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In my world, I have a character with telekinetic powers. She's able to lift objects with her mind and apply quite a lot of force to them. To put things a bit into perspective, telekinesis in my world works a bit like a physical workout, as in a character can tire themselves out if not careful.

My character, however, is quite a prodigy, being able to lift multiple objects with ease, she's even able to stop a few bullets if she braces for them. Let's say the maximum weight she's able to lift is around 2 to 3 tonnes, heavier objects will cause a lot of physical strain, to the point of the character passing out.

I want the character to be strong but there's a problem: in a fight, my character would simply be too powerful. She would be able to take control of the enemy's body. For an enemy to even have a chance, her telekinetic powers would have to do no/or limited effect on the body itself.

I don't want to simply say "in this world telekinesis just works like this" and call it a day.

So what biological process, even if it requires a minor change to human biology, would allow interference with telekinetic powers?

-Edit:

To explain a bit more about this world: people with powers like telekinesis or similar are not very common, but there's still quite a lot of them around the world. Most of the time they get captured and used as weapons though :(

Telekinesis works kinda like training a muscle. You can train it and become better. You can increase the amount of "force" you can apply to matter, but more precise, delicate movement would require more expertise, and different kinds of traning. Resistance to the great physical strain it gives can also be reduced (at least the "feel" of it), but it's still very risky to push yourself too much.

And to explain what a "good reason" is, it simply means a reason that makes what I've described impossible, or at least very difficult, so that no telekinetic user would just default to snapping your neck in a blink of an eye.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mołot, Frostfyre, L.Dutch, Renan, SPavel Jun 11 '18 at 20:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! This answer to a related question may be of interest to you. Feel free to take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jun 11 '18 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ All shoes are capable of exerting enough force on their owner to lift them off the ground; the limit being living only saves naked people. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Jun 11 '18 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ "Good" is inherently opinion based. Can you define your criteria in objective terms? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 11 '18 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ See also some answers on this question: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/95637/… Not exactly the same, but it has some similiarities $\endgroup$ – Century Jun 11 '18 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, Savarin. As you noted yourself, this is fairly broad and open-ended, question types we try to avoid on the Stack Exchange network as there may not be a "best" answer. If you could clarify how your telekinesis works, we could provide a better, more detailed explanation for why it doesn't work on creatures that also fits within the framework for the rest of your world. As is, the answer can be for any number of reasons, and the one that is chosen is merely dependent on which you, the asker, like the most, and is likely to be put on hold as a result. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 11 '18 at 18:33

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This is a stretch, and doesn't have a fictional precedent as far as I am aware, but I think it might work.

Since you implied that telekinesis is fairly common-ish in your world and your character is simply much stronger than the average telekin (tried to shorten it like people do with telepathy and telepath, but it turned into a weird bird), you have the option of saying organisms have natural defenses against telekinesis. Call it a "slipperiness" that is generated by the nervous systems of most living creatures.

Basically, most multi-cellular creatures cannot be effectually directly manipulated with telekinesis not because they are immune, but because they are psychically friction-less. Its like trying to pick up a 50 Ib ball that has been thoroughly greased. Sure, having a lot of muscle and mass will help (your character's telekinesis compared to everyone else's), but its really difficult for anyone to lift or throw that ball.

Your character might be able to push other other people around, but trying to do anything more intricate than that (like effecting a single part) is like trying to pick up a toothpick with oil all over their hands. Its really difficult and frustrating, especially if the toothpick is running around and screaming at you to stop.

Again, this is a weird fix, but it could make sense from a evolutionary perspective. For most animals in this universe, telekinesis is so easy to counter that evolutionary investment in telekinesis as an offensive tool isn't worth it. If you can't use it to grab or kill prey directly, a telekinetic cat wouldn't bother. Humans, however, evolved a freakish amount of intelligence which inadvertently resulted in meaningful telekinesis.

I'm not sure how well I explained this. Let me know if I need edits.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is the direction I was thinking. I was trying to figure out how to smoke-and-mirrors handwave something about bioelectric fields interfering, or a subconcious mental resistance (both of which might limit the "protection" to "higher orders" - whatever that means). $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Jun 11 '18 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this solves the problem, as you could just TK the clothes the person is in; so unless you're nude you're still vulnerable to being thrown around. $\endgroup$ – sirjonsnow Jun 11 '18 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ "A wonderful bird is the Telekin. His brain can lift more than his body can. What he lifts with his mind, Is quite undefined! But I'll be darned if I know how the hellecin!" $\endgroup$ – ThunderGuppy Jun 11 '18 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @sirjonsnow It could still work. If the "slipperiness" is being generated by the creature's nervous system, it could easily take the form of some kind of highly-localized "field" (think static electricity). Who's to say that field only extends to the outer layer of skin? It could easily extend a few centimeters around the person or even, like magnetic fields, extend to anything the person is directly touching, rendering a gun or knife in the person's grasp invulnerable to direct telekinetic manipulation. $\endgroup$ – jmbpiano Jun 11 '18 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ It's pronounced Tekkin, not Telekin... ;) $\endgroup$ – Samwise Jun 11 '18 at 23:09
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Get a bit metaphysical with it.

In the movie Phenomenon, George Malley, after becoming telekinetic, describes a process of lifting objects by communing with them and coming to a mutual understanding in which the object agrees to be lifted. IIRC, Valentine Michael Smith in the book Stranger in a Strange Land does something similar.

In your story, perhaps the heroine (and telekinetics in general) commune with objects in some way and lift them by exerting their will. This doesn't work on living beings because a creature that has a will of its own, however fundamental, can shrug off this external force easily.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 on willpower. This also gives you flexibility to lift or not lift certain kinds of other living things ... $\endgroup$ – rrauenza Jun 11 '18 at 20:20
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It could be immediately fatal for the person being lifted. e.g. the liftee's heart may stop because she effective holds them perfectly still. So it's not that she can't physically lift humans, but would only choose to do so in the most extreme circumstance

Another option, is the exact opposite; the thing being lifted has to be solid and relatively rigid, so that she can (subconsciously) predict how it will move accurately enough to lift it. Imagine she has to effectively lift it in 1 cm cubes, keeping track of all of them at the same time, picking up a human would be like trying to pick up a bowl-full of water with your bare hands (and without the bowl).

You could also add in the fact that moving a living thing is 'indeterminate' because you don't know how they will react; any conscious movement basically makes it impossible for the lifter to know where part of the human will be after they're moved, so they have to constantly 'lock on' to them, and it would be like trying to lift a greased pig, they constantly slip from your grasp. Maybe a particularly compliant subject could be lifted, or it could be done with a huge amount of practice and concentration, but it wouldn't be something that could be done in the heat of battle.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to suggestion your second option. Think of it kind of like a large piece of cloth that lifts the object, areas that take more strain are even reinforced so that they don't rip. Once you try to lift something where you can't perfectly predict the movement, that something starts ripping holes into the non-reinforced parts causing the whole thing to fail. This also gives the character an opportunity to overcome themselves towards the end of the story. $\endgroup$ – Syzygy Jun 11 '18 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking of your second option, but if the telekinetic user is trying to hurt the person in a fight, this option would just allow them to still tear the person apart without moving them as a whole (think moving / disconnecting organs). $\endgroup$ – Jordan.J.D Jun 11 '18 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Jordan.J.D I was imagining it would be a bit more subtle than that, more akin to extending mindfulness to another object, encompassing it entirely. If you lose concentration on the thing as a whole it just leaves your control. $\endgroup$ – JeffUK Jun 11 '18 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ I've chosen @Pinion_Minion 's answer as I like the premisse a bit more, but I'll upvote yours too cause the idea I'm going for now is sorta the same (not being able to grasp a body due to preciseness and also some natural defense) $\endgroup$ – Savarin Jun 12 '18 at 10:54
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Telekinesis is a quantum-mechanical effect. The user of telekinesis is not enacting some "force-at-a-distance" with their mind. Rather, they are subtly influencing reality itself, by choosing to "observe" a probability fluctuation where all of the molecules have "randomly" moved to the position the practicioner desires. A powerful telekinetic does not exert a stronger force than others, rather she is better at "believing" that objects do what she wants them to do.

Brains, however, operate on the [holonomic principle][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holonomic_brain_theory], creating a standing wave of interference in the probability density functions of electrons in neural pathways. This standing wave totally disrupts the telekinetic's ability to project her reality near a conscious mind. This would apply to higher-order animals as well, but the effect would get less and less with less complicated brains, so telekinesis on worms would probably work just fine.

Another possible corrollary of this explanation: there might be a class of people with telekinetic damping ability. I.e., their minds are so firmly rooted in "true" reality that, not only can they not perform telekinesis themselves, but their presence makes it harder for others to perform telekinesis since they "disbelieve" the necessary reality alterations.

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    $\begingroup$ OP said they wanted a "good" reason; not one that only four people on Earth understand (+1 ;) $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jun 11 '18 at 20:27
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All living things are telekinetic, intrinsically to themselves. You can't affect a thing that has telekinesis already.

Her telekinesis is unusual in being strong, but also unusual in being external. Some people have it and can use it on themselves alone, and they are faster, stronger, harder... Some people have it and can only use it on things that are outside themselves. All living things have it passively.

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Telekinesis has a slight delay

The basic telekinetic move is a shunt. That means a jolt of force applied over some area in some direction over some period of time. The size of the area, strength of the force, and duration all effect how taxing the move is to perform. Probably precision determines difficulty as well.

Suppose our hero decides to shunt a car onto its side. First she chooses an appropriately large area to push the car rather than just stabbing a hole in the metal. Then she chooses an appropriate amount of force to tip the car without sending it flying. Then she decides how stretched out the shunt should be. There is some freedom to say use half the force and twice the duration as appropriate.

Then there is a delay while she pulls back an elastic band of psychic force away from the car. When she releases the band snaps back into place and shunts the car over. I imagine more taxing shunts have a greater delay of ten seconds or so. Or maybe the user can choose to shorten the delay at the cost of making the shunt less taxing.

In any case telekinesis is too slow to use directly in a fight. Maybe you can give little nudges to annoy your opponent. But if you prepare a shunt powerful enough to blast them across the room or precise enough to take out an eyeball, they will just move out of the area while you're pulling back your elastic.

Note: You need to give a huge time penalty for shunting over a tiny area as otherwise psychokinetic stabs are still viable. You need a lot less force to pierce the heart than clobber someone through the wall. Or maybe the idea of stabbing someone with her mind terrifies our hero too much to try it. Maybe it terrifies her so much it never even occurs to her.

What's more common is to telekinetically hurl objects at your opponent. This still requires a delay but has some advantages.

  1. You can simultaneously hurl multiple objects from different directions
  2. Most humans have some passive telekinesis and are good at sensing shunts aimed at their body. It is harder to sense a shunt aimed to throw flowerpot into my body.
  3. Launched objects affect the entire trajectory. Shunting a body only affect the shunted area.

To deflect bullets our hero braces herself by pulling back a massive shunt over the barrel of the gun or $-$ which is safer for the shooter but damn near suicidal for herself $-$ in a large area in front of her.

For more delicate moves she must prepare a large number of smaller shunts and relay the target between them. Perhaps she can set a shunt to trigger after a delay so she could prepare them all at once rather than following the target as it moves.

One cruder option is to set a shunt to counteract gravity over some tube of space and then give the target a little shove along the tube. This would be more taxing but easier for untrained users.

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How about "biological noise"? Like when there are too many wireless devices in an area and they cause interference, perhaps the "biological motion" (blood, fluids, muscle motion, etc) in a living creature could cause something akin to a TK "shield" (static?) on that creature.

This would mean that everything from rats to humans, would be nigh on impossible to affect. Perhaps with practice she could have some small control over something like hair or clothing (closely attached to the living creature, but not living itself). Plants similarly would have a partial "shield" as they do have moving biological parts but less so and I think slower moving.

(this could probably be combined with some of the other suggestions to fully flesh out an explanation)

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    $\begingroup$ It's "neigh on impossible" to move a horse! ;-) $\endgroup$ – Nigel Touch Jun 11 '18 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @NigelTouch Touche. $\endgroup$ – BunnyKnitter Jun 11 '18 at 22:14
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Similarly to what Pluto suggested, suppose the telekinetic bond was like feeling the entirety of the object and its immediate surroundings. Now, consider that maybe a living organism has too many complex parts, moving pieces, fluids, and everything else that makes living things live, and your characters cannot make a coherent or complete connection with them to move them. Even trying to do so is extremely tiring, so as all have progressed they learn to not even try. Even a plant may be too complex, so to move a potted plant they have to move only the pot and the plant becomes incidental.

So that means you also have to factor in the clothing people wear. If you can't move a living being, what would prevent you from moving the clothing they are wearing instead? Or waiting until they get in a car, then moving the car?

To answer that let's say there's some variance in the accuracy of the mental connection and moving things often includes their surroundings within a fluctuating 1 - 2 inch threshold. If any biological tissue is encountered in that threshold, the connection becomes confusing even to the prodigy. So you can't move the car because they are touching the car. Or the clothing for the same reason.

So what about moving a book on a table? Maybe because the 1 - 2 inch threshold is touching a table that is not living, you know to separate the two and only move the book. Even if someone is touching the table so long as they are not within a couple inches of the book.

So basically it comes down to the mental assimilation of the target's physical make-up. If it's too complex, all you're doing is straining yourself and moving nothing.

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It depends on how telekinetic powers work in your world. Suppose there are two parts to the power, first to "sense" the framework of the world, and then shift an object within that framework. Everyone has the power to sense the framework and knows their place within it. In the rare few like your protagonist that it becomes under conscious control and can be applied outward to other objects. But for most people the power to move or change things is buried too deeply and they just subconsciously use it to maintain their own position and state within that framework. Self-generated changes (whether moving physically or hair growing, cells aging etc) are okay because they are what is "expected".

So, although your protagonist can move inanimate objects easily, when she tries to move someone else she is fighting against their own power that insists they stay where they are.

This can give you a variety of options to play with, depending on what you need. Some people could be more resistant than others (depending on their own power-levels), or people could become more pliable if they are unconscious or drugged (depending on whether that affects the part of the subconscious that controls it). Or maybe those who are themselves telekinetics are more vulnerable to being moved because they know that framework changes are possible.
You can also adjust the scenario to whether you want animals to be moved, or only certain animals of a given size/sentience level etc.

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Maybe in this world telekinesis and everyone's abilty to control their own bodies are on the same spectrum. For example, a normal person lifting their arm is just an internal way of exerting this force on an object but perhaps it's so easy for everyone due to having a hardwired nervous system. A few people, such as your character, are talented in externalizing this physical influence.

This ability is the very essence of how people live and control their bodies, including autonomic functions like heart beating, breathing, and digestion. This ability is their physical lifeforce. When someone in this world tries to control another living thing, their own lifeforce 'latches onto' the other's nervous system. This causes the loss of their control of their own body and stops their heart. This may not be immediately fatal but the character's own consciousness is left in a quickly dying (and possibly limp) body.

Alternatively, maybe they really shouldn't be able to control others whatsoever. In this case, since everyone has some capacity for this ability, have each nervous system be 'locked down' to others'.

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Density

She can only affect objects of a specific density, the higher the density the easier she can lift it... She might be able to exert a very small amount of control over someone with a high BMI, but most people she could at best subtle influence with great exertion on her part, enough that her TK probably won't stop someone from doing something, but she still might be able to trip someone or push them if they weren't paying attention, or where holding something heavy.

FWIW stopping bullets, even with TK is pretty far-fetched... there's a tremendous amount of energy in a very short time frame... being able to "feel" the trigger finger start to contract and pushing the gun a little to the side (or up) would be much easier to swallow and would still seem near miraculous to any bystanders. Alternatively "holding" the hammer of the gun so the firing pin doesn't impact the primer with enough force to detonate. Bad guy pulls the trigger, the hammer clicks but the bullet doesn't fire, suddenly the baddie is confused. Another "easy" trick versus guns would be turning the safety on so the gun can't fire.

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  • #1

Your character could get massive migraines from using its abilities. So lifting car just to shave few minutes of getting around to free parking lot, or throwing 10 people around the room would indeed leave the job done, however your character might get so much of pain that she would be left nearly uncounscious for ~5 minutes and then whole next day would be VERY hard to hide exhaustment and do anything.

  • #2

Your character's power could be deOP-ed by making it able to affect only certain object, e. g. water, glass, rubber and lead. She could stop bullets, lift car (by affecting tires) and throw people around, but not stop this car heading her way.

  • #3

Risk; your character might get physical wounds for using telekinesis: heavier and faster the object is and longer the power usage, the more of a risk she should have for skin rupture on forehead, or after abusing it a lot, you could make her disabled by reversibly crushing some nerve in leg or shattering bone.

All of above could be mixed, edited and deleted to fit shape of your world.

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  • $\begingroup$ oops, I misread title as "living basis" and took it as "daily basis", sorry but point two could still be useful for it. $\endgroup$ – KarolOfGutovo Jun 11 '18 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Question asks how to not allow the user to touch "living beings", so point 2 may work if you take water out. $\endgroup$ – Jordan.J.D Jun 11 '18 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I specified it as example; he can take it out, put in mix and so much more to balance it out. $\endgroup$ – KarolOfGutovo Jun 12 '18 at 12:45
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Add a mechanic where the effort required to use telekinesis is proportional to the distance from the telekinetic actor. This is a very, very weak phenomenon, so it doesn't normally affect things on scales smaller than light-seconds, but...

This means that any telekinetically-gifted individual is pretty much immune to telekinesis while they are conscious - zero distance allows them to exert a nearly infinite 'stabilizing' force on themselves. (They cannot use this to fly or anything, since then the distance is not zero.) You can catch people off-guard, or when they're asleep, etc., but you can only use it in a fight against a total n00b, since even the weakest person can hold themselves firm against almost any telekinetic attack.

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  • $\begingroup$ A light-second is 299792KM $\endgroup$ – JeffUK Feb 21 at 9:42
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffUK I fail to see your point - are you suggesting that something divided by 299792000 is the same as zero? $\endgroup$ – Jeutnarg Feb 21 at 16:59
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Her targets can exert an equal amount of anti-telekinesis or negative-TK to counteract her ability. If she's better at this than them, she wins. If they're better at this than her, they win.

Those with no telekinetic powers are up a creek.

The way to cancel people with great power is always to up the power of their opponent, or the number of opponents against her. The problem with Superman isn't that he's so powerful (as so many people suggest) but rather that they hardly ever put him up against other equally or more powerful characters.

Let your character be a badass at first. Let her be confident she can take on whatever. Then show her how low on the totem pole she really is.

How will she win if she's so overwhelmed? That right there is the story of the hero's struggle against great odds. She, and you, will have to think creatively.

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Meh!

The point of having superpowers is to use them, not to hold them, so I see no reason why she should restrain herself from husing her telekinesis. Imagine this: She usually will avoid protecting herself with her gift, which is akin to get punched without ritorsion. It is frustrating. And unless she is zen deep into her own atoms, there will simply come a moment she can't take it any longer and unleash her power with dire results.

It is more practical that she learns to use her TK tricks to make sure she can protect herself from harm as best as possible, then learn martial arts. Her own powers will give her an advantage: She will be able to deliver harder punches and kicks, perform exotic maneuvers -basically, a new Trinity (The Matrix, anyone?). And in case her enemies will push her in a corner...boom, yer toast guys!

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