SciFi Question of the Day: Touch Telepathy vs Regional Empathy

TT vs RESciFi Question of the Day: Which would be a greater benefit to humanity as a whole? For all humans to have touch telepathy, or for all humans to have regional empathy?

(Let’s say TT means if you have skin/skin contact with another human, you can both hear each other’s surface thoughts. For RE, all humans have a general sense of the emotional state of everyone in their general vicinity, like 10m.)

Facebook Answers:

  Barry Gavin I just want to be able to read women’s minds so that I can leave the room without having to be glared at first o.0  

  Jessi Shakarian Regional empathy. Having touch telepathy could cause a lot more problems than fixing them.  

  Geri Bressler TT – regional empathy would be overwhelming and full to too many conflicting emotions  

  John Vipperman  If you could lie via TT, I’d say Regional Empathy. The most earth-shattering element would simply be knowing you can trust (or distrust) someone. That alone, without anything else, would change a whole lot.  

  William J. Teegarden TT. Can you imagine RE in a Walmart? Instant insanity!    Rich Gedney touch. you would go wonky like with regional.  

  Perry Willis I say neither. Regional empathy could lead to a sort of reverse mind control, where the group can influence the individual. Kind of like when individuals join into a mob mentality. And touch telepathy unless people are able to filter, would lead to too much animosity as the white lie would no longer be possible if you can come in contact. And if people were able to filter, then what would be the point anyway. What would be better to have would be a telepathic concience, where you can feel when anyone is in pain. The worse the pain, the worse the feeling, also augmented by proximity. Would be the closest thing able to eliminate wars, crime, cruelty and maybe even greed.  

  Dale Thelander TT. RE would be maddening.

Google Plus Answers, Speculative Fiction Writers Community:

  Matt L.T. Smith  …I think touch telepathy. It puts a bigger emphasis on human intimacy and would help bring individuals closer together. Even without an empathetic side to the power, it still has great potential to create incredibly deep and emotional experiences. Regional empathy could have varying effects however, because people can be emotionally confusing or frightening. To be able to feel anger, hate, fear, sadness, happiness etc, from the people around you all at once, I feel would become overwhelming, even if it is just a general sense within a ten metre distance. Not to mention the invasion of privacy the regional empathy entails, you don’t necessarily want everyone to know how you are feeling, some people mask emotions for a reason.


  J. Michael Schmidt  …Lol, would any of you believe I have something like regional empathy. Don’t ask me how. I just can feel, in a vague, but rather reliable way, what the emotional state people are in around me. Sometimes it is true for strangers, depending. I think it also has to do with unconsciously reading body language clues.But, my point is, it depends on the level, the depth, of these powers I think. Imagine someone who could touch people, and be consumed by even their surface thoughts; they might be terrified to touch someone else. Or, imagine someone has regional empathy, and they are constantly bombarded by emotions completely foreign to them; they would have grown up getting depressed for no reason, or scares. The more people they were around, the worst it’d be; or the stronger the emotions of someone, the more they’d feel it. They’d be scared to be around anyone.

It all depends on how the person handles it. That’s the important part.That’s what I focus on, in my story Vanguard. They may have this great power, but how do they handle the stress, mentally emotionally, and how that affects there ability to even control their power/magic..

  Matt L.T. Smith  …The implication for this however was just surface thoughts, so presumably you’d have some control over what the person touching you can hear. On that level I think it could be something constructive.


  J. Michael Schmidt  …But, if you can’t control hearing the other persons thoughts, its a game changer, lol. How bout, if two people are intimate they might lose control over their thoughts.


  Matt L.T. Smith  …We’ll just have to put a sticker on it ‘Warning: Use at own risk. Could cause you to lose control and trip out’. haha  



  Edrei Zahari  …Isn’t empathy about feeling what the other person is feeling?Personally it’s go with regional empathy rather than touch telepathy. Given than all that you touch screws up what you see, rather than controlling what you feel around you. It’s easier to build a society that cares for the emotional wellbeing of one another through empathy rather than a society that fears touching everything else because of what they may feel.

Of course the dark side of this kind of empathy is that the society might outlaw certain emotions (or all, like in Equilibruim) and have emotion police to weed out people breaking the law.Then again, I specialise in building dystopias so it’s normal for me to look at the best circumstance that the world can offer and find ways for humanity to screw it to hell. You know…for sake of a good story..
I think regional empathy would have the greatest benefit to humanity.  I think about all the dark moods people can be in when they’re alone in a crowd, and all the pain that we could halt if only someone else in that crowd knew what the loner in the corner was going through.  Plus, it’s hard to hate someone when you know their feelings.  They cease to be “other”, and it’s hard to summon up harsh feelings for them when you see the same hurts and insecurities in them.

  Abby Goldsmith  …I think people constantly underestimate the negative effects of telepathy. Say goodbye to personal privacy. Governments and businesses could make use of that power, to the detriment of their rivals or underlings. It would change the world, but not in a good way.I’m gonna go with empathy.



empathy – if you grow up with all those feelings “alien” to you, they will not scare you; just like being able to hear sounds. Only if the come on too strong – that impact might scare you. But the other person will instantly feel that and (unless a “bad” person) will level down their out-send emotions.

Google Plus Answers, Sci-Fi Community:

I Farley  …
We cannot agree which way the toilet paper should hang, thus regional. ..

I would say TT because one could still be isolated. With RE it’d like being at an AA or office meeting.

la parte regional pudiera parecer interesante …. pero si yo se lo que piensa el otro puedo tener todo lo de todos y habría el mismo nivel para todos, en todos sentidos,….   no habría nunca nada oculto ni forma de usarlo de mala manera …    creo finalmente en la telepatía táctil ,,,, que en principio serviría de manera regional ….


Empathy can lead to more compassion. Compassion leads to taking time for understanding. Understanding leads to listening to what someone says. Listening to what someone says leads to not needing telepathy.

Paul West  …
Empathy, by a long shot. If anything, telepathy could cause as many problems as it solved….

well, the protheans had TT. not the most charming empire.
besides that, empathy all the way.

How about common sense. That’s a rapidly depleting resource.

common sense?  i think that’s the fantasy g+ community.

Niether. Telepathy would result in horrible levels of honesty and probably a drop in creativity, not to mention strained (at best) international relations. Regional level empathy would bring about the acceptance of the abhorrent.

I agree with +Graeme Barber , neither, unless there is a way to block it. I don’t want anyone to know what I am thinking or feeling at some times, and no matter how altruistic and peaceful you are, everyone has those moments.

Google Plus Answers, Science Fiction Community:

Empathy. One of the greatest barriers that perpetuates ills within our society is our failure to empathize with, or relate to, those on the other side. Would a bully continue to bully if they could understand the pain it causes in their victims? What of apposing sides in war? It would have its downsides, certainly, but I think if we were given Telepathy it would be abused – mental blackmail comes to mind.

Do I want to know what the person next to me is thinking or do I want to know what the person a thousand miles away is thinking? If I just talk to AND listen to the person next to me then I will know what they are thinking and feeling. The only way, now, I can know what a person a thousand miles away is thinking is through interpretation by news broadcast stations. I’ll take the regional empathy. +1 Corinne Elletson-Kilgore

  Jack OShyte  …Telepathy of any kind would be a disaster. For one, we don’t even know what we ourselves are thinking. Adding the thoughts of others would not be constructive. For another, people around us harbor some surprisingly dark thoughts. It would likely depress us or worse. We would need to wear protective clothing.  For similar reasons, empathy would not be beneficial.  We would need a way to block it.  The exception to both of these would be sensing the thoughts and feelings of an enlightened individual. Of course, this would be very expensive.


  Gustavo Campanelli  …I don’t want anybody to know what I think, so I don’t like telepathy. Empathy, on the other hand, would make things better for a lot of people.


  Stephanie Chaptal  …Empathy. Would be more difficult to have local conflicts this way.


  Mike Rees  …Telepathy. There are a lot of feelings that I don’t like, so the idea of other people making me feel them horrifies me.


  Kirsten Corby  …I would definitely say empathy.  It would make the actual practice of warfare damn near impossible.


Google Plus Answers, Public Post:

  Jonathan Black  …Touch would lead to a very distant society that fragments all over. Regional would be better, but I think it would tribalize the world.


  Thomas Sanjurjo  …The latter is coming soon, with the advent of google glass and the enhancement of sensors, we’re going to be able to see people’s moods with fairly reliable accuracy.I don’t think being able to read surface thoughts would be any good, very often people aren’t aware of their own surface thoughts and so it would likely be more confusing than helpful.


  Laura Klein  RE could be rough, actually. Come to think of it, so would touch telepathy.  Really.  At least with the touch telepathy, I could maybe wear gloves and a body suit to keep private.  I worked a long time to keep all my sarcastic comments inside.I would much rather be able to interface with machines telepathically (driving, looking up information online, etc).

Or start fires.  That would be cool too, although, maybe a little dangerous..

  AmyBeth Inverness  …Eep!.

  Eoghann Irving  …Empathy is pretty much always more beneficial to society than telepathy.


  Jonathan Black  …Any kind of mass telepathy would lead towards a near catastrophic, if not a complete catastrophic break down of society.


  Gregory Lynn  …Touch telepathy might eliminate prostitution.


  Jonathan Black  …Or enhance it if she’s good enough.


  Kimberly Unger  …I think TT, simply because if it requires skin to skin, you can still find a way to keep your thoughts private.


  Mince Walsh  …If people grew up with a regional telepathy, they would be acclimated to it. It would do absolutely amazing things to productivity. Working together would take on a whole new meaning regarding efficiency. Initially though, it would cause complete and utter chaos once implemented. If people were brought into it as children and grew up with it, I’m sure they would have very little trouble with it.


  Miaka Kirino   …This question immediately brings to mind my husband’s story ParaNormal and its sequel _ParaNormal: Second Story_. (links: )

I think I’d like to have the kind of telepathy that Torkio possesses.

  Jonathan Black  …Eventually, a more peaceful or totalitarian society would evolve out of the addition of mass telepathy to humankind.


  Kerry Amburgy-Dickson  …Or +Jonathan Black humanity would not be able to deal with the new stimuli and would have a psychotic break and our society would catastrophically implode.


  Ezra Strong  …Empathy. I think, longterm, empathy would force humanity to deal with some of its problems. Less substance abuse, less violence.

.SciFi Q of the Day plus comment

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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2 Responses to SciFi Question of the Day: Touch Telepathy vs Regional Empathy

  1. Q: If JJ Abrams had been the director of “The Bible” how would it have been “re-envisioned?”

  2. Eden says:

    I liked a lot of the comments here. Above in the Facebook answers, Perry Willis made a good observation. Mob rule would be the standard.

    It’s interesting to consider how many science fiction (and fantasy writers) have dealt with this issue. I actually liked the way J. Michael Strazynski decribed a telepathic society (and an empath) in Babylon 5, save that somehow the Blips were always a lot more “Bunnies and Light” than I would expect for a group who is on the run and desperate.

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