As a longtime comic book fan, I often have thought of super powers. I don’t know any fan who hasn’t actually. Many are outlandish, or almost overblown caricatures of real-life abilities. I am a fan of Stan Lee’s Superhumans series. The one power I think that most people believe in, but has never really been proven, is Psychic phenomena. I personally believe in the possibility of it, and would love to see proof surface, but I fear it may never appear, at least in the Western world.
I say it may never for a couple of reasons. First though, I want to address the Comics and their portrayal, then the archetype that seems to prevail from it. Most comics books I know, and I am by no means an overall expert, so I will preface this with the fact that I have not read or seen all comic book psychic characters, just a few, and mostly Marvel. So though my experience is limited, I believe what I do know suffices for the sake of my argument here.
Comics seem to show psychic ability to be something easily controlled, something that manifests conveniently upon puberty, or slowly grows along with the child/hero and progresses with their growth. Any character that had trouble with their power, had a bad upbringing, or couldn’t handle their power, etc. I understand both the need and basis for this model, but I want to propose a variant, with only the most highest level of similarity. What if the person was psychic from birth? and the power was always there, but learning what it was would be the difficulty, only because the person is unable to know they are different.
The archetype of psychics, both for sale and in comics, is that the psychic somehow knows what they know. This is only possible if they had grown up, then acquired the power of hearing thoughts or reading minds, or what have you. I am limiting my exercise here mostly to telepathy, as the other “psychic” abilities, such as telekinesis, fit, albeit to a lesser degree. Imagine for a moment that you always heard other people’s thoughts. The trick would be to know which were yours. Sounds easy, because we always only hear our own thoughts. You hear only your own voice in your head. Any one who claims different, is, quite reasonably, called crazy, carefully analyzed, and treated for their mental disorder. But what if someone did make it without being detected, if they were able to somehow know they heard others, and they weren’t crazy. What could that person do?
I say it resembles the archetype in that as humans, all things require learning curves. Learning how to interpret that ability would be a monumental task. If we give it even a limited, comics-inspired physical basis, lets say that their mental “view” somehow could sense the electric(magnetic) pulses that make up human thought. These are known to be cascades, like lightning arcing across the cortex. I am painting with broad strokes for the sake of argument here, for certain. Learning, as a child does with everything, how to start to interpret the things, the feel, from others, in the same frame as all other languages and communications. Would this person be considered Special Education? Would they fall behind because of it?
I believe this to be an “A-ha!” moment. When we now must ask, “What kind of person would make it through knowing, at least to some extent interpreting,others thoughts, while growing up in today’s world? And how much would location dictate that person’s character disposition? Since thoughts do not start out as words, and though spoken languages are pretty much universal for humans, they are all learned, so we have a penchant or attaching patterns to other patterns. I am trying to imagine getting the feeling, or other thought patterns, like mental pictures, or something primal, that anyone would understand, while learning this. Having the emotional thoughts be transmitted first would be my thought. Empathy would be the first form of telepathy, and, with the exception of telekinesis, possibly the first variant of psychic abilities to appear. Maybe this is as far as most would be able to interpret, as few other things are universally translated into thought patterns.
Not our hero though, this person has exceeded this, as other cognitive abilities develop, let’s assume our hero develops the pattern recognition ability even further, albeit unconsciously, like so many others in preteen years, it is hard to know even that others aren’t like you, especially if you are living in a society that teaches that all people are the same, and you should “do unto them as you would have them do unto you”. So our young hero thinks everyone hears things the same way. I mean after all, to have it be otherwise would not only be impossible, it would be crazy, at least if it were complex things such as words, and voices, or pictures, or even fully formed ideas and other abstract object thoughts. Let’s say, by some luck of chance, our psychic has an ability that starts at emotions, and progresses along the same lines and human psyche. Instinct is first, Self-Preservation, then emotion. Let’s give Instinct the convenient and brief definition of cellular or genetic memory, or more importantly for us, inherent physical memories and/or abilities.
Understanding the development of others is probably the first place our psychic, as do most, would begin to develop the sense of identity that would allow them to understand that others didn’t think like them. Relative hierarchy would probably be the place it would be learned from in my opinion. What kind of person could read the basic intents and emotions of others in today’s teen world and not go stark raving mad? I am surprised any of the regular teens do, much less someone burdened by another form of communication that wasn’t supposed to be possible, and has to develop and learn on their own. I mean, in reality, where would the “first” psychic go to learn these things? More importantly, what would being able to “feel” others do to someone, and what could they learn?
I suppose here is where geopolitical factors, as well as environmental and nurturing states would all come into play. Never underestimate the power of humanity however, as the brain is plastic, and our psychic seems to have the natural serendipity to fall through the cracks of society, not fitting in would be a good way to do that. The top of the underbelly of the Beast is where most of those good souls that see through the B.S. of everyday Western life often land. Just bad enough to lie and keep secrets, just good enough to only do it to help each other stay afloat of the deeper depths.
I would think that something akin to a “spider-sense” would develop as a natural defense mechanism, just as with other preservation adaptations. Second would be Empathy, or feeling others emotions on some level. I believe that a form of “lie” detection would possibly be next. All of this would be extremely difficult mind you, if this were true, knowing what was, and what wasn’t, yours, would be a herculean task. I mean, not only knowing when a thought wasn’t yours, but that it originated in another AND it was fabricated? Getting to the level of whole thoughts, words, and pictures, while heavily dependent on exposure, would be even more so. Getting others to hear you, much less obey, would be an amazing development. Barriers in perception, interpretation, language, and emotional triggers, would be a seemingly impossible thing, on top of the impossible ability.
Again, what kind of person would be able to do all of this, and not hurt a bunch of people, or themselves, or just plain find someone, confess it all and get put in a looney bin? Would they know, and have the foresight to stay quiet, and stay out of the public eye, and make sure there was always doubt on what happened? I would think the latter would be necessary. I also think a fair amount of narcissism and humility would be needed just to even try, I don’t think it would be someone who craved the spotlight, as every movie fan, comic book fan, and just about anyone else knows, what we don’t understand, or we fear, we tend to destroy. Besides, the rewards of staying out of the light, outweigh being in it.
There are several prizes for someone who can publicly demonstrate their ability scientifically to many different organizations. But, consider for a moment, a high level ability, and the possibility that the benefits of quiet manipulation would outwiegh the few million you could pocket going on a world tour, showing off. And besides, after a lifetime of hiding, a natural ability to shroud oneself would be highly likely to develop. An aversion to the public eye even? It would be hard to tell.
I don’t think we would see it. I don’t think the person would go for the smaller sum. That kind of ability is invaluable to governments all over the world. Business, stocks, or just personal protection or even as a weapon. The value of it as a secret, is far more than the value it has as public knowledge.
I give a caveat, Predictability. The very thing that the public displays intend to prove is what would drive someone to them. More appropriately, a lack of it. If there were errors in interpretation, the percentages would still be higher than chance, but there would be errors of processing. This is where I think the comic book archetype fails those who may see it first. That the complete ability to read everything a person thinks with utter, stark accuracy is like light speed, in that it is conceivable, but probably unobtainable because of inherent limitations. I do not think someone brought up in an average way would be able to know this. Let’s hope our psychic has at least an understanding of statistical variability. This hasn’t even touched on the social impact yet.
Imagine for a moment, labeled as “Psychic” in today’s world. Never being able to ever participate in competitions, or hold an intimate conversation. How many people would expect you to literally “read their minds”? Would you be able to charge for proof? What would the cost of being read by the world’s “only” psychic be? If you are interested in doing it for humanity, then you would take what would possibly be the most influential power in comic books to come into real life and not make tons of money with it. Could that even be done in today’s world? I am not sure. Today, it seems that it is better to get money, then use the money to help people. I think anyone able to manifest that ability, and control it with any degree of accuracy, would be manipulating as much of the events possible to make their fortune large, so they could maintain shadow operations. I believe it would be built into them, as a matter of human development. Maybe not, after all, Humanity is more than a species, it is a declaration of a kinship to some degree. Maybe that is even where the power might lie, only the hero would know I suppose.
And so I come back to the end. I don’t believe we would know, as a general public. I think that between the course of natural human development, and geopolitical environmental factors, would keep such a wondrous human achievement out of the spotlight. And if it was something inheritable, or even more frightening, teachable, then that person would be valuable in a whole different way. I shudder to think, what if we ALL could tell others’ lies, could read each others minds? Or the trait/ability was somehow distributed to the larger public, either by artificial means, or later evolution, what would our society be like then?
I personally hope that anyone who had that kind of power, would be like Buddha, or Jesus, or Mother Theresa. May probability favor us all if someone with a less Utopian lean were to gain it. I think the only option after that would be to give it to everyone. I also see it being distributed genetically as a means to fight a “Terminator”-like future state where machines and people are at war.
I am sure the detailed reasons and development variables could fill a book or a few comics at least, but I deeply question if there is any psychic abilities out there, that the general public would be privy to them. I just think that the incentive to stay hidden, and even slight exposure, or garnering the right friends, would just serve to keep it even more hidden. The competitive advantage of it being secret is just too great. The person would have to be of such high character, it would almost be a Clark Kent-ish caricature.
And so I give you another Dose of Andrew. Read it twice, and comment in the morning.