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So today I was at the Institute of Ideas Genes and Society festival with Tom. We went to the SF film panel, featuring a group of people I didn't know; the SF literature panel, featuring Ken Macleod (time taken to work in a mention of the singularity: 4.5 minutes) and Gwyneth Jones (who for some reason restricted herself to her work as Ann Halam); and in the absence of Harry Kroto, the Genes and Intelligence panel.

In general, the events were good. The upside was the diverse audience; for instance, the Genes and Intelligence panel and audience featured philosophers, molecular biologists, psychologists and teachers. The audiences for the SF panels (particularly the SF literature panel) contained a number of non-SF fans, whose take on the matter under discussion was often...original. Indeed, even one of the panel members in that event clearly had only the vaguest of ideas about SF, at one point entertainingly causing Ken Macleod to refer to her as 'profoundly misguided'.

It made an interesting contrast to Eastercon, though. There, an SF-literate audience took certain standpoints as axiomatic; here, they were challenged - the most notable example being the discussion of the desirability and implications of post-human development. I think this kind of cross-group debate is important; it's all too easy, and tempting, to keep to the SF ghetto. On the other hand, at several points it did lead to a certain lack of focus in the debate, often arising as much as anything simply from differences in terminology.

(One idea that came up - I think originating with the inimitable Farah Mendlesohn - I rather like: The thought that going to university is equivalent to passing through a singularity. To a certain extent, there's truth in this; university provides shared references and experiences and if someone hasn't been, there is a difference in perception of and reaction to the world. Perhaps it's a devaluation of the concept of a singularity, but I still think it's kinda nifty.)
It sounds like it was an interesting event, I wish I'd known about it.
Well, it's an interesting idea, but not necessarily true. I felt that a singularity was a revolutionary step, a kind of parameters redefinition that can even be traumatic. Example: the realisation of speed from the steam engine...or the wired Morse. Or if that's too meatworld technological, the idea of *drilling* a hole into stone to get the string through (Stone Age humans *didn't* drill holes, they polished a part until a hole appeared).

The idea of shared reference points is valid, but cannot be limited to a uni experience. Any reference point that gets sufficiently tribal and institutionalised can have a degree of influence on an adherent's worldview...ranging from Catholicism, to Buffy/Angel bukake-ism (*g*), to native horticulture, to DIY, to automotive repair, to blogging.

*Good* unis are good at bringing a lot of these different strains under one roof with a greater stamp of authority (an authority backed by perception, history, and $$$), but that never completely eliminates the individual strands of independence