This page contains information and links based on my initial research into telepathy and then it gives an update on how today’s technology could perhaps someday be used to produce a type of mind reading. It finishes with an excerpt from the novel x0 detailing how telepathy works in the universe created in that book. Scroll down to the image of the woman holding a book if you wish to go straight to the excerpt.
Telepathy: real or not? (my initial research on the subject):
I was very surprised to find that three out of four Americans believe in at least one paranormal phenomenon, according to a recent Gallup poll, and that ESP is the most commonly held belief. Friends and relatives provided me with ample interesting stories once they learned of the subject matter of my book, and most wanted to know what I really thought about telepathy. The initial truth was that once I began writing this book I discovered that I had not thought nearly enough about it! I wanted to write a book that explored the idea of whether humans would get along better if we could really understand how each other thought. Telepathy was an obvious means for investigating this idea. But it was more complicated than that.
I learned much about the nuances of various psychic abilities from many websites including http://www.armageddononline.org/esp_telepathy.php which provides definitions of telepathy and related forms of ESP.
I became fascinated reading the blogs and websites of those who believe firmly in telepathy and who make compelling arguments for some sort of psychic link between humans. For examples of these please check out http://phoenixesotericsociety.com/ and http://deanradin.blogspot.com/ both of which present believers’ views of how telepathy works.
I also became fascinated reading of many mind reading hoaxes exposed over the years and of many detailed studies at prestigious universities that have at best been inconclusive. Please check out. http://www.skepdic.com/telepath.html and http://www.rit.org/essays/esp.php for “Why People Believe in ESP for the Wrong Reasons” by Sharon Presley, an article which originally appeared in Independent Thinking Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 for a couple of compelling non-believers’ views of how telepathy does not work.
In the end, by the time I finished writing the book I had to conclude that the classic idea of holding conversations directly from from mind to mind seems unlikely. There seem to be just too many logical obstacles. However, the idea that humans do communicate emotionally with each other on some level that does not involve sight or sound remains intriguing and, I think, possible. Check out the website to which the photo above links for some interesting recent research on the subject. The scientist in me thinks that there is a lot about human consciousness that we do not yet know. So, perhaps……
Telepathy and Technology (An October 2015 update):
After I writing x0 I began to occasionally search for news about telepathy, and I noticed an increasing number of stories about using technology to achieve the same effect as psychic powers. In 2013 I described a story in Science about lab rats who had their brains wired together such that what one rat learned could be transmitted by direct wire to the other. Turns out that the other rat listened better if he got a treat for doing so (big surprise) but basically they communicated pretty well with what the researchers call a BTBI (brain to brain interface).
A couple of months ago Mark Zuckerberg made news by saying that the future of communication is telepathy. In a Q&A session with site users, he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”
The Washington Post responded with a well done article analyzing how this could work. They talked about the linked rats, as well as a University of California at Berkeley study in which a team of cognitive scientists managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. They described how in another experiment involving a noninvasive technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (or TMS) test subjects in India were able to use TMS to “think” words to test subjects in France. The Washington Post added that “the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the Internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light.” Yes, painfully slow.
The article quoted Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review as saying “‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact.” It concluded by noting that “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges” which lucky for us “is many breakthroughs and advances away.”
Yes, it is. But it is worth remembering that most big advances began very slowly, at first. For decades, many people didn’t think a fancy machine would ever replace something as reliable as a horse. We all know how that one worked out.
Telepathy in x0:
Telepathy, also known as “feeling at a distance,” is direct brain-to-brain contact. In x0 it is a poorly developed human sense somewhat like touch or smell but understood far less well, probably in part because the sense is only possessed by a small percentage of humans.
It is most often an emotional feeling received from someone else which is sometimes accompanied by one or more of the following: a mental image, sounds or words heard in one’s head including tunes or songs, the memory of a physical sensation such as falling, nausea, or cold, or the memory of a smell, touch, or taste.
Excerpt from x0 describing telepathy:
Just over a week after her meeting with Maurice, Lola sat alone with her laptop. She had avoided going to Maurice’s website for a lot of reasons, one of which she supposed was discovery by her family. But tonight Ariel was out with friends, and Alex and Teddie had both gone to sleep a good while ago. It was the perfect time.
She turned the small deep red card over and over in her hand. On one side was the enigmatic “x0.” On the other side were Maurice’s carefully scrawled handwritten instructions for logging on. She felt oddly nervous. Don’t be silly. For heaven’s sake, it’s a stupid website. You can delete it from your browsing history. In fact, you probably should delete it from your browsing history. Like a guilty soul searching for porn, Lola typed in http://www.tothepowerofzero.org/ and waited. Password? She typed exactly as instructed and she began to read.
“Welcome to the homepage of x0. Now please relax. As this is your first time here we invite you to explore and learn more about us. Click here to continue.”
The only option was to click the small dark red button in the corner. Okay. Lola clicked and read on. After her conversation with Maurice, she was not so surprised by the description of what telepathy was, but the next part caught her attention.
Telepathy is not mindreading because telepathy generally works at a sub-verbal level. The transmitter can attempt to send words, but it is the feeling behind the words that actually goes. If words are received, they are supplied by the receiving brain attempting to make sense of the emotion and are not necessarily the words being verbalized in the transmitter’s head. They may be similar, or there may be significant differences. However, the tone and intent will transmit.
Telepathy is also not hallucinatory. Transmitted sounds or images are received “in ones head” in a fashion similar to thoughts, daydreams and dreams, and no healthy human would confuse them with real sights or sounds. Physical sensations such as vertigo or heat, if strong enough, may be more confusing.
She clicked to go on to the “FAQ’s
Q: Who transmits information telepathically?
A: We all do. Everyone transmits, although most people merely emit an ongoing low-level signal. Occasionally those with secrets to hide become unconsciously adept at transmitting no or false information. Anyone, even those completely lacking telepathic skill, can make an effective cry for help. Adept telepaths generally learn to transmit better when they wish to do so.
Lola was particularly eager to read the next answer.
Q: Who receives information telepathically?
A: Far fewer people. Being a receiver is the real gift. About one percent of the population has at least a poorly developed ability to receive information telepathically. This ability appears to be evenly distributed by gender, ancestry, ethnicity, location, and socio-economic status with the exception that over the last few decades there has been a noticeable increase in the number of receivers among younger people.
Yes, Maurice mentioned something about this.
Q: Isn’t being a receiver an awful nuisance?
A: It can be, but receivers learn to shut out most of the input that they receive. This filtering ability is more akin to earplugs than to shutting one’s eyes in that it does not keep out all input but reduces it. On the other hand, many receivers use their gift to live a fuller life, even if they do not realize that they are doing so. Receivers typically excel in sales, politics, teaching, litigating, or any profession in which feeling the driving emotions of others is an asset. They make great negotiators, can make highly effective healers, and many are described as being the kind of person who could “sell ice to Eskimos.”
Lola paused. So did this explain all her debate trophies in high school? How about the presentations that almost always went so well?
Q: Can a receiver choose to improve his or her abilities?
A: Up to a point. Like playing the piano or running a mile, the gift can be practiced to develop it up to a person’s maximum potential. However each human will have their own natural limits. A person who has chosen, consciously or not, to develop and use their abilities as a receiver to their fullest is known as an adept receiver. It is estimated that about ten percent of all human receivers have learned to be adept, whether they realize it or not. This is not an insignificant phenomenon, as it currently amounts to almost seven million humans.
Lola paused to sip her glass of wine. So she was, probably, an adept receiver?
Somadina was confused. What she did and felt seemed to be something well beyond what was being described here. She read on.
Q: Is being a receiver the same as being a telepath?
A; No. Only about one in one thousand adept receivers will find that their abilities progress into the range of true telepathy. There is no clear delineation between the two categories, but based on our research we estimate that there are seven thousand or so true telepaths alive today.
Okay. That made more sense, Somadina thought. I am a telepath. I have always been one.
Q: How does a receiver become a telepath?
A: Telepaths are born as receivers, and some of them develop into telepaths as children or young adults. The ability also develops spontaneously in later life, even, surprisingly often, in old age. Often receivers are catapulted into being telepaths by a strong experience such as a life-threatening event or danger to a loved one, in which telepathy aids them even though they may not be aware of it at the time. In other cases, the catalyst is close association with someone who already is a strong telepath. Whatever the cause, once the transition to full telepathy is made, there is no going back. And if another telepath has been involved, then the mental bridge that has been built between the two minds appears to be permanent.
Lola started to feel a cold chill. So this is where it was going to get weird. She thought of her imaginary friend, the distraught Nigerian older sister, her panic under the water that had turned to calm as she had asked the right questions, which had saved her life. The diffuse yet very real link she seemed to now share with some woman she had never met. She wasn’t crazy. This stuff happened. She wasn’t crazy. It was okay. She wasn’t crazy. This was good. She read on.
Somadina was concerned. Being a telepath seemed like a powerful thing. A scary thing. Was she hurting people without even knowing it? She read the next part with relief.
Q: Can telepaths place ideas in other people’s heads?
A: No. The vast majority of people transmit but do not receive. If one tries to place a thought or feeling in the minds of ninety-nine percent of the population, the recipient will have no idea about it. If a thought is placed in the mind of a receiver, it will result in a vague, fleeting sensation that will likely be ignored.
Unless the person doing the placing is damn persistent about it, Lola thought to herself, thinking over the events of past spring. So now what? Was she totally vulnerable to whatever this lady sent her way?
Q: But couldn’t someone place ideas in the mind of another telepath?
A; Yes. That is one of the many reasons this organization, x0, exists. One of our missions is to locate all people who can fully feel another’s emotions, and to inform, teach, and even warn them for their own well-being.
Okay. This explained Jumoke’s brother’s urgency that she meet Maurice. Shit. She wasn’t crazy. A minor case of post-traumatic syndrome was the least of her problems. She’d get over that. Maybe had already. No, the real issue here was that Jumoke had been worried about her, had sensed that she was, what, a receiver with issues? He didn’t know what those issues were and he had suspected they might be an abusive husband. But the fact was she was turning from being a pretty good receiver into a full-fledged telepath, and now she knew that the turning was likely being done by some desperate woman who had no idea what she was doing.
And this group here was trying to educate, warn, and help her. Shit. As if she wasn’t weird enough already. But if it was going to happen, why wasn’t she, like, turning into one? Picking up more information from people? Did the process take awhile?
Q: Can an unwitting telepath be made to do something they do not wish to do?
Now that’s a good question, a guilty and worried Somadina thought.
A: Fortunately, no. As far as we know, no telepath has the ability to force another to do something against their will. At most a suggestion can be transmitted, one as simple as “call me so we can talk”. Suggestions can be ignored or acted upon as the recipient chooses.
That’s a comforting answer, Somadina thought.
Q: This still seems like it could be a dangerous skill in the hands of the wrong person. Shouldn’t we be worried?
A: It appears that telepathy is a high-level skill when it manifests itself in humans, and to date a certain degree of moral advancement appears to go hand-in-hand with its possession. So far at least there has been no need for policing, as kindness and empathy appear to be a natural outgrowth of being able to feel the emotions of others, and being aware of a potential victim’s pain or discomfort is apparently sufficient stimulus to alter any potentially problematic behavior.
That is real good to know, thought Lola.
That is real good to know, thought Somadina.
The back door started to open and Lola jumped in her seat.
“Mom,” Ariel smiled as she came in. “You okay?”
“Fine dear. You just startled me. I’m headed off to bed myself actually.” Lola clicked her browser shut as casually as she could manage and glanced at the clock. It was already way after midnight. “Did you have fun?”
“A bunch of us went to see a movie. It was okay. Kind of a dumb plot. A really long car chase which I thought was pretty pointless, but the guys all seemed to love it.” She laughed easily and started to head upstairs. “Get some rest Mom. That stuff on the internet will keep.” She winked.
As she turned away Lola thought, Damn. I bet she thinks I was looking at porn.
The overhead lights flickered and went dim, and then the whir of the computer ceased. The internet users muttered curses and complaints one by one as the screens went dark, but the clerk in charge just shrugged his shoulders and laughed. The generator had gone out. What could one say? It happened.
“Come back later and I’ll give you the rest of your time,” he offered. “It will probably take awhile to fix it.”
Somadina sat on her stool sadly. She had not gotten to finish the FAQs, she had not even started on the list of in-laws names Ikenna had given her to search for, and she had not even had the chance to check her brother Udo’s email account like he had told her she could, to look for messages from Olumiji, who had still not gotten back to her via her father’s cell phone.