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The ability to telepathically communicate with and control any of your infinite other-dimensional selves is rare, but exists!

Rules for how this works:

  • Although dimensions and possibilities are infinite, there is somehow a constant. Those born with the telepath ability in one dimension, have the ability in all dimensions that person exists in.
  • Communicating with another you consists of essentially taking a back-seat in their mind and thinking thoughts at them. You receive all senses but only one person at a time can control the body.
  • You can fight mentally for control of the body but with a massive advantage to the person who is in their own dimension.
  • Doing "something" in one of your other bodies establishes neural pathways and teaches that thing to them remarkably fast.
  • As you can only telepath with yourself, there exists a sense of self that is loosely defined, try and think of it in a spiritual sense. There are some dimensions where you don't exist and thus, are not able to "travel" to. You may be dead, never conceived, there may be a boy in your family around your age who isn't you. Twins are not both you. There is only one or none you's per dimension.
  • There is an infinite number of dimensions but you can interact with just one additional dimension at a time. You can multi-task fairly well with telepathy and are able to complete ordinary activities and conversations in both dimensions at once.
  • Other dimensional selves can and do spontaneously enter your mind and talk about/ask/demand various things as an approximation it happens about as much as you do to them.
  • Travelling to a new dimension is 100% random, you can not pre-emptively search for specific characteristics
  • You can travel to any specific dimension as long as can remember the you that exists there. How memory works is complicated, people often remember thinking about something rather than remembering the actual thing, after years of doing this the original memory can become incredibly distorted. Telepaths will still be able to travel so long as there is something genuine in the memory.
  • If a telepath has mixed multiple dimensions in one memory, they will only travel to a dimension if one person is clearly dominant in the memory. It is all about who you are travelling towards.
  • Telepathic communication is not necessarily words. You can think in language, pictures, smells, emotions, memories and whatever else. Thus it is possible to give someone else the memory necessary to travel to another specific dimension.
  • A telepath is born with telepathy but it takes some serious cognitive focus to use. Children under 2 have not yet developed the ability to remember or imagine so no visiting new dimensions until they are at least 4

As a young child, telepaths often travel a lot forming relationships with their like-minded selves in other dimensions and using pooled knowledge to learn new skills. However, every new dimension you travel to forms the connection both ways and it becomes increasingly chaotic the more new worlds you visit. If someone were to know know too many other selves, then when they need to fly an escape helicopter it would all be a jumbled mess and they wouldn't remember which of their selves took flying lessons. Because of this, telepaths are predominately limited by their mental, organisational capacity.

I feel its necessary to put a link to (Dunbar's number) here. I am not asking about the scientific average for how many dimensions a telepath can simultaneously hold in their mind, I am asking for ways someone might IMPROVE this. But this number is a fair approximation with a few reminders: You only have to remember them, not maintain a relationship, you interact with people in your own dimension too and humans are adaptive. Dunbar's number does not take into account how telepaths consciously try to improve their memory as it is a known strength it is a large part of a telepaths life.

A certain character knows A SOLUTION that will allow telepaths to better use their ability. Somehow, this solution allows any given telepath to notably increase the number of skills they have access to via their other selves. Worldbuilding.se What is this miraculous solution?

Answers must fit within the logic of my universe but do not necessarily have to include people/concepts from other dimensions. Answers will be judged based off how how well the solution can be applied, and whether or not it would actually improve the number of dimensions you can handle.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me that such people would either (a) go insane at a young age, or (b) be declared insane due to expressing notions that others consider crazy. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 12 '18 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn That does indeed happen! although it is quite not so guaranteed. Telepaths can tell when they are approaching their personal "limit" and its more warning tale/risk they take if they get desperate for power and push themselves too hard. It can also happen from encountering something traumatic or a malicious other self in another dimension but this is even more rare. $\endgroup$ – Jesse Sep 12 '18 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ Can a second you give interdimensional directions to a third you? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ Next question: can you forget a connection once learned to avoid jumbling up your universes? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ "Answers may vary from entirely mundane ... to extra-ordinary." <-- This is what I meant by "between normal and not-normal." You've specifically declared that anything goes in terms of an answer. Yes, magical worlds tend to be between the two, but answers to questions about those worlds shouldn't be so wide-ranging in their viability. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 12 '18 at 13:53
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The universes are infinite.

Somewhere there will be a whole slew of ‘yous’ who have exactly the skill set you need, all you need is a way to retrieve those skills.

If you can communicate directions to other versions of yourself then all you need to do is come up with a fractal indexing strategy that allows you to traverse an infinite potential ‘skill space’ in a finite number of steps. If each person remembers (well) a nearby set of others with similar but distinct skills, then when another person comes asking ‘do you know X skill’ they can reply ‘no, but Y version of me might’ and pass on directions to the person they think might best be able to provide the useful skill. The number of connections required to find the skill you need may be surprisingly small (see for example the small world experiment, Wikipedia game and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). If you have a few database admins in the mix I’m sure they can recommend some highly efficient distributed indexing strategies that can be used by your other psychics.

Now: the key to this is being able to get directions, retrieve the skills and then forget the route you took to get them. No one person should be trying to remember more than a few dozen other people, a hundred tops, and they should all be capable of both rapidly learning skills and also forgetting them in order to keep their minds clear. Luckily you have an advantage here:

The universes are infinite

The psychics that come together to form this network of highly efficient skill gatherers are guaranteed to exist. It’s likely some of them are autistic, or have short term memory issues, or sit in a catatonic stupor doing nothing but remembering ‘skill addresses’ required for efficient navigation through skill space: the point is that whatever you need must already exist. If you are capable of joining this network without going mad then all you need is one lucky connection, someone teaches you the indexing strategy and boom: you can access any skill you need.

If you can’t access the network you go mad trying to keep everything straight in your own head, but that’s ok: so do an infinite number of copies of you.

Quick cosmological addendum: If you truly mean infinite then it’s also worth noting that your psychics are theoretically capable of retrieving information from the past and future, as there will exist copies of the universe that lag behind or run ahead of the ‘current’ one. Extending your network temporally as well as across ‘skill space’ could be possible, with care.

Quick infinite addendum: The 'finite index for a infinite skill space' bit might be wrong depending on just how infinite your infinite is. Check into 'Mathematical definitions of Infinity' and 'Infinite Graph Theory' for more information on that, and prepare to have your mind blown.

Quick attempt at an algorithm Ok: I am not an expert in indexing strategies, graph traversal theory or algorithmic design, so this will be suboptimal. Good news though: once you randomly find a version of you with a degree in those things you can improve!

I designate myself Joe Prime. I say I am an Expert (it’s the thing I know most about) in computer science, with preferences (the things I know something about) in physics and mathematics. From here I define three ‘axes’. The Expertise axis contains copies of me with the same Expertise. The Preference axis contains copies of me that have computer science as a preference and one of my preferences as their Expertise. The Depth axis contains copies of me that are Experts in computer science but at a more general/more in-depth level.

The other me’s I have remembered well (let’s call them neighbours) are Theatre me and Sporty me on the expertise axis, Maths me and Physics me on the preference axis and Nerd me and Generalist me on the depth axis.

Now, say I need information on horticulture. None of my immediate neighbours are likely to know about it, so I step ‘up’ on the depth axis, asking Generalist me if he knows anyone. He has preferences in more diverse subjects (being more of a generalist) and knows a Biologist me. Biologist me knows a Gardening me, but Gardening me doesn’t have the skill I need, so I step back and ask directions to the ‘deeper’ Biologist me. Biologist me -1 has a preference for horticulture and knows a Horticulturalist me with the knowledge I need. Sufficient answers found. I forget all the me’s I used to get here save for my immediate neighbours.

Now say someone comes to me seeking advice on image recognition (a deeper bit of computer science). I direct them to Nerd me. Oh no! Nerd me is busy! Now I can direct them to Maths me or Physics me. Maths me gets the call, figures his deeper counterpart might have some connections in the image recognition biz, Deep Maths Me passes the guy across to Deep Fourier Transform me who passes him up to Fourier transform me who has a version of Computer science me (AKA me-but-not-me) who has a Deep counterpart who is free and can advise him on image recognition.

The basic algorithm is to head for a version of you that is closer to the target skill, then if you get stuck or can’t get through move up or across and try find a different you that knows. The key to this is recognising that multiple copies of you are accessible via different-but-similar routes, so even if lots of you are trying to access a particular skill you can always be ‘routed’ a different way. Think the internet except with an unlimited number of servers to hit :-)

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    $\begingroup$ I may have spent some time wondering about this exact problem. Infinities get weird after a while, especially when you consider that there must exist versions of the universes where ‘you’ is in fact ‘someone else’. Or even something else. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the indexing method - this is, after all, a scaled down version of how the internet works. As said, there might be "yous" in otherwise boring universes who just spend their time memorising & maintaining skill-lists and "addresses" like an organic DNS & search-engine. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Sep 12 '18 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal: There could in fact be a google of "yous" that act like a Google of "yous". $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal: Also: Scaled up. Infinity is bigger than the internet. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBlogs: Scaled both ways? The overall network is larger, but each "Universe Name Service" is smaller / handles less addresses $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Sep 12 '18 at 9:37
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TLDR; They have MPD, character is a psychiatrist who takes away their symptoms and lets them remember everything the other selves taught them.

The minds of children are extremely plastic in order to learn new skills and ways of thinking relatively quickly. If children with this ability were exposed to other selves enough, I think that they would (unconsciously) start to compartmentalize their memory to hold information from each other self separately to avoid the confusion of all their memories being scrambled. They would also have a separate personality state for each person. The purpose of this is to store information learned from the other self and also to remember the other dimension well enough to revisit it.

On the outside, this would show as an extreme case of MPD. Multiple Personality Disorder affects the way the brain stores information, and people with the disorder have different personalities that randomly alternate control of the body known (among other names) as alters. In some cases, patients may not even know they have other alters.

In dimensional telepathy, the children would switch between alters depending on which other self they were interacting with. When the person needs to use a helicopter, they switch to the alter that has the knowledge of how to fly one, and that alter represents the other dimensional self that thought to them how to fly a copter.

Your character with the solution is a psychiatrist who specializes in treatment of MPD. The psychiatrist helps the person to separate their alter's personalities from their own, and also helps the person to develop new compartments for storing new information. New compartments let the person remember more selves, while memories that the other selves taught them are stored in the person's "main" memory. Now the person has 1 personality- their own. They can remember everything taught to them by the other selves, and they can clearly remember which selves are which. Because they have more mental compartments, they can remember new alters.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Jesse Oh, I read the question wrong. I thought the special character was supposed to be an another dimensional self of the person. So I guess the psychiatrist doesn't need to have MPD, just to study it, and it can be anyone. Maybe the kid shows signs of a mental disorder and is taken to the psychiatrist, and eventually the psychiatrist figures out that they have dimensional telepathy and helps the person, but that part is up to you. $\endgroup$ – John Locke Sep 12 '18 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Is MPD allowing the brain to store more information a real life concept? I did not see it in your link. It is fine if not, just might need some more explanation $\endgroup$ – Jesse Sep 12 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Jesse MPD causes your memory to be fragmented among different personalities, and memory gaps are one of the symptoms of the disorder. It doesn't necessarily store more information, just breaks it up. Usually the treatment involves combining all of the personalities and memories into one, but if you can somehow keep some of the memories separate while fixing the personalities, you can have a pretty powerful way of storing memories separately. $\endgroup$ – John Locke Sep 12 '18 at 14:45
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The answer is Dunbar's number which is about 150 people

"Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships.[4] Dunbar explained it informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar"

Basically you build a relationship with the different versions of you and you forget those whom you don't maintain the relationship with.

What you propose sounds a bit like Sense8 where if a person needed a skill one other the others had, the other would take control of the body to complete the task.

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    $\begingroup$ You can't maintain an infinite index in your head. You build relationships with different version of yourself. You can maintain around 150 of them. These are the people you ask for help and in turn might ask you for help. Asking someone outside (even though they're a version of you,) is the same as asking a total stranger for something. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Sep 12 '18 at 7:22

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