At an unreasonably early Sunday hour of 10am, there was a panel called De revolutione scientiarum, or Could the scientific revolution have happened three centuries sooner? I shall never know the answer to that as the panel chose to discuss Greek and Arabic philosophy instead. Not that this was a bad thing – everyone seemed to know what he was talking about – but it was fairly heavy going.
They went off topic early, after deciding that "might have been" was a tough topic as the unintended consequences of any change rapidly outweighed the intended consequences. For instance, who at the end of WWI could have guessed that the sudden availability of cheap automobiles would radically change the mating habits of teenagers?
Another interesting thought: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" signaled the revolution that led to science. Beforehand, the heavens and earth were gods themselves, and not subject to investigation. One would not seek to understand the properties of Mars or Poseidon if they were conscious beings.
The next one was quite philosophical too. In How Will The Future Remember the 20th Century, Harry Turtledove, James Morrow and Nancy Kress discussed what a human a thousand years from now might remember about the 20th century.
Morrow thought that the 20th century had seen the beginnings of positive changes, for instance multiculturalism (signaling the beginning of the end of racism and sexism). Nancy Kress thought he was overly optimistic. He thought that it signaled the end of the belief in invisible friends controlling us. Nancy Kress thought he was not only wrong in that thought, but was incorrect, as spirituality was an important component of being human and should not diminish. Kress thought that humans could not escape our genetic make-up (which she says was honed on the savannahs) and were geared to suspicion, greed, fighting and so forth. Morrow thought that her philosophy, genetic determinism overlaid with faith in a spiritual component, was incoherent. Turtledove invented the word "dogmatotropic" to describe how people actively seek dogmas, and wants credit for it, so you read it here first, folks.
"How" will people remember us led to other discussions – will there be people? Will they remember us with human brains or some other technology? Will there only be one sort of people? Since we look back to the past and look for those strands that "led to us", they may do the same with the 20th Century.
What does stand out? The incredible body count of the last 100 years? Gandhi? The Atom Bomb? Antibiotics – or will it be the century that antibiotics actually worked, as one audience member asked.
Excellent discussion from some seasoned thinkers.
Last panel – The Coming Thing – what's next and newest in SF. Only Lou Anders turned up to this. Charlie Stross blew it off and Daniel Abraham sent his apologies. Luckily Walter Jon Williams was in the audience and was press-ganged into an involuntary panel-crash. Another wide ranging discussion at which I deduced that most books were written by authors who put all the genre names in a hat and pick two out at random. Whatever those two are, the book becomes. Werewolves and Detectives? Right. Vampires and cowboys? Why not?
The upshot seemed to be that the paranormal romance genre was saturated and something new was expected but I'm not going to tell you what it was. Hee hee.
WJW said that most SF is no longer a book with SF on the spine. It is movies, comics, TV. The writers do not consider themselves SF writers and the readers are plentiful and young. The trick will be to capture this audience for SF. For instance cover art was described as a "mating call". The jacket is a pretty flower to entice a bee to land there. If you want the bee, you need to make it attractive. And it better match what the bee wants, because he won't make the same mistake twice.
And that was my Worldcon.