The AND Gate Project: Introduction
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Author Credit: Priti Rangnekar
Just one week after President Trump mentioned hydroxychloroquine in a press conference, prescriptions for the drug increased by 200% compared to the previous year, causing hundreds of Americans to face risks of drastic side effects and many more to lack access to the drug they genuinely needed. In Iran, Turkey, and India, deaths have occurred after ingesting alcohol from disinfectant, datura seeds, and even toxic methanol in misguided hopes of preventing COVID-19. Such events, amplified by a potent combination of political motives, ignorance, and media proliferation, are not isolated incidents. In fact, a recent study published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found over 2,300 reports of COVID-19 related rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories within the first four months of this year. From reopening schools without appropriate safety measures to the continued aversion to masks based on unfounded assumptions that run contrary to expert studies, we have seen that public policy and societal action cannot succeed when not backed by science and data.
In 2017, a Palestinian worker who posted a picture captioned “good morning” in Arabic was unjustly arrested, as the Facebook automatic translation software translated the caption as “attack them.” Although Facebook promptly acknowledged the error after the mistake was identified, the worker faced several hours of questioning, exacerbated by the presence of a bulldozer in the picture, which was associated with prior terrorist attacks. While technical innovation advances at an accelerating rate, such occurrences highlight the importance of social, cultural, and ethical awareness when both developing technology and integrating it with other institutions in our world. If engineering is optimized while leaving behind the human component, meaningful benefits will fail to occur, and humankind will have opened the doors for potential harm and lack of control.
Welcome to The AND Gate Project: Writing by Science Connect. The AND Gate Project: Writing recognizes that in order to create innovative solutions that positively impact the world, both STEM and society must be taken into consideration. In boolean logic and digital electronics, each input or output can either be HIGH/TRUE or LOW/FALSE. An AND Gate is a basic digital logic gate that performs logical conjunction. This means that if at least 1 input is not HIGH, the output of the AND Gate is LOW. In other words, in order for the AND Gate to produce a HIGH/TRUE output, all inputs must be HIGH/TRUE. We can extend a metaphor of the AND Gate to the real world. When technology is advanced, but social and humanitarian concerns are ignored, or when societal issues are addressed without regard to the scientific facts, genuine progress becomes unattainable.
Even from a young age, many students are presented with a dichotomy of STEM vs. the humanities while discerning their areas of interest and possible career choices. This phenomenon clearly places undue pressure on students to narrow their passions. For example, a child who enjoys both computer science and creative writing may unnecessarily forgo the latter entirely, due to a total emphasis on choosing the more “modern” or “financially stable” career choice.
Perhaps more importantly, the dichotomy erases the areas of intersection between the fields normally categorized as “STEM,” “humanities,” and “social sciences.” This erasure is particularly dangerous at a time when interdisciplinary collaboration is undoubtedly crucial in order to 1) develop a holistic understanding of life and the universe through multidimensional analysis, and 2) tackle the intricate problems that face our multifaceted world. Without a doubt, STEM students are gaining the technical skills they need to create robust technologies, and those pursuing the humanities or social sciences are actively involved in the mainstream core of their subjects. However, numerous pressing issues in the social sciences today relate to science and technology — climate change policy, public health and governments, space exploration funding, nuclear power and international law, and the ethics of gene editing, just to name a few. In parallel, many of the most revolutionary and popular advancements in STEM, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence models, and cybersecurity, have applications in society and politics and are intertwined with underlying philosophical or ethical questions. Thus, we not only need technical subject expertise in STEM, the humanities, and the social sciences individually, but we also need an active emphasis on understanding their intersection.
From contextualizing theories about outer space with philosophical underpinnings, to analyzing the ethics of predictive policing algorithms during the era of Black Lives Matter, to crafting pandemic policy solutions regarding public health and the economy, we must engage in an ideological shift from the “either-or” dichotomy. True advancements for society as a whole call for “AND Gates” that 1) fuse scientific data, technological innovation, philosophical contemplation, and societal awareness and 2) effectively communicate ideas to diverse communities.
Through reflections that both ask and answer important questions, analysis and synthesis of nonfiction publications, argumentative essays, extended studies, and original student research, the AND Gate Project strives to bridge STEM with philosophy, ethics, communication, and real-world policy while fostering thought-provoking education and open-minded discussion for all.
Hern, Alex. “Facebook Translates 'Good Morning' into 'Attack Them', Leading to Arrest.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Oct. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/24/facebook-palestine-israel-translates-good-morning-attack-them-arrest.
Kravitz, R. L. (2020, July 9). When Trump pushed hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of prescriptions followed despite little evidence that it worked. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/when-trump-pushed-hydroxychloroquine-to-treat-covid-19-hundreds-of-thousands-of-prescriptions-followed-despite-little-evidence-that-it-worked-140156
P., Erika. “Conspiracy Theories, Rumors, and Fake News Killed More than 800 People During the Pandemic, Study.” Science Times, 13 Aug. 2020, www.sciencetimes.com/articles/26864/20200813/conspiracy-theories-rumors-fake-news-killed-more-800-people-during.htm.