Telepathy (reading minds) is almost universal among humans in the Continuation universe. However, telepathic strength and telepathic practices vary widely from culture to culture. It is an engineered trait.
Biology and Function of TelepathyEdit
Telepathy is a trait engineered into the brains of the ancestors of Continuation peoples presumably before their departure from the planet, Daughter. All Nations have roughly the same range of inborn telepathic potential.
Telepathy allows the direct transmission of thought and feeling over short distances, usually of a few meters. It also allows purposeful blocking of thought transmissions.
As a capability, telepathy is often likened to speech: humans have an inborn capacity for it, but its proper development requires early stimulation by elders. Its uses and nuances are as varied as those of speech: it can be used in simple or sophisticated ways, with much or little emotional affect, for good or ill, effectively or ineffectively. Likewise, just as someone who is not listening may not absorb what they hear, someone not paying attention telepathically may miss telepathic signals. Telepathy is also as easy to misunderstand as speech. One can readily sense an emotion without understanding why a person is projecting that particular emotion, for example.
Telepathy picks up surface-level thoughts. It rarely provides any deep background about a person being read but can absorb their thoughts and feelings of the moment.
With practice, individuals can send specific telepathic messages, including emotions or mental speech. If their minds are not blocked but they are not sending specific messages, their background thoughts are "audible." Using the speech metaphor, this is somewhat akin to overhearing mumbling. Even blocked minds sometimes bleed a faint emotional affect, particularly if the blocked person's emotions are strong. Most people cannot receive thought while their own minds are blocked. Certain drugs can block telepathy, but their use is rare.
Variations: Hypertelepaths and MutesEdit
Hypertelepaths naturally develop very strong telepathic capabilities. They can sense thoughts at greater distances, up to approximately a kilometer in some cases, and can read through blocks. They can sometimes also directly manipulate others' minds (ex. they can make another person's body move in a certain way or stimulate healing processes). Manipulation of another's mind is considered criminal.
Mutes are born without a telepathic center in their brains and lack all telepathic capability. They are very rare.
Universal Telepathic EthicsEdit
Some standards for telepathic ethics are broadly accepted throughout the Continuation:
1) Telepathic contact should never be forced, even in circumstances where lives seem to depend on it. The reasoning behind this precept is similar to arguments against physical torture: it is not only a violation of human rights but also an unreliable way to extract accurate information.
2) Telepathic information is not admissible in legal proceedings for the same reasons outlined above.
Culturally Specific PracticesEdit
Cultural telepathic practices vary widely across time and place. The following are some generalizations.
Kiris tend to keep their minds partly open to passive emotional affect and send and receive more pointed telepathic messages among family and friends. The Kiris are the only Nation to have engineered some animal species to have telepathic centers. Most humans cannot read non-human minds. Those with a talent for doing so are called feyshelázi ("animal speakers") and are highly respected.
The Sama Empire was unique in having a populace most of whom did not actively use telepathy. As generations passed without using it, children were not raised to use and telepathic ability remained latent for most. However, stronger natural telepaths were often trained into religious roles, and telepathy served a role in religious ceremony, sometimes connecting people unconsciously. After the War's End, Samas peoples developed a variety of different practices, somewhat influenced by the Leddies.
Like Kiris, Leddies tend to be partly open to passive affect and send direct messages among friends and family.
Ránlans tend to limit telepathic contact to intimate friends and family in emotionally intimate situations.
Early Ash'torians had a telepathic practice very similar to the Ránlans, which reserved telepathy for emotional intimates. Later Ash'tor became unique in unintentionally developing the Naha'jûn, a subliminal, telepathic collective that provides a sense of cohesion and togetherness perhaps most identifiable by its absence, like the removal of white noise. Views differ as to how many Ash'torians must be present within a few kilometers to feel the Naha'jûn, but it may be as few as three. More explicit telepathy remains reserved for intimates.