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We have a great example in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. A bad guy has run amok, and our detective begins to intuit the culprit, but the bad guy is almost always one step ahead because they share the same mind.

Take this idea a little further into the science fiction space of telepaths, or hacking brains, or aliens with sufficiently advanced surveillance technology that the poor humans can not hope to jam it.

How (would) a police force investigate crimes in an environment where the investigator's very thoughts are public knowledge?

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  • $\begingroup$ This looks like the two part series of Now You See Me movie where the magicians act as fools. $\endgroup$ – Manoj Kumar Feb 27 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ Classic, "how to outthink oneself". +1 $\endgroup$ – A new normal. Feb 27 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ Not much tension in a story where one side has a tremendous advantage. Both sides must have strengths...and weaknesses. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 27 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ Another good example is the Denzel Washington movie, Fallen. Not exactly a mind reading antagonist, but still a very unbalanced battlefield. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 27 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Solace (2015) has a similar story line about a psychic investigator and murderer. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 27 at 22:54
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The Same Way They Do Now

The police are investigating after the fact which means the crime has already happened and the evidence already collected.

The only advantage the criminals have is police can't lie or bluff them during interrogations. Depending on how minds are read, even this could be got around by using an interrogator who only knows what the detective tells them beforehand or a remote interrogator out of range via video link.

You still have witness, DNA, fingerprints, CCTV, mobile phone tracking, surveillance and digital footprints.

The police work continues virtually unchanged. The real question is if the police can also read minds or just the criminals?

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking that they could investigate as usual also, but one thing they couldn't really do is a secret raid, even if they know the culprit, catching them could be difficult. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 28 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ @RandySavage not just a secret raid. There's always a gap between police thinking and action. It's a common trope in detective genre when police figures out they need to talk to a witness, and criminal beats them by a minute, leaving a still warm witness' body behind. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander, then the police have another crime to investigate, with its own set of clues. The criminal may be able to run forever, but they would have to completely leave their old life, which could be worse than a few years in prison. $\endgroup$ – Robin Bennett Feb 28 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ Interrogation would be almost impossible without prisoner's dilemma, bluffing, etc. Lying is much easier when you know what your target knows. $\endgroup$ – Cristobol Polychronopolis Feb 28 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Robin Bennett that is true, but criminals would be able to give puzzles to the police at a rate higher than police can solve them. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 at 17:19
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Pride and Arrogance

Having near perfect information means having a LOT of information to sift through. It is also a breeding ground for a god complex and the belief that they have defeated the dreaded Dragon of Chaos.

In short the adversary has to also be perfect at predicting. The watched need only generate large volumes of apparently related activity. Eventually one of three things will happen:

  • The ability to deal with the volume of information will be surpassed. This provides a chance that critical information is either dropped, or have its detail reduced to being useless. As with any system: Garbage in, Garbage Out. Their predictions will be incorrect.
  • The Dragon of Chaos will rear its head and open an unexpected and unpredictable path. This is a fundamental limitation of any simulation, the reality you are predicting does not also contain the simulation. The protagonist may be able to travel these paths for some time before the hyper-vigilant adversary can catch up or respond. As up till now the adversary was already ready, now they are literally out of position, and require time to organise.
  • The Adversary makes a mistake. They had the knowledge, they had the ability, they dropped the ball. The truth of the mater is that it takes a lot of resources, a lot of energy, and a lot of focus applied forevermore to keep something secret/unknown. Eventually the Adversary will be distracted. Perhaps a life event, perhaps someone spills the beans, perhaps the Adversary is presented with Bad choices and can only pick the least worst. Either way that moment is an opportunity.
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    $\begingroup$ A local drug dealer got snatched because an elder woman disliked the pizza they delivered. Cue police discover by accident it was a facade. Murphy is an equal opportunity lord. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Feb 28 at 0:19
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Chess match.

In chess, both players have perfect information. Each player can see all of the capabilities of the opponent, and knows all the things that opponent can do in a given lay of the board.

In such a game, winning requires a series of actions such that the opponent cannot escape defeat. Quick action is never needed. Subterfuge however can be useful.

Police investigations would be a chess game. In chess if I see my opponent is trying to quickmate me and I am aware of that sequence, I can prevent that. When my opponent has a long game and is setting up a trap well in advance I may or may not be able to prevent defeat.

Your psychic police investigation and the countermoves of psychic criminals are played out like a chess game.

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    $\begingroup$ In chess, however, the thoughts of other player are not known. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ In chess, however, the board size is only 8x8 and the chess pieces leave the board only when captured. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Feb 28 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ Not quite - it's like playing chess with "fog of war" (knowing only your figures and adjastent fields) against normal all-seeing player. In this conditions even champion will have a hard time against casual player. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Feb 28 at 9:59
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A similar question about warfare in an age of perfect surveillance, the proper countermove was to create a decision tree, and then use a random number generator, set of dice or deck of cards to randomly choose the path you were going to go down and immediately execute before the adversary could bring countermeasures to bear.

Ths investigators have essentially the same issue, so they might develop multiple lines of investigation. The criminals can see multiple patterns of investigation being drawn against them, but are unclear about which one they will have to foil.

Do they attempt to hide or obscure the forensic evidence the criminologists are looking for? Can the develop enough internally consistent lies to counter the lines of questioning the detectives are building? Can they erase enough eye witnesses the uniformed officers are interviewing? How about informants? can they find and eliminate them in time?

The police can also play games with the criminals through these means. They might start focusing on "Benny", a mid level criminal who the criminals under investigation are being led to believe is an informant, but their actions in silencing "Benny" actually help a different investigation - "Benny" had nothing to do with the matter at hand. False lines of questioning, sending criminologists to look at apparently unrelated evidence...The police might be essentially creating an entirely false but self consistent narrative to confuse the criminals as to what is actually being looked for. Think of the movie "The Usual Suspects": Keyser Söze isn't just telling a story to confuse and throw off Agent Kujan and buy time, but telling a story to see what sort of reaction he is getting and changing the story on the fly as he observes the reaction of the police. Now imagine a skilled interrogator doing that to the hapless criminal.

Of course, given the police have effectively far more resources than the average criminal, they also have the option of pursuing all the lines at once, and simply overwhelming the criminals. Only the largest and most organized cartels or mafias would be effectively able to cope, and even then, would likely be constantly being chewed up around the margins unless they subvert the police (much as happens in the real world).

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    $\begingroup$ It's interesting how this only works if the police are aware of the criminals' powers. It makes for a good turn of events, the discovery of said powers, the belief that victory is impossible, and the resurgence of hope through the strategy you described $\endgroup$ – Blueriver Feb 28 at 23:15
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Take this idea a little further into the science fiction space of telepaths, or hacking brains, or aliens with sufficiently advanced surveillance technology that the poor humans can not hope to jam it.

This will only help in the case of brain hacking or advanced alien surveillance. In either case the mind reading aspect is probably a more advanced version of what Google (after getting patent from Motorola, I beleive) has had for years

This means the criminals are reading the internal conversations these police have with themselves. But you can have thoughts that don't trigger these slight electronic signals to your vocal chords. Even if initially the police make the mistake of internally acknowledging they know they're being surveilled, they can still intentionally think something different than they're going to do. They can create monotonous internal dialogue in their mind while writing with their peers on pen and paper. Extremely difficult, and limiting of the police using their full attention in solving the case - but even as their thoughts are read, they can most likely create fake internal dialogue and pursue something different, even the opposite of what they just "thought".

If it's telapathy and they can read the signals sent to your hands to write, your diaphragm to breathe, and your toes to wiggle... hopefully someone else has a good answer XD.

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    $\begingroup$ Just constantly sing a song in your head so they cant tell your inner thoughts, if you sing a bad enough song they may even stop monitoring you lol $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 28 at 0:49

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