Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Questions about telepathy
Telepathy has fascinated me ever since I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and wished they would do more with Counselor Troi’s ability (as opposed to her appearance). Thinking about that topic brought up a lot of questions…
1. Why do telepaths speak at all? If telepathy is something common to every member of a species, might their vocal cords eventually atrophy? Or do they only use telepathy for private communication and audible speech otherwise?
What’s the telepathy etiquette, in other words?
2. What methods do telepaths have for including other people in a silent conversation? For instance, in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels, men can communicate with other men on private “spear threads”, while women use “distaff threads”.
Do telepaths who aren’t originally participating in that conversation know of it or hear it anyway? Can they “listen in” if the originators of the conversation don’t intend to include them?
3. Does telepathy only refer to actual, direct speech? Or does it also include the ability to pick up thoughts or images from another person’s mind, whether that person wants to share them or not?
4. If the subjects of such scans were also telepaths, would they know about the scans? How would they react?
5. In a society of telepaths, how would a request for mental privacy be treated?
6. How do people become telepaths? Nature or nurture? If it’s genetic, are there any downsides to it? If it’s learned, what kind of people undertake such a course of study, and what do they do with their training?
7. Does anything block or interfere with telepathy? In Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, a character tries to get away with murder in a society where telepathy is extremely common. To shield his thoughts, he silently repeats a jingle from a song, ”Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun”.
If another telepath wishes to contact another, does the recipient have the option of not answering at all, similar to not picking up the phone? Can the recipient's mental status be set at "unavailable" during times when concentration is needed elsewhere - such as during a battle?
8. Can telepaths talk silently to children? What, if anything, prevents them from using their ability to influence or otherwise harm impressionable or defenceless minds?
9. What’s the range of telepathy, distance-wise?