly involved in something so tragic as the loss of a human life, is how much Joel sucks for kicking us out and what Simon Lucy needs to do to make Ectopia inhabitable.

Like I said, an Internet moment.

12 comments:

Mr Powers said...

How do you know for a fact there is no afterlife?

Flasher T said...

Despite claims to the contrary, there are things we can deduce logically and consider as unchallengeable axioms. The simplest of logical pursuits leads me to the obvious conclusion that there is no God and no immortal soul, that human consciousness is exclusively limited to the body and the time in which electrochemical reactions occur within the brain. Since there is nothing beyond this world, there is no force or framework upon which an afterlife could be built.

Simple, really.

Anonymous said...

McChimp is gone. Who cares? He was a kook, internet troll and wife beater. See news:wpg.general for how his home town is rejoicing.

Flasher T said...

Joel Spolsky cares, apparently. :)

Anonymous said...

He was a compulsive liar, cheat, wife-beater, etc. In fact he had an armed standoff with the Police in Toronto in 1990!

Dude was definately off his rocker, the world is better without him.
http://www.robotwisdom.com/ai/mckinstry.html

Anonymous said...

Not to speak ill of the recently deceased but... HE WAS INSANE.

He fled his hometown of Winnipeg when his CR6.com soap opera went bust. He owed loads of money from it and just fled. Next thing you know he pops up in Chile claiming he had plastic surgery and no one would recognize him.

A sad end to an even sadder life.

Anonymous said...

Despite claims to the contrary, there are things we can deduce logically and consider as unchallengeable axioms. The simplest of logical pursuits leads me to the obvious conclusion that there is no God and no immortal soul, that human consciousness is exclusively limited to the body and the time in which electrochemical reactions occur within the brain. Since there is nothing beyond this world, there is no force or framework upon which an afterlife could be built.
And these simplest of logical pursuits are? (of course, the meaningless drivel you posted around that phrase tell me already that, infact, there are none)

Anonymous said...

as an atheist and a person who knows for an absolute fact that there is no soul and no afterlife, I consider suicide to be an act of unimaginable stupidity
I would say quite the opposite. If life is just a collection of atoms in the right place at the right time, then how can it matter (and hence be stupid) if you decide (by definition, randomly) to end it? Surely its only stupid to end it if infact we are spiritual beings, as by definition by ending your life you are "missing the point" somewhat.

Flasher T said...

Oh, there are people who can formulate them better than I can - the most arcane example is Douglas Adams' puddle argument.

The thing is, "nobody can be told what the Matrix is". Believers cannot be convinced by logic or rationale, they will only see the light when they follow the path of reasoning on their own. I could give you dozens of arguments why there is not a God, and you would dismiss them all, until you eventually decide to look at the matter closer and come to the same result yourself.

Flasher T said...

If there is no afterlife, it means there is no existence beyond this. The actual reason why people commit suicide is not because they cannot go on living, but because they cannot go on experiencing this situation and want to change it drastically - the more drastic the situation, the more drastic the change.

But because our existence is limited to our experience, any experience at all, however unpleasant, is preferable to the lack of existence.

To put it simply, a believer is counting on the off chance that afterlife will be better. An atheist knows for a fact it won't.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for answering Flasher - I hope you dont think Im trolling your comments. I'm just genuinely interested in people that believe themselves to be a random fart of the universe (of course I mean "believe" in a random way, not a spiritual way). I've read your blog for a while, and your recent post, with all its complexities, is fascinating. Infact, I find it hard to believe its the product of a random collection of atoms, nor the result of a million monkeys on typewriters. Infact, your comments, along with a million other wonderous things I have experienced today are yet further proof of our spirituality.

Anonymous said...

>> But because our existence is limited to our experience, any experience at all, however unpleasant, is preferable to the lack of existence.

I don't know why you would think a lack of existance would not be better than a tortured one. There is no objective fact to make that conclusion.

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