So You Want to Be A Telepath?

meld-mirrormirrorTelepathy–everybody wants it, only bad guys get it, and it’s impossible to obtain. Or is it?

It is said that one of the greatest skills anyone can develop as a human being is the feeling of empathy. Empathy is the ability to not just sympathize with someone suffering, but to actually feel what they are feel. Lack of empathy is one theory for what is wrong with the world. Telepathy is one proposed cure. But what would a society of telepaths actually look like? How would that work? Would we end up like the Borg? And what is telepathy, exactly, anyway?

There are a variety of mental superpowers that are often confused with each other. Telekinesis is the ability to move things with the power of your mind. Force-lifting falls into this category. Mind control (which doesn’t have a fancy latin name) is the ability to control someone else with the power of your mind. (To see this play out very realistically, watch Jessica Jones.) Television is the ability to see things by closing your mind and imagining that you are there. This is kind of what Professor X does with the Cerebro. This is also pretty much what clairvoyance means. Telepathy, on the other hand, is the ability to read another person’s thoughts and/or emotions.

Of these four varieties of mental powers, clairvoyancy is frequently claimed, highly speculated about, but as of yet, not scientifically proven. Telekinesis, on the other hand, is possibly possible, but has yet to be used to do more than move foam balls around. Should we invent wireless electricity we may make one step closer to having the power of summoning the remote without getting off the couch.

Deanna_Troi_illusionMind control, as established beyond doubt, is evil and we should hope we never encounter anyone who possesses it. Which leaves us with telepathy–the most interesting and most often-used aspect. Telepathy falls into two categories: readings minds and reading emotions. Emotion reading is generally considered more useful and less invasive than thought reading, and such gifted individuals are often referred to as empaths. A notable example of an empath in science fiction is Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Empaths have little control over their abilities. They feel the emotions of those around them whether they want to and it can be very physically and mentally draining.

The mind-reading telepath also falls into two further subcategories–physical and non-physical contact. One of the main issues of having a mind reader around is that of privacy. How do you keep secrets from someone who can read your thoughts like a book? Make it so that they can only read your thoughts by establishing physical contact. Consequently it is implied that they must first obtain consent or else it is a violation of personal rights. Examples of touch-telepaths are Spock and the Doctor.

The-Girl-in-the-FireplaceFinally there is the telepathic society. This type of telepath is often found in fantasy, along with all the customs and safe-guards one would expect in a world where careless thoughts are as important to guard as careless words. Trained telepaths can usually raise mental shields to keep another telepath from reading their thoughts, and it is usually implied that they can make a conscious decision not to hear the thoughts around them and/or tune directly into particular minds like a radio. It is generally assumed that if you couldn’t turn off your own ability to hear other people’s minds you would go crazy from the constant bombardment of thoughts and feelings not your own.

In conclusion:

Telepathy is good for:

  • Determining the truth
  • Understanding other people’s perspective
  • Communicating across language and cultural barriers
  • Communicating with sentient beings unable to speak
  • Spying

If you find yourself suddenly in possession of mind reading powers you should never:

  • Use those powers for your personal gain
  • Use those powers for evil purposes
  • Use those powers for the evil government’s purposes
  • Use your powers irresponsibly
  • Read someone’s mind without their consent

To attempt to acquire telepathy you can try:

  • Meditation
  • Irradiation*
  • Visiting an alien race and asking that they open your mind
  • Communicating with demons and asking them to grant you unholy abilities*
  • Rapidly evolve into a higher state of consciousness
  • Invent a dangerous serum and use it on yourself*

*may result in a painful and lingering death and/or destruction of the world and/or everyone you love.

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