Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is there an evolutionary advantage to telepathy?

While reading UFO Magazine today, one of the articles was talking about a book about this new agey guy who thinks that "star beings" are going to help us develop telepathy in order for us to move to a new spiritual level. In one sense, it's a cool idea, but then I tried to think about what the advantage would be to telepathy.

We humans prefer to think of ourselves as individuals, albeit social individuals and for the most part it works. Sure we can be selfish, but we value our privacy from time to time, and for the creative types that can be crucial. If we suddenly found ourselves with telepathy however, our minds would be open to anyone (or anything) close enough to us to hear thoughts. Unless there was a means to block people from reading our brains or we started thinking the same, I doubt we'd be able to walk down the street without hearing stuff we don't want to, or don't need to hear. Heck, there is enough of that without the telepathy.

From an evolutionary perspective, I see almost no reason for telepathy to develop. There are some situations where perhaps a species could develop something similar, such pack predators who rely on silence, but still need to communicate, but I feel it is unlikely that it would. Also like this article from Hard SF mentions, if a species already has other means of communication, the development of telepathy is doubtful and having multiple means of communication ourselves (vocal or visual) I find it unlikely we'd develop telepathy to replace any of them.

Overall I feel the idea is fantasy more then anything, at least for Earth based life. I will admit that it could develop elsewhere as a form of communication, maybe even in aliens who might be visiting our planet. And while I do feel that we as people need to evolve more spiritually or philosophically, I don't see how telepathy would help, in fact it would probably do more harm then good.


Interstellar Housewife said...

Well maybe with the ability of telepathy comes a way to shield yourself. Much like opening and shutting our mouths work now. I cold see how that might be of some use, especially if it was in a more - er - universal language. No, not the language of Love -- I mean something entirely different. A kind of telepathy that would make language unnecessary and communication with outside telepathic individuals a non-issue. Not to mention how it would benefit the hearing impaired.

All of this is said with out me acknowledging the whole part about a star being saving our asses. Like you said, it would be nice in a sense, but I don't know where people got this notion that aliens are killing time, waiting around to save our asses in pinch. I think some of the idea comes from the whole alien/nuke angle - that they are not allowing us to destroy ourselves or the planet. MAYBE, but I really doubt it. I think if anything, they just don't want us destroying the planet. They could probably give a flying fugh about our civilization.

But, who knows. Maybe they are here to save is and we are exonerated form destroying each other and the planet. Get out of jail free! *snort*

Alas, I am a cynic.

Thanks for the post! You're one of my favorites to read.

Autumnforest said...

Very good point! Yes, as someone who does have the ability, I also know what it's extremely unreliable in that you can't really master what bits of info you get and how much. It's sort of like balancing a ball on your nose, you might do it for a few seconds or a few minutes and lots of subtle variables can alter that. When I do a read on a person, admittedly, I'm not "reading their thoughts" like people always assume. I'm reading part of their memories. I access some compartment in their memories and it becomes my own memory, as if it happened to me. There's really no advantage to this, except for reasons of procuring empathy. If aliens could speak to each other as "abductees" claim--speaking without moving their mouths, the advantage (big jump in my imagination) would be that:
1. If they came from an environment where soundwaves were not possible, this would be the only alternative, other than sign language.
2. To be able to truly discern a person's thought content and intentions, they could force everyone to keep their thoughts clean and positive and be able to root out those with "dark" thoughts.
3. If they travel to many different life forms, they would be able to communicate with them without knowledge of their language.

Admittedly, this is fun supposition. It makes me wonder how man would communicate if he arrived on another planet. Probably would plant his flag and wave his gun.

As for aliens teaching us to read minds, for humans it would be the end of our civilization. However, when it comes to keeping our politicians on the clean and the up-and-up, it sounds like a great solution.

Fantastic post! I love when you through out ideas to contemplate.

Jeff said...

My thoughts about this are kind of similar to what Autumnforest said. People that have the ability now report that they don't hear thoughts, as in words, but information or images. So it's not liked you'd necessarily be hearing everyones idle chatter as you walk down the street. But in regards to what you mentioned in the post about 'star beings', if true, then perhaps these star beings can teach humans to control the ability; so we can only communicate when we want to communicate and be able to communicate accurately.

I think these would be some of the advantages to telepathy:

-We would no longer have a language barrier. All humans would be able to communicate with each other.
-Potentially, we may have a better sense of truth and deception.
-Possibly be able to better communicate with animals (or aliens).
-We could communicate over long distances.

In regards to the last advantage, I think some of our technologies may have made us spiritually lazy. Cell phones and satellites make communications around the world simple, but perhaps that simplicity has led us to ignore an undeveloped telepathic ability. We often marvel at how far our modern technologies have come, but are we ignoring part of ourselves in the process? Imagine the advantages an advanced telepathic ability would have over cell phones. You wouldn't have to worry about signals, you could contact someone even if they weren't around a phone,'d be a lot cheaper. :)

Naveed said...

I understand your view on aliens saving us. I think it would come down two questions:
1) Are there aliens observing us?
2) Would they view our entire species as corrupt, or understand that it's only a portion that is?

I like it when I throw out ideas too! There is something fun about hearing other people's thoughts on a subject. It's also helpful when an idea is half formed, or needs some more theorizing.

I totally share your view point on our technology making us spiritually lazy. While a lot of it is supposed to make our lives "easier" it just makes things more complicated and busy. That in effect takes away large chunks of time people would have been able to devote to spirituality and related things.

Interstellar Housewife said...

Nods* and without expanding the argument into too many areas, it is also dependent on not just if we are being observed, but are we being observed by more than one 'species'.

Really, though, I'd like to think they'd understand we are still growing.

There's a lot of talk about how we are nothing to EBEs, being separated by X amount of years of evolution and the equivalent of insects - but my position on that is we are at least of some significant concern, if only because we have the capabilities of destroying life and planets. I would think that something along those lines would certainly be a cause for concern on an interplanetary scale. So, if they are protecting anything, perhaps its just the planet and the life on this planet that cannot fend for itself. As for us -- our own civilization is quite possibly in our own hands.

**This post in no way supports Stephen Greer :p

Raptor Lewis said...

If that were actually possible, it'd be more like being part of a Borg collective from Star Trek....scary! However, that's just Bull-s*** for lack of a better term. There's NO scientific basis for that conjecture! I wonder what that guy is on. :? In fact, though we, H. sapiens, prefer indviduality, one can not deny that we are social like any other species.