Most of Gen Z is having a pretty rough go of this pandemic -- graduations and dances and other social events are canceled, college plans are on hold, and worst of all, grownups are learning TikTok. But for 17-year-old Avi Schiffman up in Washington State, it's been a chance to show the world what using your powers for good looks like. He built one of the most-visited coronavirus tracking programs in the world, found at https://ncov2019.live, and then he did this.
Yeah, he tweeted that out because he just turned down $8 million to run ads on his site. Nobody's giving the kid awards for design aesthetics on his site, but it's pretty user-friendly and updates frequently. It's one of the most reliable sites out there scraping every source on this virus it can around the clock. There are times he'll go more than a day without sleep, and he's skipped multiple weeks of school to work on the site. Don't act like you wouldn't too, especially if your high school was forced to make you read Etham Frome from your kitchen.
It's one thing to keep your site ad-free if you're being funded by venture capitalists or some other Faustian nightmare that 17-year-olds don't have time for. Turning down that $8 million is going to prove to be historic in his eventual biopic. But Schiffman is fully aware of his place in all this, and his altruism in a time when Jeff Bezos is in the news for being on track for trillionaire status is a sight for sore eyes. He knows there will be opportunities for money later, but for now, doing what's right is what's most important to him.
And when that future arrives, what'll be probably just as important as his gift for coding is his gift for foresight -- he built this tracker back in December of 2019, long before shit started hitting the fan on American soil. He bought himself N95 masks ahead of time knowing they'd be hard to find eventually. What is this kid, a medieval future-seeing wizard sent to warn us of things?
We don't know what it says about us as a species that a 17-year-old kid seems to have more empathy for humanity during this crisis in his pinky toe than our government does in its entirety, but we're here for it. And if somehow his program gains sentience, hopefully there'll still be a few humans around to tell it what good it did.
Top Image: ncov2019.live/Avi Schiffman