How can I block telepathy? (In fiction, of course)

You can use some Ubik, if you find it.

I can think of six basic ways:

  1. Barrier (helmet, force field)

  2. Natural resistance

  3. Resistance training

  4. Incapacitate the telepath (knock him/her out or kill)

  5. Deactivate the telepath’s powers. (say with drugs, or a dampening collar or field)

  6. Distract the telepath (give him/her a false target or too many targets, or even just set things up so that he/she cannot concentrate).

Hey, PKD use your sixth option in his first novel, Solar Lottery.

Mmm, in the Buffy episode “Earshot”, Buffy is infected with an aspect of a demon, which turns out to be telepathic powers. But she can’t read Angel’s mind, because he’s a vampire. I can’t remember the line exactly, but it’s something like “It’s like the mirror. My thoughts create no reflection in you.”

So. Just have your character be a vampire!

In Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum there’s a brief quip that says vampire hunters get roaring drunk before heading off, because it makes it harder for the vampire to read your mind or impose its will on you. Something along the lines of “you can’t hit fog.”

The Belmont clan - that family of raging alchoholics! For shame!

In other words, incinerating your skull and its contents? An effective method…

May I suggest that you might want ordinary, but strong-willd people to have some defenses? Perhaps its much easier to access people’s minds if they aren’t focused on something else strongly - for example, perhaps people who are always bouncing around from one idea to another are easy to “read”. Or, youi could do like this:

People with chaotic minds that zoom from idea to idea are very hard to “read” deeply because the telepath can’t focus on anything for long - the ideas are just too fast and vague. On the other hand, people with focused, determined minds might be hard to access but easy to read, because they are used to focusing very specifically on thoughts. The biggest problems when dealing with the latter could be getting enough time to break in (a la The Matrix) and the fact that individuals with focused minds and raining could try to divert their thoughts away.

There’s also the implants. I know in Marvel comics, lots of members from Weapon X had implants put into their heads that helped interfere with psychic detection. Makes them better assassines if noone can sense their presence.

The old science fiction role-playing game Space Opera featured on its equipment lists as psionic shield helmet that contained a live mink brain, preserved in a nutrient bath. The conceit was something to the effect that the primitive mammalian psychic urges of the (presumably sense-deprived) mink brain would drown out the thoughts of the wearer. This presupposes that the telepaths abilities extend at least somewhat to mammals other than humans.

Other approach that I’ve seen in role-playing games include a refinement of the mink brain method – a helmet that picks up the wearer’s brain waves and amplifies them, but first scrambles the broadcast into the psychic equivalent of “white noise”. Note that while this would inhibit the reading of the subject’s mind, it would also tend to act as a beacon (as do electronic warfare jammers), alerting telepaths that something is over there, even if they can’t tell what.

A more elaborate conceit had it that gold has the inherent characteristic of acting as a psychic shield by virtue of being psychically reflective. The reason for the peculiar “allure” of gold is that it reflects the observer’s psychic energies, creating a sense of affinity and (narcissistic) desire. The greater the mass of gold, the better the shielding effect. This effect, however, is less than practical for personal protection, since the whole body acts as a psychic antenna (observable as the kirlian aura). A full body suit coated with gold, or armor embedded with it, would therefore be necessary, but possible.

An episode of Babylon 5 showed a group of telepaths assembling weapons while reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to mask their activity from the other telepaths hunting them.

So there’s a scientific reason why yer trophy bimbo, draped in gold and mink, can addle men’s brains? Whodathunk?

[A gold-plated mink brain would make a kinda cool bling-bling, but I gotta think it’s high maintenance.]

In the latest Harry Potter book, Harry takes Occlumency lessons to keep Voldemort from planting thoughts/dreams in his head. The technique is to empty one’s head; once invaded, however, a powerful emotion can reverse the polarity, so to speak, and give the invaded mind access to the invader’s mind.

It wasn’t powerful emotion directly that reversed the flow… Powerful emotion was just what triggered Harry to resist, and it was his Shield Charm that reversed the flow.

And along the lines of repugnant thoughts, Piffany from the Nodwick comics once overwhelmed an evil mind-reader with thoughts of sunshine, rainbows, butterflies, and tulips.

And we all know that Magneto’s helmet is laced with narrativium.

A power drill is always effecacious.

In Village of the Damned he put up a “brick wall” in his mind. In A Wrinkle in Time she recited the multiplication tables, though that didn’t work for long; it was love that finally did the trick. In Martians, Go Home! he descended into solipsistic mental illness and literally couldn’t perceive the creatures anymore, but I don’t remember if that had to do with telepathy now, come to think of it.

Miller if you remember Scanners the bad guy tried power-drilling a hole in his head (trepanation sp?) but that didn’t stop his telepathy.

Juggernaut’s helmet is made of a mystic red metal from the dimension of Cyttorak; this is also the home plane of the magical gem that gave him his powers.

In the comics, Magneto’s powers could affect the “atmosphere” through which psychic communications traveled; at one point, he subtly altered the entire planet’s magnetic field in order to inhibit long-range telepathic transmission. He was also extraordinarily strong-willed, which may have had something to do with his resistance to psychic attack. Since Professor X successfully erased Magneto’s mind at one point, however, we can’t say he could really protect himself all that effectively. At least, not when the chips were down.

In the “X-Men” films, and in the retconned “Ultimate X-Men” series, Magneto’s helmet protects him from psychic attack or intrusion, but I don’t think it was ever explained precisely how. I do believe that at one point, though, we see that the helmet is a technological artifact of some kind, with printed circuits inside. How printed circuits protect you from having your mind read is a mystery to me, though.

In the TRAVELLER role-playing games, players may protect themselves from the psionic Zhodani enemy by donning Psi-shield helmets. This headgear runs on batteries, and generates a low-level “jamming signal” somehow that interferes with psionic perception of your thought patterns. No word on whether it gives you brain cancer like cell phones, though.

Any number of writers have had their protagonists defend against mindreaders by reciting nursery rhymes, doing mental calculus, and so forth.

It can also be a bad idea to telepathically probe an insane person. More than one telepath has cracked up as a result… and you don’t want to be ANYWHERE near a crazy telepath. Especially if he can broadcast. NO telepath would want to do this, obviously.

Therefore, it would seem that an excellent defense against telepathic probes would be to don a straightjacket and google your eyes and go “bladlabladlabladlabladlablaahhhh…”

Oh, yeah. Drool, too.

He just didn’t go deep enough. If you’re going to drill a hole in your forehead, you’ve got to really commit.

Some of this ways were also used by Alfred Bester in The Demolished Man, where they develop a tiny song that grabs your mind and therefore acts as a telepathic barrier… I’ll give the exact reference soon.

How about taking a drug that induces a mild psychosis, so the telepath cannot tell what thoughts are real and which are delusional?

Oh, oh; sorry. I haven’t read the whole thread, but RealityChuck gave the example. I gave the explanation.