I saw Penn & Teller's show about ESP last night. Besides being hilarious, a throwaway comment (by Penn, of course) made me think.
Here's what he said (give or take a word):
Telepathy is communicating your thoughts directly to someone else's brain. Because it seems talking is too much work.
And it got me thinking... why would anyone want to be a telepath? What's the practical purpose of telepathy?
In this anecdote I see one of the two problems with telepathy. The fact that it's not necessary.
It's supposed to be a mechanism for communication. Well, as Penn said, you can talk, so there are alternatives. There must be a compelling reason why telepathy would be better. Let's consider some parameters of communication quality!
Reliability of connection
I don't expect anyone will tell me telepathy is more reliable than a cell phone. At least not in the forms ESP research has any hope of finding.
If there were a really reliable telepath, he would have been found already. Unless he knows he's been sought, and uses his telepathy to hide himself ;-)
Well... let's look at the alternative! Satellite phones. They work (worked?) anywhere on earth. Surely telepathy's advantage over that would be marginal? And Iridium went bankrupt, so there was not much demand for that, either.
Reliability of signal
By this I mean the odds of getting what the other guy is sending.
I suppose if telepaths transmit the thought in its raw form, interpreting it on the other side is going to be quite hard.
Take me, for example. As a side effect of how I learnt english, almost every conscious thought I have is in my head in spanish and in english. At the same time.
I literally have english dubbing running fulltime in my head. That's gotta be annoying!
Even without that, it takes me some effort to understand what I'm thinking. And I really know me!
Please suggest other paramenters in the comments if you want!
Now, I have a strong suspicion about why people want to believe in telepathy, and I think they fall in two camps.
Those who want to read what you think without you knowing it (or intentionally sharing it).
This is some sort of puerile voyeuristic fantasy, like dreaming of being invisible (you know why they want that, right? ;-)
Probably the reason why the US government used to throw away money paying ESP researchers.
The pathologically shy
They want you to really understand what they think, so you will understand and like and love them.
Well, that's all find and dandy, but it's perhaps easier to actually express yourself instead of dreaming about having a ESP capability you will never have?
I feel some tenderness for these maladjusted guys, mostly because I used to be one, and I still am in some ways.
But I have learned a few things since then. No, they will not like you if they understand you. Or maybe yes. But it's not guaranteed. So, be a nicer guy instead of dreaming of telepathy. Start understanding them, even!
Warning, silly pseudo-buddhist anecdote:
The Buddha saw one of his disciples cross a river walking over the water. He congratulated him, then gave the disciple a coin and told him: use this to pay the ferryman next time.
A miracle that only does the same you get for a coin is a miracle that's worth a coin.
Telepathy is a miracle worth 20 bucks a month for 500 minutes or whatever your cell plan is.
Why telepathy? Because it's cool, just line any other superpower. Duh!
Have you mistaken the pills this morning?
Why is it cooler than a cellphone?
Because the others don't have one?
What if it's a **really** cool cellphone? ;-)
There are situations where telepathy would be a very good thing to have. For instance you can't have a private conversation in a crowded elevator. Using telepathy however, nobody else would hear the conversation. Another thing - cheating at exams. Someone could just tell you the answers telepathically and nobody would know. This is just off the top of my head, there are probably many more examples one could think of.
As for the pills: nope, took my enalapril like every other day ;-)
Cheating at exams: the best way you can think of is having telepathy? Bribe the damn teacher. Easier and more likely.
Or even the ultimate cheat: study! It's easier than becoming a telepath!
Private conversations on crowded elevators:
text messaging? ;-)
Gusar: The biggest problem with both scenarios you propose is that you assume telepathy has some very specific characteristics:
1: only the cheater and his helper has it and not the teacher. Or only you and not the rest of the elevator people.
2: everyone has it but it acts like a phone call, where only the intended recipient gets it.
Since no natural communication method works that way (everything is broadcasted in nature, right?), it has to be 1.
So, not only would you have to have telepathy. You need that almost noone else has it.
About the pathological shy: a shy person fears to express themselves for some reason. they don't want you to know what they think. they would find a way to hide their thoughts. telepathy is no fun for them.
Sometimes it's really hard to express/talk about or idea, like explain a design. This is because you translate your thoughts into words, most of the time in a language where you can't express certain feelings or ideas directly/easily. The other side needs to pick this up, translate it back to their idea's and thoughts to get the message.
That's the point where you get differences in interpretation, especially when the other person has a different view or opinion. If the conversion to talking could be removed, and you could just 'stream' your thoughts it could make conversations a lot easier. :-)
I think that we are evolving into kinda super humans. But, do you really know what is telepathy? I don't know the list of features, but what if it's only sending mental messages, maybe there is another ability to hack into these messages, maybe. I'd like to have it, imagine your cell phone has empty battery and you want to tell your girl you're going to get later to the date, supposs it. Yes, if you are in a city, no problem, what if you live on a mountain or someplace like that.
Finally I just have to say something:
"If you have a cell phone, that's great, you can talk, send and receive messages, photos, sounds, great. But if you have both, telepathy and a cell phone, that's really better. That's is like learn another language, it is better to learn than having a translator where you type the word you don't understand!!"
first of all,is telepathy real?