(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)
PANEL: “Science Fiction and Philosophy: Exploring the Connections”
DESCRIPTION: “SF has been called the literature of ideas, and the ideas explored in SF have become increasingly philosophical throughout the history of the genre. What are the most illuminating thought experiments in recent and classic SF? Which philosophical questions do they raise? And how are philosophers in today’s universities employing SF in their teaching and research?”
PANELISTS: Andrea Johnson, Dyrk Ashton, Ken Schrader, Nathan Rockwood
- What big questions does literature tackle?
- Everything since Hegel is a response to Hegel (or Plato)
- Philosophy deals with things which are EXPLORED, not KNOWN.
- Philosophy deals in questions, religion deals in answers.
- What is “real”?
- What will uploading minds change about how we think about how we think?
- All of us are students of philosophy, because all of us have an ideology, even if that ideology is “I don’t have an ideology”
- Clifford Simak’s Ogre
- The Matrix
- The experience of fiction is a real experience
- Yoon-ha Lee – Ninefox Gambit
- Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice, et al.
- Samuel R. Delaney – Babel-17
- Philip K. Dick
- Terry Pratchett
- Mur Lafferty – Six Wakes
- Ready Player One
- Ferrett Steinmetz – The Uploaded
- Ted Chiang – Lifecycle of Software Objects
- Mass Effect (computer game)
- Black & White (computer game)
- Robert J. Sawyer – Quantum Night
This panel was interesting in that so much of the discussion revolved around listing works which address philosophical questions, and not a lot of addressing the questions themselves. This bothered me at first, but on reflection I realize that these panels are meant to be introductions and overviews, not necessarily deep dives into the subject; if for no other reason than that the panels all stand alone, and if two or more share a subject it is only by coincidence. That said, I appreciated the breadth of suggestions, and particularly that they included games. Computer games, if the narrative is sufficiently complex, can be seen as simulations and testing grounds for ideas which are not always easy for an individual to address in the real world.