Tag essays

Screams of Silica, the college essay that got me into Stanford in 1999

I was spelunking in archive.org and found my old homepage from back in the day. I stumbled across my college admissions essay to Stanford. I wrote it in the winter of 1998. My how time flies.

Screams of Silica

Grains of sand have feelings too. As environmentalists bicker over trees, who will be there for the billions upon billions of grains of sand out there? Soon, entire deserts of sand will be harvested for silicon! These poor creatures will be decimated and irrevocably altered into ungodly silicon wafers. It is time to rise up and fight for our silicon dioxide crystal brothers and sisters.

We've all heard the analogy... If cars evolved like computers, they would cruise comfortably at 10,000 mph, get a million miles to the gallon, and if it broke, you could go to the store and pick up a new one for a dime. Moore's Law of exponential growth has been a godsend to Silicon Valley. With computer technology doubling in speed and complexity every eighteen months, people spend billions annually to replace last year's models. Countless multitudes of crystals of silica are being sacrificed for a short use of but a few years. Moore's Law has resulted in the systematic murder of these unassuming, innocent, naturally occurring crystals.

At the same time, Moore's Law has kept the computer the domain of a privileged few. Prices continue to be beyond the range of affordability for many. Even today, fewer than 40% of Americans own computers. Technological advancement will eventually hit a wall. Moore's Law is not an absolute. Computers have always been getting faster and cheaper. Someday, with that quest for speed out of the picture, cheap will be the name of the game. Imagine the horrors as the other 60% rushes down to the store to buy the next 100 gigahertz Intel Octium VII Pro for $9.95 at the local Fry's Electronics. The horrors of such an age would make the systematic slaughter of silica of today look like children building sandcastles.

The prospect of computers everywhere not only threatens the fate of sand particles everywhere, but also the place of ignorance in society. With information exchange and dissemination at everyone's fingertips, where would ignorance and tyranny go? Evil dictators around the world would be displaced as computer-engendered thought and communication tears millions of minds from abject poverty and subjugation and transforms them into organized, united and educated masses. The world would be at our fingertips. The great WWII-era scientist Dr. Vannevar Bush once postulated a device called the Memex, which would augment the mind with hypertext memories. The rise of ubiquitous network computers could be just the augmentation of humanity that the doctor ordered.

Certainly, the ubiquity of the computer might change society at its core. Sure, it might result in the rise of new media, and the empowerment of the individual on a grand scale. Indeed, it might even result in world peace and harmony among all men. But humanity must not be selfish. We share this planet with the trees, and more importantly, the earth. Can we afford to continue to victimize these helpless crystals of silica? May their silent screams haunt our motherboards as we type away with reckless carpal tunnel abandon.

Now computers are faster and cheaper than ever. Far more than 40% of Americans own computers today. Indeed, 50% of Americans own smartphones, which are a more omnipresent, portable, and totally networked version of the personal computer from 1998. By all means an upgrade.

So far, no 100 ghz Intel Octiums. Empowerment of the individual on a grand scale though? Check.