My first question so bear with me, also please tell me what I can do better (both about my question and about my way of asking it).

In my parallel universe everything is a carbon copy of our universe, your parallel self doing the same job you do, has the same car and home. Except nearly half of humanity is able to use mindreading.

Whether they are kids or adults, half of the population reads the minds of the other half. They never argue with people who can't mindread, and everyone who can read knows who else can and can't.

It's unknown how long some of these lucky people were able to read minds but it is not discussed no matter what.

Even presidents don't know about mind readers if they are non-readers, but people who are mind readers in the government will do anything to stop any attempt to read critical government non-reader's minds.

But why don't mind readers talk about it? Is it risky? Surely they aren't any minority or at risk of being outcast.


Readers can't read other readers minds.

There are readers on everywhere, there are doctors, soldiers, generals, politicians, mechanics and every job/discipline has readers.

There are NGO's and GO's made out of readers, almost like a cult, for example there are sub-divisions in the companies like "Mind Reading Based Marketing" or "Mind Reading Customer Relations".

A reader would never make it apparent they read your thoughts, they won't be visibly disgusted by your sick ideas, or a girl having a crush on you won't be you girlfriend just because she read that you also love her.

EDIT: Yeah I knew it was a long stretch, I really loved every answer & frame-challenge tho, and thanks to the reality check you guys have given me, I believe choosing an answer saying that my question is pretty impossible is fair.

  • 35
    $\begingroup$ "In my parallel universe everything is carbon copy of our universe, [...] except nearly half of the humanity is able to read minds." This is rather unbelievable, with no amount of willing suspension of disbelief being sufficient. Billions of humans have an extraordinary ability, and yet this extraordinary change had no impact whatsoever on history, culture and society? No way. (For a trivial example: how come nobody in the Anglo-French delegation at Munich in 1938 was able to read Hitler's mind?) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 12:11
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ For this to work all mind readers must have perfect control over their emotional state and be flawless actors and liars. It's difficult to consolidate that with the premise that every person is a perfect copy from our universe, as most people certainly do display reactions when confronted with information. There must be more changes then simply being able to read minds, maybe you can edit your second paragraph to explain better what must stay the same for your question and what may change. <1 of 2> $\endgroup$
    – user91641
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 13:09
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If more than one person knows, it's no longer a secret. If like you say mind reading is present in children, something more than just keeping a secret has to be involved. There has to be a biological mechanism preventing it. implanted chip in the brain, or encoded genetic repulsion. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:09
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Why would the mind-reading half of the population vote for a non-mind-reading person as president when that means their mind can be read by foreign mind-readers, thus losing all upper hand in negotiations and very likely revealing state secrets that would most likely severely threaten national security? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 20:03
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ One change might make this workable: mind readers don't know about other mind readers. Every mind reader thinks they're in a minority of one. Since everyone they can read the mind of knows nothing about it, the mind readers just think that some people have shields and others don't. $\endgroup$
    – Martha
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 20:35

16 Answers 16

  1. If half the population have this ability, it's hard to imagine how you could keep it a secret from the other half for long. Sooner or later somebody is going to reveal the secret to a friend he thought he could trust. Or somebody is going to slip up and do something that gives away the secret.

If you posited that there are a handful of people with this ability in the world, maybe they can keep it secret. But billions? I don't believe it.

  1. You say this world is an exact copy of our world. Everyone has the same job, same home, etc. But half the people have this very powerful ability. This seems contradictory. Don't they ever use this ability in any way? If one of the mind-readers uses his ability to make money or get the girl he wants or to ... well, to accomplish ANYTHING, then at that point the world will cease to be exactly like ours. Even if they only use their power in small ways, millions of small things are going to add up to make the world a very different place. Even if they have some code of ethics that says they can't take advantage, won't the mind readers at the least avoid associating with non-mind readers that they know hate them? Won't they avoid hanging around in places where they know a criminal is planning to attack them? Do they NEVER use the fact that they know what answer the person interviewing them for a job wants to hear? Etc etc.

  2. Even if the mind readers are careful to never show emotion or other reaction to people's thoughts, surely at some point their actions would give them away. This goes back to #2, but if they take advantage of their mind reading ability in any way, the evidence is going to pile up that there is something different about these people. Maybe they're controlled and subtle enough that once or twice the non-mind readers might attribute it to coincidence or luck. But when you see over a period of years that your salesman Fred always seems to know just what the customer wants, or that police detective George always knows whether a suspect is guilty from the moment he first talks to him ... sooner or later people are going to add 2 and 2 together.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The amount of scenario's you can think of where someone might unintentionally reveal the secret are in the tens if not hundreds. Statistically it would be impossible. Someone talks in his sleep, someone might slip up in a confused state like brain damage, hypothermia, etc... $\endgroup$
    – Mixxiphoid
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 5:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Mixxiphoid Or someone just has a slip of the tongue and gives it away. Or someone shows surprise or anger or whatever when he shouldn't have. Etc etc. The idea that billions of people are going to keep a secret for many years is just hard to believe. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 15:56

Mind readers don’t know they’re different

Nobody is hiding anything. Mind reading doesn’t pop up like a notification “Alice is having A Thought!”. It’s more like a vague intuition, like guessing with unusual accuracy the feelings of the person you’re with. A non-mind reader will experience this as the other person being really attentive and insightful. The mind reader will feel a deep connection, like their minds are “in sync”, since they find it so easy to guess what the other is thinking. In fact, this leads to most romantic relationships being between a mind reader and a non-mind reader.

Most people with neurodivergent features take years to realise their brain really doesn’t work like others’. The natural tendency is just to assume that people’s inner experience is pretty much the same as yours. This is probably profoundly false, but we only ever get to see the inside of one head, after all. Mind readers just come across as more empathetic, and naturally drawn to some people. They can tell that their intuition, or close emotional connection, works with some people but not others. They get frustrated, sometimes, that their partner doesn’t pick up on things they way they’d expect, and sometimes need to work on their communication a bit.

The thing that is kept secret is the knowledge of this trait, and the specialised training that a natural mind reader requires to perform professional, unemotional, intrusive mind reading. This is very hard, because mind reading by nature tends to form an emotional bond between reader and readee, so non-consensual spying is actually very hard to pull off. But the potential for weaponising effective mind reading is too great. All major governments have secret services dedicated to training thought agents, and preventing awareness about the mechanics of mind reading from spreading.
Research into emotional neurodivergence is suppressed. Theories about mind reading are dismissed as conspiracies and their proponents variously slandered and framed as nutters. Children at school are subjected to standardised testing that, secretly, will pick up on their latent mind-reading abilities (there will be several unintuitive answers that mind-reading kids will be inexplicably drawn to, because, unbeknownst to them, they are being “broadcast” by thought by an agent). The secret thought service will be constantly on the lookout for the golden combination of mind reading and sociopathy that makes for effective agents.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's another pretty good example ngl. $\endgroup$
    – vivus
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 7:52

No human can actually read minds.

All Mind-reading is actually done by an ancient psychic entity that is reading all the minds of all humanity at all times, passing the thoughts of the people it chooses to other people. When this entity decides to make an individual a mind-reader, it contacts that person psychically, and tells them:

  1. You are a mind-reader. I will connect you to the minds of nearby people on request, so you can read the minds of those people who are not also designated mind-readers.

  2. I forbid you to do things that will reveal my existence, or the existence of mind-reading to the non-mind readers. If you divulge sufficient information that a non-mind-reader discerns that you are an actual, bona-fide mind reader, I will permanently strip you of mind-reader status, I will edit your memories to remove knowledge of mind-reading, and I will let every Mind-reader that knew you were a mind-reader know that you have been stripped of mind-reader status.

This isn't quite perfect; a sufficiently motivated mind-reader who didn't care about being stripped of mind-reader status could attempt to engineer a situation where the mind-reading is revealed; but they'd have to do it while an entity that can edit memories and is constantly reading everyone's mind is looking for that sort of thing, and can threaten other mind-readers into abetting a cover-up.


Your protagonist is delusional.

Thought broadcasting is one of the most common delusions. Thought insertion is less common but well described.


An example of thought broadcasting would be if a student is sitting in class and is thinking about what he or she may have planned for the upcoming weekend. They may start to believe that their teacher can hear their plans, and that the teacher knows that they are not paying attention to the lecture being given. They may also believe that the other students in the classroom can hear their thoughts and may be judging them for the plans that they have....People with thought broadcasting rarely admit to having this symptom or to the severity of the symptom


Thought insertion is defined by the ICD-10 as the delusion that one's thoughts are not one's own, but rather belong to someone else and have been inserted into one's mind. The person experiencing thought insertion will not necessarily know where the thought is coming from, but makes a distinction between their own thoughts and those inserted into their minds...

Your protagonist experiences thought insertion and attributes the inserted thoughts to other people. She does not think these people mean to insert their thoughts. She is reading their minds. She also suspects her thoughts are being read by others - around her and possibly at some distance from her.

She realizes that a large community of people must have this ability because her ability to read and also be read means she can pick up her own thoughts as "echos" coming back to her as thought insertions from those reading her mind. She tries to control her thoughts at all times and teaches herself to have a song running through her head, with her thoughts hidden behind it. It is working because she gets clips of this song coming back as thought insertions whcih she knows because they are not timed right with the actual song. One time she got the song back, timed right with the one she had running, but in Spanish, and a Mexican man smiled at her. It was a pretty good trick and she smiled back.

No-one talks about this. She tries dropping some hints which get a chilly reception and she is no dope; she lets it be.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That was a pretty good frame challenge, I really appreciate it. $\endgroup$
    – vivus
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 7:40

They don't

If there is a big enough society and some people have started developing anything paranormal, there are two possible outcomes: first, those people display great control and self-discipline, and don't show off, and second, someone does show off and the information leaks out that there are mind readers out there!!!11 Our society is big enough for this purpose, and gossips of various paranormal activities do spread occasionally. (Whether there are grounds under those gossips is different story)

Next, if the first obstacle still didn't produce a worldwide gossip of mind readers being around, there are more. The second obstacle is that once a person gets some superpowers (and reading others' minds is one), they start using it and adapting their behavior to rely on those powers. So, eventually any mind-reader would start going with mind reading left and right. Eventually, one of them would lose self-control hard enough for "non-mind-readers" to notice, alerting the society that people's minds are no longer safe.

Next, even if all the present mind readers would retain their abilities in secret, two mind readers would eventually meet, and all of a sudden their ability would break when they'd try to read each other's minds. This would shock them both to a degree of either someone else seeing them shock at something, or them disclosing their abilities at least to their would-be victims. Even if only one person would try to read another mind reader's mind and fail per your ability description, they would definitely try to discern what is so different about that person as why they couldn't affect them. Such stalking behavior would eventually occur anyway, because people's psychology and law of big numbers say this can happen so it eventually will. Then, some neighbors would notice a mind reader stalking someone else, arising interest, and some of those readers would eventually lose control enough to disclose their ability. Say, when drunk.

Next, the rule of not discussing mind reading has to appear somehow. It's not a given, or say God-given rule. Someone has to devise a rule about not talking about their powers once encountering another person with these, but this rule won't appear before it would become obvious that breaking it would produce a highly undesirable outcome. The mind readers can't just meet and produce the rule before something would happen. At first they wouldn't even know why they can't read some people's minds so they have to speak about their superpowers at least with each other (or like with the first two, saying this the very first time would be psychically hard for either), so organizing into a "cult" or something like it would pose serious problems. Without organization, the rule wouldn't appear, so again, information disclosure would be required for it to appear.

Next, if all of the above won't alert the society about mind readers, there is a power problem. When the number of mind readers would become large enough, there will arise a selfish person who would use mind reading powers to elevate his position in the society, eventually rising high enough to influence the government somehow. Probably up to the position of a local ruler, superseding existing ruler if he'd be susceptible to mind reading. The story of his rise would get written and spread, as people like to write stories of their kings or other rulers that bring glory to their people (of whatever kind), and some of the brighter minds would at least suspect that the "from zero to hero" kid has some supernatural abilities. Also if somehow a child in the ruling family would get such a power, they would be plain forced to use it or perish, thus with the society you describe most of the power positions would eventually be filled with mind readers.

Then, since the rulers would eventually be aware of people that are unaffected by their mind reading abilities, there would be activity directed to study such people, with some selection initiated by the scientists or ruling mind readers themselves designed to gather such people. But then, there is a dilemma on who to send to gather such people! If the king, provided he is a mind reader, would go himself, others would start worrying both about his safety and about how would he find people he needs, effectively leaking data to any other mind reader around (aka the target). Sending "normal" people would fail, because they won't be able to find who is a mind reader and who is not, and also be an open book about the king's desires to find more of "people like other kings", after that it won't take long for the mind readers under that king's rule to organize. Once there is an organization, separation would take place, people with mind-reading immunity would be taken from those vulnerable, maybe other measures would be implemented, arousing the "normal" society about something is going on with some of them.

Then, as if everything above isn't enough, those kings would start taking care of their secrets, not knowing who to send on a secret mission without it becoming known to everyone who would listen, especially if one mind reading king would meet an aspiring hero that would desire to supersede him, capture him and interrogate (aka torture for information). So, if a cult of "special" people would not form amidst ordinary people, it will form as some kind of aristocracy by a willing king. Mind readers would eventually start being promoted to secret keepers or performers of secret tasks everywhere, new people would get elevation because of their ability, provoking "segregation by mind". Eventually some people from above would dissent and disclose the existence of mind readers to everyone else in order to undermine their opponents' ability to rule with reading minds of unawares, again leading to information disclosure.

Thus, the situation you describe is plain impossible. The information of people being able to read minds will at least be known to governments mostly because over the history all of them would contain mind readers and only mind readers. And eventually it will become known to everyone because of dissidents from either side.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm with you. I don't believe the premise, as stated, is remotely plausible. There is no way to enforce half the population to act exactly the same. Take any random dozen of people, put them in a room and try to share a secret. The information would be re-shared within moments of them leaving. Why would mind readers be any different? In fact, if kids can read minds, then surely there would be no shortage of "Haha, you're thinking of <whatever they find funny>" on the playgrounds. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Agree, the list could go on and on. What happens when an intelligent and motivated psychopath manifests among the mind readers? $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 18:00

If everybody knew that this person can read their minds, then nobody will be willing to face him fearing that this man will know what they don't want to reveal. The mind reader will be alienated.

Like a secret agent, a mind reader is successful only if keeps his ability a secret.

  • $\begingroup$ For a small number of readers that's fine. Half the world's population? Not likely. In fact vanishingly unlikely. The relationship between the number of people who know a particular secret and the likelihood of that secret being exposed appears to be exponential rather than additive or multiplicative. $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 7:04

Hiding the existence of mind readers

The short answer is, "No can do." No matter how bad it gets, there will always be someone who blabs to the wrong crowd. In real life, people sell their families to slavery, or to the local secret police. They betray their country and friends. If people in the real world won't save another person's life by remaining quiet, then there is no chance that there isn't a mind reader willing to sell out "his own kind".

if 50% of the population - or even 1% of the population - can read minds, and can detect other mind readers, it won't take long for the world to know they exist. Maybe it'll be some idiot trying to get famous, maybe it'll be a whistle-blower trying to do the right thing, or maybe it'll be someone with ill intent, trying to wipe out one side or the other. Regardless, it will be truly impossible to hide the existence of mind readers. Then again, if there exist companies based around using/marketing to mind readers, it seems pretty clear the world knows about them anyway.

Hiding personal abilities

While some more progressive governments may agree to keeping the identities of those who can read minds a secret, not everyone will agree to that. Dictators of tiny countries, always afraid that someone is out to assassinate them, will have mind-reader-detection squads to protect them, and will jail or kill any mind readers that aren't directly working for them, kept around to read the minds of dissidents and weed out sneaky mind readers. Covert organizations will specifically hire mind readers, because they are the only ones that can stay under cover. Any group from militaries and governments to think tanks and engineering teams will have mind-reader screening, to make sure their secrets aren't being leaked.

So, if Joe Random wants to hide the fact that he is a mind reader, he'll need to:

  1. Live in a country that doesn't actively screen for mind readers
  2. Work for a company that has no mind-reader-specific policies (regardless of laws, companies will still discriminate against both mind readers and non-mind readers, putting them in positions where the company can benefit from their ability)
  3. Not live near enough to any mind readers who are open about their abilities. Even if Ted can keep his mouth shut most of the time, when he gets drunk, he does party tricks where he reads minds at random, and if he can't read someone's mind, it's pretty obvious.

Fixing the setup

To give half of the population mind reading powers, but keep it a secret, you can't have any organization have "mind reading based marketing". In fact, it has to be impossible to communicate that mind reading exists. Somehow, no one can indicate that they are a mind reader in any way. They would be able to read about half the minds they come across, but would think they are truly one-of-a-kind.

Speaking, writing, even thinking too hard about being able to read minds would be impossible for them - maybe it would cause pain, maybe their voice or hand would just stop working when they tried to talk or write about it, but it would be entirely impossible. Since no one would know that anyone else was a mind reader, they would chalk it up as a fluke when they couldn't read someone's mind.

Your mind readers don't share that they can read minds because they simply can't - it's the only way for it to work.



You said that everything is identical to our parallel world. That’s because it is forced to be that way.

If a mind reader attempts to use or react to their powers, they are compelled to act as if they don’t have them.

If they attempt to talk about it, they can not speak.

If they attempt to deviate in any way from what their non-mind reading parallel selves are doing, they lose the ability to control themselves. They are compelled to act in the exact same way as their non mind-reading counterparts.

Maybe these restrictions are relaxed if they are only in the presence of other mind readers, however they will still be compelled to act like their parallel selves regardless when in the presence of the non-readers, and no action taken when outside of the influence of non-mind readers would be allowed to effect it.

This might not be the story you’re looking for, but the lack of control the mind readers actually have over themselves would make for a nice piece of horror fiction…

Or you could have a protagonist that is unrestricted, and then either cause the worlds to diverge and ‘free’ the mind readers. Or maybe cause some kind of dimensional collapse.


These are the 2 secrets for being successful:

  1. Never reveal all that you can do

Whoever has a competitive lead above others can use it way better if it is unknown to them, because surprise is an advantage.

It's similar to what can happen when you speak the local language in a place and nobody knows it because you are obviously a foreigner: you might get to hear things that you wouldn't if you made known that you could understand what is being said.


Violent reactions by non-mind readers whenever anyone revealed and prove their capability. Either by lynch mobs or murder by those in power or money. As they will very certainly get rid of these individuals.

As they are too big liability. Such individuals present just too many risks. They can reveal secrets, they can have upper hand in negotiations. And so on.

It is reasonable to expect that they are very rare so just simply getting rid of any that pop up is simplest and most effective method. As would anyone believe it if some of them said half of population had that capability. So getting rid of one, will still keep others relatively safe.

This leads to those individuals to strictly instruct any others to not reveal that they can read minds. As it is losing proposition most of the time.

  • $\begingroup$ The parallel occurrences to such lynchings in the no-mind-readers universe could be historical witch hunts. (Since the two universes have to stay in sync.) $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 11:54

Intuition and the difficulties of mind reading

Mind reading is actually a really ill defined term. Everyone seems to 'know' how it works. Most will view it as in media. A voice clearly tells what the person thinks. How useful. Let's break it down.

Text and speach is done in wernicke and broca. Word comprehension and generation respectively. Damage to wernicke in 'classic' cases gives a speaker a torrent of words with little meaning. Damage to broca gives incredibly slow speach, but each word used tries to convey as much information as possible. Problem here is that thinking doesn't necessarily activate the brain. Words can aid in comprehension, but plenty of thoughts are never put to words. A great example is writing an answer here on stack exchange. We are putting our thoughts and understanding into words. Only if we would be dictating you could read a clear stream of words with 'mind reading'. It can be helpful at times, but in most cases it seems no less powerful than just listening to someone speak. How we normally convey thoughs and understanding.

That gives the question. What does mind reading do? If it is reading the thoughts and understanding before it is put into words it gets weird. Do you instantly understand the understanding of someone else? This is too powerful to not change the whole world. It then must be reading the thoughts and understanding as an outsider. How can you read such a train of thought accurately? Wouldn't it go too fast so you only get bits and pieces? Can you even understand the thoughts and understanding of someone else? Plenty of people have difficulty understanding their significant other in many scenario's. How about a stranger?

It also begs the question where this will end. Thoughts and understanding is incredibly broad. The amount of information a brain processes is hard to describe. We habe all senses, knowledge of where your body parts are in relation to yourself and your surroundings, relationships with others, how technology works or ability to visualise things. Imagination, creativity, emotions, breathing and constriction of blood vessels. It seems that mind reading quickly becomes a bog of too much information if you can read it at all. How to understand any of this?

Mind reading can still work, but you would only get flashes of understanding in the hurricane of information rattling at any time within the brain. To an outsider it would look like intuition. They seemingly understand something from nothing.

The readers might not think it's mind reading either, just intuition.

Question concerns

If they have NGO's or the like they do talk about it, so that violates the premise of the question. Also it seems that no one acts on their mind reading, making it an effectively null ability. Don't act on it - no effect.

  • $\begingroup$ Fellow mind-readers are aware of each other, they are just don't make it known to non-readers. $\endgroup$
    – vivus
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 10:47

There exist mind-reading zealots/cultists/purists.

If these purists read your mind and find out you've told your secret then you get killed, along with the person you told, and anyone else they might have told.

Albeit, this won't fit your narrative of "In my parallel universe everything is a carbon copy of our universe".

In the regular universe counterparts just had to die of other causes I guess.


Two different conditions: instant death and precognition

First, I agree with the answers that this is completely infeasible with so many people. However, a very constrained explanation might be:

1) Readers also have a limited pre-cognitive ability

To avoid altering your setup too much, this is not conscious but instinctual, and limited to extremely short timescales and only directly affecting the reader. It mostly manifests as unease when extreme physical harm is imminent; basically a mostly-useless spidey-sense that makes you flinch just a little bit faster than a non-reader.

2) Knowledge of readers causes a fatal panic feedback-loop

When a non-reader learns of the existence of readers, there is always a shocked moment of "WHAT! YOU CAN READ MY MIND?". Readers normally pick up extremely faint signals, and suddenly the person they are talking to is shouting at full volume into their finely-calibrated high-gain microphone. Instant massive cerebral hemorrhage on BOTH the reader and the person who found out.

Now if (2) happens it's mysterious, but guarantees that any non-reader who knows the secret dies instantly. And it happens extremely rarely, because even if the reader hasn't been warned never to tell anyone their secret, the precognitive danger warning almost always stops them before they make the mistake.


First, given such a parallel universe where half the population are mind readers, the society and history would have evolved very differently from our own, so you would not have a "carbon copy" there. The society would be stratified, where the mind reading half would have a severe advantage and subjugate the non-readers. There would be few non-reader presidents or other officials. But to answer your question and make this workable - one possibility is the mind reading ability is more subtle, more like a feeling than a knowing, and they simply consider themselves more intuitive than their out of touch peers. Also, maybe "reading" another person's mind isn't as straightforward as most TV tropes make it out to be. It's sort of like attempting to read another person's scribbled classroom notes.


Mind-reading is destructive for both parties (but more so for the victim)

When someone reads someone else's mind, it's a "destructive read" that partially or fully erases two memories from the the mind being read:

  1. The memory the reader wants to extract, AND
  2. The memory of the extraction event.

The destructive nature of the mind read also partially applies to the reader:

  1. The reader does not remember the extraction, but they get used to that over time, so they don't mind – thus decreasing any moral guilt that might influence them to speak out.
  2. The memory acquired partially or fully erases another one – as if the readers' brains only have limited storage space.

This system offers a few helpful (literary) side effects

Even someone realizes they're having their minds read or is told they are about to be subject to a read, they immediately forget after the fact. Perhaps they experience a sense of unexplainable loss.

  • When someone discovers mind reading:
    1. If they reveal their discovery to a mind-reader, the mind reader just extracts that memory. Alternatively, they just extract the discoverer's memory of revealing their discovery so that these people live in a perpetual cycle of feeling the need to share their knowledge but never succeeding.
    2. If they successfully keep their discovery a secret, they might start to notice things are off in society – perhaps because they observed someone else forgetting things they ought to remember. This might influence the discoverer to simply stay quiet about it out of fear.

Keeping secrets

The forgetting helps the secret keep itself. In the event that a mind reader decides to blow the whistle, they'd have a heck of a time proving it to the general populace or even many other mind readers, few of whom would be in a state to believe them. If other mind readers don't want the secret to get out, they just read the minds of non mind readers, zeroing in on their memory of the discovery.

The mind-reading populace views mind reading as an act of questionable nobility due to its side effect. Mind readers who abuse the power and drain people of too many memories end up being punished or ostracized.

There is no immunity (Frame challenge)

Suppose you relax the restriction on mind-readers reading each other. When a mind-reader reads another mind reader's mind, the victim's mind-reading power does not render them immune to the memory loss.

Mind readers routinely prey on other mind readers in order to increase their mental acumen / knowledge without actually doing the work to gain said knowledge. These are the people who ultimately end up being in charge of your "shadow" government and business enterprises. The victims of this behavior just end up living out their lives as people with spotty memories.

Parallel Societies

I don't believe, as some other answers have suggested, that your framing (even as originally stated) significantly reduces the likelihood of the development of a parallel, albeit stratified, society. There are lots of examples of modern societies overlooking the plight of their own marginalized groups, so I don't see why mind readers should differ.


A conspiracy of 50% of the planet wouldn't last a day. The problem is coordination: even if it is in the collective interests of all mind-readers not to reveal that they are mind-readers, it is still in each individual mind-reader's interests to take advantage of their power, and even if they are somehow prevented from doing so, there will be rebellious teen mind-readers who just don't care what's in the other mind-readers' interests, and they'll blab about it to their non-mind-reader friends. It gets even harder if your mind-readers actually have to work together and communicate with each other about mind-reading to achieve certain goals, such as keeping a non-mind-reader President safe from enemy mind-readers.

If you want this secret to have been kept since time immemorial then it has to not be a conspiracy. All of the mind-readers are one hive mind, they all act in each other's interests to keep the secret because they all are each other; likewise, they can work together to achieve collective goals without having to talk about their mind-reading powers because they are one mind - no communication necessary. And the hive mind is thousands of years old, so they're mature enough not to use their power for petty personal gain, or blab.

Essentially, what you've got yourself is some kind of god who lives on Earth as several billion people rather than one. I don't think anything other than a god could keep your two universes so well in sync with each other.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .