In 1970, I read a short story by Robert Silverberg entitled “Passengers”. It was about alien beings who come to Earth and infect the minds of people, using their bodies as playthings. Now in 2018 I am reading another story entitled “Mind’s Eye”, about the successful implantation of electrodes in someone’s brain which allows him to have immediate access to everything on the internet, but with a side-effect, unexpected, of ESP. I immediately thought of a story I had read about a future method of criminal rehabilitation that isolated criminals in habitats with only other criminals, who had been convicted of similar crimes. The idea was to create empathy for their victims by making them experience being victims.
You might wonder what such an idea–that of creating empathy for victims by having the criminal experience being a victim–has to do with universal ESP, or telepathy, which I use interchangeably with ESP. Empathy–the ability to understand and share the feelings of another–isn’t necessarily a good thing, and therefore, universal empathy could destabilize all relationships. The one guy in the story who has that ability, due to having survived the implant procedure, is on the run from various factions who want to kill him. Why? Universal empathy can be dangerous. As one of the principals after him put it, “his ESP ability is an extinction-level event.” Is it? Would universal telepathy be a good thing? My questions:
1. Are ugly, violent, hateful thoughts more prevalent than kind, compassionate, loving thoughts?
2. If so, why? Is it because that is how people are, or because of the frustrations and betrayals in their lives, or because tearing others down makes us feel better about our own lives?
3. If we knew others could read our thoughts, would that knowledge inhibit negative thoughts? Would it increase positive thoughts? Or would we kill each other?
4. How much control do we, or can we, exert on our thoughts?
5. What are thoughts exactly, beyond neurons and chemical transmitters connecting them? Are all conscious thoughts encoded in language, that is, do we speak them? What is the difference between conscious, spoken thoughts and voluntary muscle movements which we execute continuously without verbalizing? What is the difference between unconscious and conscious thoughts?
6. Could we ever get to the point of forgiving and excusing the negative thoughts of others about us, so as not to destroy our relationships? What if the thoughts of other people about us are actually more truthful than what they verbalize? Could we acknowledge the truth and forgive, rather than hiding behind our facade?
7. If the answers to the last question were yes, wouldn’t our existence be improved?
8. What then is more likely, universal telepathy leads to more open, truthful, healthy relationships or destroys our world when people can’t handle either truth or negativity?
9. What if there were a reliable way to distinguish people who could accept judgment about themselves and still forgive (let’s call them the “forgivers”), from those who would react violently to being judged (let’s call them the “reacters”)?
10. If such a method were ever developed, would it then make sense to separate the “forgivers” from the “reacters” on the basis that the reacters will destroy each other and civilization unless they are somehow reeducated?
11. Since the reacters would doubtless be the super majority, isn’t it more likely under the universal telepathy scenario that they would want to kill the forgivers?
Wish you could read minds? How do you feel about your secrets being exposed? If you think social media violates privacy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.