Taking the ISC as a "socializer" in an otherwise interactive poor game is a new interpretation about its use to me.
Still I think it strange to like such a clunky mechanic just because it forces players to gang up against another.
Interaction is sorely needed in the game. If there were more interaction it would be a shorter game! I think the ISC is very important to getting interaction in the game. Automatically seeding the board in some designated way would also be good. Would it drop it to a 4 hour game- I dont think so. But it would shave off a few hours. Also to fix the attack defense thing I would give the attacker an auto +1 to hit. This way it gives interacting with the other players with their fleets a benefit.