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Telepathy suppresses technological development in society - Phil's Rambling Rants
April 8th, 2010
03:04 pm

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Telepathy suppresses technological development in society
I was taking a walk, quietly thinking some melancholy thoughts about how little I like humans, when a novel idea snuck up and jumped me from behind.  There might be an interesting SF novel in this, or at least some serious musing, but I'm leaving for a con in an hour, so I'm just going to record the bare bones of the idea.  If anyone bothers to read this, please feel free to add your thoughts.

Thesis: a telepathic species would be much less likely to develop high technology, the sort of technology that could lead to them coming to visit us or to them generating a signature that makes us notice them from afar.  This is because technological progress is driven by cutthroat economic competition, both on an individual and a societal level.  Because telepaths would, by my imaginings at least, be much more likely to understand each other, they'd be less ready to hurt each other.  Peaceful coexistence between populations leads to stability and comfort, but aggressive expansionism, conflict, and a harsh existence tend to bring out new ideas and ways of doing things.  Significant technological change tends to be pushed by strong individual leaders, not by widespread consensus, and a telepathic society should be much more run by consensus, rather than by driven individuals.  The driven individuals themselves are probably driven more by insecurity and the need to prove themselves than anything else, and being nurtured in a telepathic environment would, again in my imagining, let people grow up happy and secure -- but not driven to change the world.

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From:shockwave77598
Date:April 8th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
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mmm, I disagree to a little of your theory. Even if your supposition that 100% telepathy between members of a species is good, kind and full of rainbows and kittens, that doesn't change the fact that the rest of the universe is cold, callous, and would just as soon kill you as look at you. There are disasters. There are famines. There are problems with disease. There are overpopulation issues caused by entire planets full of people overflowing with thoughts of rainbows and kittens. So technology would still rise up to solve these problems, even if there were no wars and no conflicts whatsoever.

Of course, all this completely overlooks the Bablefish Paradox - that being that perfect communication creates more conflict rather than reduces it.
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From:catsittingstill
Date:April 9th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
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They might still be driven to develop science and technology from external pressures--maybe having neighbors who *weren't* telepaths and wanted their planet, or maybe just from the desire to reduce the suffering that everyone shares from people who have been injured or have gotten sick, or are cold in the winter or hungry...
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From:anach
Date:April 9th, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)
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possibly, depending on the level of telepathy, one might surmise that technology would develop more quickly, as information from diverse sources may be more easily synthesized into a final product.

the premise also assumes that conflict is reduced by open communication. imagine, if you will, a scenario in which you and I both implicitly understand each others' political viewpoints, but one of us is a radical conservative, and the other a radical liberal. open communication would not resolve our fundamental difference in viewpoint.
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From:robin_june
Date:April 10th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)

Anecdotal "evidence:" It took a sun going nova in:

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Zenna Henderson's "The People" stories.

A race of people just like humans except for their powers, which include near-complete telepathy and empathy.
Yes, they were perfectly content on their home planet: they had turned it into an Eden, and felt no need or drive to come find us. Only when their psychics had seen the future destruction of their world (due to astronomical, not environmental, processes) did they build spaceships, to serve as their lifeboats. And yes, they used consensus to build the ships, and send them in many different directions trying to find a substitute for their Home.

The ship that was sent in Earth's direction crash-landed in a remote desert area of the Western U.S; the scattered survivors looked enough like us so that if they just suppressed their gifts and abilities, they could Pass as humans, even to the point of intermarrying, and having half-blood children with part of the Gifts, and partial control of the Gifts.
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