Immigration and health care are just two of the most antagonizing issues illustrating how deep and irreconcilable are the divisions among Americans. Similarly profound are the differences on education, foreign trade, public debt, climate change, drugs, and poverty – on almost everything. There is nothing wrong with people having different opinions, but the inability to reach any constructive agreement is troubling.

In my professional work as an engineer, when there is a problem, we troubleshoot it and arrive at a solution. Following political debates on any issue, one can easily notice that understanding the core of the problem is not an objective; we have opposing sides blaming each other. It is puzzling, because in achieving technological progress, we have invented and implemented very sophisticated machines and systems that work almost flawlessly. In trying to resolve our major social problem, we still use Stone Age technology. If engineers used the same methods, cars would not drive, bridges and buildings would collapse, and computers and smartphones never would have been invented. The irony is that communication technology has advanced the most in the past few decades. Oddly, as a society we are unable to communicate efficiently on issues that matter the most.

Undoubtedly, we can do better. We have at our disposal all the knowledge and all the technology we might need. Virtual Agora offers a novel format designed with the purpose of bringing scientific deduction into a political dialogue. It is an opportunity to start the long-overdue process of reaching a better understanding of the problems we face. No one will do this for us. If not now, then when?

Henryk A. Kowalczyk