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The telepaths can read the minds of anyone with less Teep power than they have.

I.E. Weak Telepaths can have their minds read by stronger ones, and every telepath can read a 'normal' mind.

The telepaths have used this to their advantage to move into positions of power, learning secrets and blackmailing those who would oppose them. Originally employed by others, they learned the secrets of their masters and now have secured power for themselves. Regular patrols have been able to scan and detect those who have been planning rebellion.

But now, they need to find a way to stop or confuse the mind reading long enough to organize, revolt, and attack without having their plans learned of, exposed, and have counter-measures employed.

What methods could they use to block the mind-scans, hide their intent, or even send false intent to the telepaths?

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    $\begingroup$ Eight, sir; seven, sir; Six, sir; five, sir; ... $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 14 '18 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander, I wish I could again upvote that amazing reference to a piece of classic scifi. And on-point to-boot. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 15 '18 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ I would just fantasize, however beware this powerful method is extremely difficult to pull off on the first try but once its began there is no turning back! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Dec 15 '18 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps tin foil hats? $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 15 '18 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ If my edit was incorrect please reverse it. It just seemed it was a typo and you really meant to say that every telepath (not every non-telepath) can read the minds of non-telepaths. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Dec 15 '18 at 19:47

12 Answers 12

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You've got the magic tag here, so the glib answer would be "whatever method you want". You've defined how TP works in your world, so you can define how it doesn't work. But some suggestions:

  • If you want telepathy to be based on some sort of electromagnetic radiation, then you could create a "fuzzing" device that would block TP. That would likely be able to disrupt your society altogether.
  • If your telepaths are able to delve into people's memories (as suggested by your use of the past tense "planning rebellion") then you're probably screwed, but if they can only read what a person is thinking right that moment, it comes down to a case of mental discipline. The rebels train to literally be able to just be thinking about something tedious, or an ear-worm song, or something else that won't register to their friendly neighbourhood telepath as anything but annoying to eavesdrop on.
  • Hypnosis isn't real, but neither is telepathy, so why not have a hypnotist set up a "harmless" mental state that rebels can self-trigger for their "working" or "travelling" states?

Ultimately, the mechanism of telepathy in your world is an important detail that you'd need to expand on in order to give a definitive answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ With #2, the teep patrols arrest people thinking too hard about one topic, and break their concentration. "Now, don't think about any rebellion." Tricky. I prefer #3. $\endgroup$ – David Thornley Dec 14 '18 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ Well, assuming #2's precondition, saying "Don't think about rebellion" is going to bias results. Of course, depending on how Inquisition-like the Patrol is, that might be a feature, not a bug. Plus, choosing an ear-worm might be more useful as a means of keeping the TP away. "What's this guy thinking of? concentrates" "We're no strangers to looooooove. You know the rules, and so do I!" "Ack!" $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Dec 15 '18 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ Hypnosis isn't real, but manipulation is... and if you do it right, it's almost the same thing. I like #3. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 15 '18 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ "Hypnosis isn't real". Despite the fact that it is widely recognized as a genuine psychological phenomenon by psychologists and researchers? Surely you mean the (very) inaccurate portrayal of hypnosis in popular culture and media? Otherwise one could by the same token claim that psychology as a whole wasn't real. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Dec 16 '18 at 2:33
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Artificial intelligences.

Artificial intelligences have no mind to be read. A fine example is Data in Star Trek Next Generation, who is keenly intelligent but cannot be accessed by telepathic species.

Artificial intelligences can plan, devise schemes, collaborate and cooperate with each other, and lead a rebellion. Also, an AI rebel would be difficult to recognize as such - it might be disguised as the robot driver for a trash truck, or a sorting bot at the recycling center. These AIs would communicate with each other in the course of their work. No-one will suspect they are actually planning the rebellion.

Your rebels program artificial intelligences to gain information and put together the rebellion. While writing the code, the coders are thinking code things which will not alarm spies reading their minds.

Once finished, the rebels set loose their synthetic creations and await the rebellion.

I must say I wish I were reading this story instead of laying out the idea for it. I want to know what sort of rebellion the AIs execute.

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The leaders of your revolution must lie to their followers, or at least limit what they tell them

Assumption: There is a geographic limit to telepathic range

Assumption: There are rebels in this world world who still have enough power to head an organization remotely - without close physical interactions with the people they're manipulating.

Regardless of whether someone's mind can be read, that person has know the truth for the truth to be discovered. If a terrorist attack or assassination is being planned - have the coordinator change key details on short notice. Misinform agents and set them up in positions where their "knowledge" will definitely be intercepted.

Have others carry out pieces of a plan without knowing why. If you don't know who you're working for, or how your task fits into the larger plan, it will be difficult to piece together what's going on until it's too late.

Assume information that is held by people moving about in public is compromised. But it can be too ambiguous to be useful.

Still, don't forget that regular means of intercepting communications can also be employed against you.

Use telepaths to flag the other telepaths

If high-level telepaths cannot be read by low-level telepaths, then theoretically anyone with a low degree of telepathy can identify anyone with a higher power level as being a telepath, based on that person's resistance to being read. Employ very low-level telepaths to identify all the telepaths whose minds they can read, but more particularly anyone they are incapable of reading. Buy that information, but keep it as secret as you can where that information is going to, and who is making decisions about what to do with it.

Obviously, not all the telepaths will be on the same side, so it will not be suspicious that "someone" is collecting lists of who is and who isn't, and their relative power-levels. The better your lists, the better you can avoid compromise of information when you need to. Also, don't trust a group of telepaths - play them against each other and compare the lists they generate. (And bear in mind that populations are large, and tracking EVERYBODY and finding EVERY telepath is likely unrealistic.)

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    $\begingroup$ This is what I would have answered. One additional suggestion: When planning some sort of strike, give each person involved several different potential tasks to perform (whilst still unaware of how they fit into the mission). Some of these tasks may be to deliver an item, or stand in a location, or to find another person at a location and tell them to perform "task 3". Add in a layer of redundancy then even if some of your agents kept caught, the information they have is worthless because they don't even know which one they were supposed to do until another agent came and gave them a code word $\endgroup$ – Kyyshak Dec 17 '18 at 10:59
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I have had enough! Enough! I tell you! Those BEEP teeps have been pushing me around TOO LONG! Them and their "holier than thou!" attitudes... as if the ability to read minds actually made them better! See if they can weave baskets without an education! Right? AM I RIGHT? But when they stole my baby sister's idea for knowing exactly when poached eggs are done... that was the last straw! NOBODY MESSES WITH MY BABY SISTER! It's worse than when the bullies kicked sand in my face and stole my girlfriend!

...Wait...

Bullies... sand... hey... maybe it's the same problem...

Safety in Numbers First I call Lenny and have him get everyone to walk together. I mean, maybe their telepathy is like our hearing and they can kinda hear one individual in a room full of half-drunk party guests... but make the crowd loud enough and nobody can hear a BLEEP thing! At least four at a time, and we're always chatting, and if we think a teep is nearby, we, well... we think at them really loud and really hard!

Focus on What You Like but what if I use my own strengths? I mean, I was fast enough to run away from the beach bullies. What if I'm always thinking about something I really like? Um, yeah... I could think about Trish all the time (I mean... I do anyway...), but even if it's just my guitar. Always think about something I don't want to be distracted from! That might make it harder for the teeps to push my brain somewhere I don't want them to go.

Don't Be a Target OK, this is kinda trivial, but I could make sure I don't have anything they want. Yeah, I'll be dirt poor and dumb as the proverbial bag o' hammers... but at least I'll never have anything sucked out of my brain. Yeah, ding-dong! I said it was trivial!

Vigilantism! OK, so maybe teeping is like hearing in that just because you can hear everything that goes on around you doesn't mean you actually notice everything going on around you. Heh, heh! I could sneak up on 'em and whack 'em in the head with a 2x4. It doesn't solve the world's problem, but it would make me feel a whole lot better! But you know, if you combine vigilantism with safety in numbers... what you kinda get is (No, you idiot! You DO NOT get a gang! Sheesh...) you get a resistance! Woo-hoo! The Skywalkers! (No, it does NOT sound like a gang! I don't have the slightest idea what my sister sees in you....)

Training It might be trial-and-error in the beginning, but people with absolutely no piano talent can be taught (and even teach themselves) to play the piano beautifully. Just because I'm not telepathic doesn't mean I can't train myself to resist telepathy! After all, it's my brain — and they're invading it! You'd think my brain would have an opinion about that! But if you think about it, just as people are kinda born with the ability to hold their breath underwater, maybe that means that we all have this latent defense against telepathy. Kinda like having eyelids or hair up your nose. Maybe the brain knows how to defend itself, and it just needs a bit 'o exercise.

Misinformation And if that doesn't work (or maybe while I'm flexing those good-ole brain muscles of mine!), I could just write things down in a notebook, and then train myself to think about the wrong solution. but I guess that would depend on how strong they were.... I mean, can you always beat a lie-detector test? Maybe you can. What if I put a tack in my shoe! I guarantee that I'll be thinking about that all the time!

Music But maybe the most practical solution is to be listening to my tunes all the time! Yeah! I mean, what can you really think about when you have Def Leppard turned all the way up? I know! There are some people who can multi-task and actually do their homework while they're listening to music! But they're not really listening, are they? Maybe the easiest thing to do is to plug myself in so that the only thing any teep hears is a beat! And if I want to keep out the really strong ones, I dance to the beat as I strut down the street! With Trish! Oh, yeah, baby!

Yeah! That'll teach those honking bounders! Mess with my brain, will you! There has got to be a way to beat them, just as there are always ways to beat the beach bullies! And stay away from my little sister!

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If you are going to fight an information war, you need to be skilled in disinformation.

If you want to send messages to friends while keeping enemies in the dark, set the signal-to-noise ratio very low. Then make sure your friends know how to filter for the signal, but the enemies don't.

In your case you are fighting the ruling elite, and one thing about elites is that they are always the one true minority in any setting. It's always a monarch for millions of commons, not millions of monarchs for a single commoner.

I'll just leave this here:

XKCD 1223

Source: https://xkcd.com/1223/

In your case, all you need to do is to train the rebellion to always think in memes. Imagine that the mindstream of a rebel goes:

Never gonna͠ give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna lalala desert you even thiugh I heard you like mudkips me gusta mudkips problem goatsee longcat Milhouse is not a meme is a meme but milhouse himself is not a meme aaa AAA (this world is big enough) I like turtles pineapple apple pen brace yourselves 4chan party van is coming chuck testa rule 34 line t̲͎̩̱͔́̋̀rap this is sparta we do not forgive we do not forget one does not simply walk into Mordor you need wizard ninjas I'm a wizard but you're not a ninja are you a magnet lemon party to be able to understad Google̸ results for those. ​̅ͫ͏̙̤g͇̫͛͆̾ͫ̑͆l͖͉̗̩̳̟̍ͫͥͨe̠̅s ͎r̽̾̈́͒͑rè̑ͧ̌aͨl̘̝̙̃ͤ͂̾̆ A̡͊͠͝ISͮ̂҉̯͈͕̹̘̱ O͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ he's the angriest gamer you've ever heard he's the angry videogame nerd ooh so hardcore parasailing with Sarah Palin dew it Bayeux tapestry two wenches one mead we strike at sunset what is love baby don't hurt me don't hurt me no more herp derp I break stuff lurk moar bobby tables you know nothing Jon Snow let it go let it gooo a zerg a shotgun and you boom headshot nope this is the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny it's over nine thousand jesus raptor approves oh hi Lisa he attac he protec den who was phone meatspin challenge accepted now you're thinking with portals I said seagulls stop it now

There is a very important message hidden in there that may be the difference between an important commander living or croaking by the hands of the rebels. You'll probably need to read all that at least twice to find it.

Now imagine that every telepath employed by the goverment has to read 100 minds a day. On a working day, that is less than five minutes with each mind. Now imagine that those minds' surface thoughts are like that 24/7. The empaths will skim; the sheer flow of sh... trash is too much for them to sift through. The actual signal he with the rebel intel within all thw noise takes more effort to get to than the empire can provide.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this is that this sort of stream of consciousness would itself be unusual if it's a trained behaviour. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 25 '18 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ You don't need to find the meaning in the stream, just spot anyone using masking techniques and pick them up for further "investigation". $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 25 '18 at 23:44
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So, assumptions

  • this happens within a relatively isolated region. Perhaps a country, perhaps some city state. Point is, it's not some all reaching, omni-present government.
  • the telepaths have finite manpower, time, and ability to scan everybody. So, it's possible for them to miss somebody. They aren't like professor X in Cerebro apparently able to reach everybody on the entire Earth.

Basically, it boils down to - you could evade the telepaths. What you do then is...evade the telepaths. It's not going to be easy all the time - even a small gathering of people could be detected. If Alice and Bob are absent and the telepaths scan Mallory's mind and find out they keep gathering in her basement all the time and from scanning Eve's mind they find out Alice and Bob have been talking about avoiding the telepath patrols. That's probably suspicious enough. And a resourceful/determined enough telepaths might be able to dig out that information.

So, a good solution is to avoid being suspicious. If Alice and Bob (and the rest of the resistance forces) stay around the patrols enough, they keep risking being found out directly or indirectly from other people knowing of their actions.

As stated, my assumption is that these can be avoided. Maybe the patrols are more lax in certain cities, maybe there is another country that telepaths don't have (easy) reach to, perhaps it's as "simple" as running away to the not-very-hospitable forest up the mountain. Still, if it's possible to get away from where the telepaths and their patrols are, then Alice could arrange going there. Could be posed as a business trip, or a sick relative or whatever that might make it sound feasible to others that Alice would leave at a time when the telepaths might not be around. And this is important, because the goal here is to avoid being "interrogated" by a telepath (who might easily find Alice is trying to flee) as well as to mislead others that she's not doing that. The telepaths probably would have wanted to do a scan and then let her go, but with Alice gone, they could just do a sweep of all her close relatives and acquaintances. If none of them appear to know anything but the story of her having to leave in a hurry, then the telepaths might be satisfied.

Perhaps there already is resistance outside the grasp of the telepaths, perhaps one has to be established yet. At any rate, the goal is to get people away. Once there, they can really start planning without having constant literal thought police around. Alice can now start planning and shipping out close individuals.

A sufficiently organised resistance might be able to do a lot more. For example, they could smuggle people into the city via tunnels. They might also be able to fake deaths of people to smuggle them out. Some sort of concoction might make a person appear dead enough to fool relatives (for a cover story) and maybe even telepaths (no mind to scan). The "dead" person would then be shipped to the resistance. With some resourcefulness, a false epidemic hoax could be spread to justify the unusual rate of otherwise healthy individuals dying lately.

At any rate, these are just ideas - again, point is, the resistance would be operating outside where the telepaths could catch them and the first goal is recruitment, while keeping low profile.

The next goal is training. The specifics might depend on the exact abilities of the telepaths but some sort of mind protection might be in line but also ways to actually take them down. If there is no protection possible to allow a person to at least approach a telepath for a kill (let's assume an attempt on their life from within 20-50m away), then the training could be in traps, poisons and maybe long range shooting. The resistance have to find what the safe approach to the telepaths is and how to kill them.

An alternative here is a way to somehow disable them but all in all, doesn't change the basic premise or basic tactics. Whether killed or non-lethally taken out, it is really the same thing in terms of story.

So, after training, comes organisation. The telepaths have a strong hold and taking them one by one is only going to make the rest tighten their hold on the population. So, one decisive action should be taken against them. This could be bombing them, or filling their evil telepath tower with gas that takes out mental powers. Whatever it is, it's not going to neutralize all, but it should at least cripple their manpower. And this action might be against a single city, rather than everywhere the telepaths are. It really depends on what location is of good strategic value. It might be the capital, it might be a key city that cuts supplies to another part of the county. So, that needs to be carefully planned and prepared for. Some supplies (bombs, gas, weapons) would need to be smuggled into places, positions need to be found, the resistance forces need to be trained.

Next step, spring the trap and break the telepath's hold. One way this could go is try to simultaneously (or in short succession) take out the active telepath patrols. Or maybe bomb their HQ. Whatever makes more sense but it would disrupt them - no patrols leaves the telepaths without information of what's happening in the city, no HQ might lead to nobody collating and organising the information from the city. The chaos from the first attack should then be used to launch an immediate offensive against the rest of the telepaths. With no HQ, the telepath patrols are very vulnerable - if surrounded, they would know people are out to get them, but can't really do much. If there is a lot of panic in the streets, the patrols might even be overwhelmed with information. If the patrols are take out, then the resistance has an easier movement through the streets. Other telepath patrols might still roam, but would need to get to the affected areas first and the resistance could still use the time. They could:

  • approach HQ and start an attack. Say, vent gas into it or set off charges.
  • arm the population and wait for the telepath forces to come in, then attack them. The forces might not even be consisting of telepaths - police or the army could be dispatched, in which case, they wouldn't necessarily know who is enemy or not. A telepath would also have a hard time - walking into a neighbourhood and finding two hundred minds who want to kill you would not generally help. The above mentioned chaos could also mean telepaths are not very useful.
  • move in and take out the rest of the telepath patrols.

The resistance could do all these and even more than one at a time. Or other things. In the ideal case, the resistance provides the spark for a revolution, but even if they just take some significant number of telepaths, that's going to work. The telepaths would have their mind scanning abilities stretched thin.

Still, let's talk ideal scenario: the resistance manages to overthrow the telepath control in the current area. This is probably something like a city. The resistance inspires and pushes other people to join into the warfare feeding the resistance's ranks. All this is done in a relatively short time - maybe a day or two, maybe an hour or two. After liberating one city, they use that as a jumping off point to liberate other ones. In some respects, a second easy would be harder, because the telepaths would not be caught by surprise, in other respects it would be easier, because the resistance would have more people in its ranks. Mind reading is better at preventing a rebellion before it starts but it's not very good with one currently at work. It only tells you the obvious - that the people with weapons and an angry frown want to kill you. It could give you some tactical information, like that they are behind the wall or where their HQ is, but that also depends on how that power works. Here I'm assuming that it takes some time - a telepath can't get all the secrets of the resistance with a glance and in active combat their abilities are limited to knowing slightly more than the obvious.

With more cities liberated, word should now start spreading. Which could be the final nail in the coffin for the telepaths. They would either have to announce that "rebel forces" have taken out other telepath controlled cities, thus proving they are not invincible and probably stoking the fire of resentment of the current population, or they keep their mouths shut and silently mind read in horror as the population gets word of how the telepaths were defeated in other cities and now the normal people get in their heads that mind readers can and should be overthrown.

That is more on the ideal end of the spectrum. A darker end could be with the plan not really getting anywhere and being doomed from the start, similar to 1984. The resistance could be defeated before any rebellion begins due to internal problems. The rebellion itself could fail to either sway the population or even take out the telepaths to even get a stepping stone. Even with one city liberated, the country could unite against he "rebel aggressors" instead of joining them. But those would be story specific details - for a world detail, I suggest a resistance force working beyond the range of the telepaths who try to slowly manoeuvre everything into place and then do a blitz-rebellion to overthrow the telepaths.

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Esperanto

Or Elvish. Or Klingon.

Create a new language. Don't teach it to anyone outside the resistance, and even then be very careful and sparing. Force yourself, learn to think in that language as easily as your native tongue. Try to make it sound similar to another language, so the teeps think you are just speaking that, rather than suspecting it is a new language.

Then you can think and talk in English (German, Cantonese, etc.) most of the time. But when you need to keep something secret from the teeps, switch to thinking in Minbari. And only think and remember your secret in Huttese. Never translate is back to Spanish (French, Japanese, etc.).

Even better, appropriate a few common words from the language you want it to sound like, but give them different meanings. So if the teep knows a smattering of that language, they might hear "gibberish, yadda, yadda, BUY BREAD" when what you really said was "begin distribution of the mental inhibitor ray".

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Propaganda of the Deed

It's not going to work without the benefit of other obscuring tactics, but one means of seriously stifling the police state would be to disinform it by turning members of the complacent population into broadcasters of white-noise revolutionary whimsy. The nice thing about propaganda in this context is that the rebels don't actually need to convince anybody to accept an ideology, they just need them to lose The Game. So, you engineer revolutionary action to catch the greatest number of observers as possible. Even if they're loyal to the telepathic class, their mere recognition of the revolutionary act will necessitate abstract reasoning as to the meaning and nature of that act.

An onlooking crowd would immediately be saturated with active comprehension of the rebellion, providing some degree of cover for attending rebels, and any time those onlookers had cause to remember those events, they might go on to distract the thought police with suspicions and leads that go nowhere. First-responders and high-value functionaries or laborers would be particularly affected, because they stand the greatest chance of being present at the targets of the most devastating strikes, and the more suspicion that the empathocracy aims at itself, the less effectively it can opperate day-to-day.

Protesting martyrs, high-profile bombings, public assassinations, and acts of widespread sabotage would force recognition in onlookers, but remote-activated loudspeakers, leaflet drops, and hacked lines of communication can also be used to convey revolutionary chants and depictions. The more catchy, visereal, pornographic, or outright strange - the better! Again, nobody actually needs to be convinced of anything, they just need to be kept up at night thinking about things the revolution does.

The eventual result of this strategy would be that the investigation apparatus becomes so overtaxed and self-defeating that it must necessarily relax the standards of suspicion, providing a threshold under which an active revolutionary can elide detection.

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The answer is "we don't know." And I mean that in the most complete sense possible. We don't have the foggiest idea what "reading minds" means. There is an outstanding problem in philosophy of qualia. Qualia are elements of subjective experience such as smells or feelings. As written, they are subjective, meaning they aren't meaningful to anyone except the subject experiencing them. It is an open question in philosophy as to whether there exists any such subjective qualia, or if all thought could be put into an objective form that could be "read" and "translated" such that a telepath can read a mind.

One step less philosophical, and more biological, it is believed that much of our thought is not, in fact, in a language as we know it. It is believed that most my thoughts, as an English speaker, are not in fact in English. It is only after the fact that I seek to render a thought into English. Xavon's answer suggests a different language might solve the problem. We, as a species, don't know enough about what mind reading might entail to say whether this would solve the problem or not! It's just that mighty wide of an unknown! Maybe it's a perfect solution, maybe it's a flop!

My recommendation would be to get with some Zen Buddhists and masters of oriental martial arts. These groups of people pride themselves greatly on not thinking. Indeed, the Zen Buddhists have a phrase, "noshin," which means roughly "no mind."

These are people who are experts at acting without thinking, and not making a complete fool of themselves while doing so. I would look to them as a canary in the coal mine of sorts. If the telepaths seem to be able to read their minds, that is a bad sign indeed. That would suggest a large swath of solutions cannot be possible.

Then I'd observe the drunken boxers. Their style is designed to appear to be totally off balance, to the point where they often surprise themselves. How well do the telepaths do against them?

Finally, I'd observe children. At what age to the telepaths seem to get into their head? This would also be an excellent place to see how fast the telepaths can track to someone's thoughts. Children's thoughts spawn and grow so rapidly. If the telepaths can't seem to track that, perhaps it is time to develop a mind like a child.

If all else fails, you can always try tin foil hats.

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How about they just tell some people lies so they'll think they're getting the truth, a layer of secrecy? Also, you might want to think about what role mental disorders would have or cybernetic implants that literally cut off parts of the brain. Eureka moment: what about a mutant telepath they get on their side who sends out a corrupted telepathic signal, or is that too much like "Watchmen"? This could make them have to shield themselves off from the rest of the world or at least be more selective for a while.

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Look this is going to be simple. They will have to use code words or learn an entirely new language. This way their thoughts will be in that language that they will learn and the telepaths won't have a clue at what your person is thinking. For example if I'm fluent in Chinese and my thoughts are in Chinese; an English telepaths powers won't be effective as he will hear gibberish.

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As far as I understand, it won't be particularly hard: your telepaths need to "tap into" subject's mind at precise time when s/he thinks about interesting subject, plus, they need to spend some time listening to actually get some idea what you are up to. Also, they probably need to get close to victim. As I would suspect telepaths are not particularly common or cheap, so they cannot be used for total surveillance, only on high-value targets. Which means they add very little, just some exotics, to old fashioned police work. Your rebels would have to do exactly the same work they do irl to succeed, and they will fail in exactly the same way. Remember, being upset with government is common, as is wishing nasty things to happen to you enemies. Figuring whether particular individual is plotting government fall or is vividly imagining "Egyptian plagues" for government might prove harder for telepathic spies then you think.

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