One day, John obtains the gift of clairvoyance. Since he is a good guy, he'd like to use his gift to help humanity. And of course there are many good things he could do, like finding where missed or kidnapped people are, or safely obtaining information from dangerous places.

However there's of course also the danger that intelligence agencies around the world might become aware of him and either want to force him to work for them, or to eliminate him in order to prevent him to reveal their secrets.

Here are the properties of his clairvoyance abilities:

  • He has to explicitly mentally "visit" a specific place and time to get any information from that place. Especially he will not learn about any event (such as, some intelligence agency planning to kill him) unless he happens to mentally visit that specific event.
  • He is a clairvoyant, not a soothsayer: He can only mentally move to places/events currently in his past (more exactly in his past light cone).
  • He only can experience whatever he could have experienced had he actually been there; so he can see visible light (but not UV,IR or similar), hear audible sound (no infrasound or ultrasound), smell, feel temperature, etc. However his "mental senses" are capped so that his mental experience will never be painful (but he knows if that happens).
  • Besides those perceptions, he has no further abilities; no mind reading, no sensing of magnetic fields, no direct reading of hard disks or network communication, and no automatic understanding of foreign languages (for example, if two people on his visited place speak in Chinese, he won't know what they say since he doesn't understand Chinese — the Chinese intelligence agency planning to kill him might therefore go unknown by him even if he happened to mentally visit the meeting where it decided).
  • To mentally visit a place, he mentally moves smoothly through space and time. He obviously can always start wherever he currently is, but he can also "mentally bookmark" the place and time he's currently visiting, and then instantly return to that event by mentally "invoking" that bookmark. However those "bookmarks" otherwise act like normal memories: As they are not used, they tend to become more and more fuzzy (meaning when he invokes them, he might not get exactly at the bookmarked event, but possibly a bit earlier/later and/or at another, nearby place), and ultimately he well likely forget them.

Given those limitations, it's clear that he certainly will not want to risk any intelligence agency (or other organization that has something to hide, like, say, the Mafia) getting aware of him.

But with that limitation, how could he still use his ability to help humanity? One obvious way would be to anonymously call the police on missed/kidnapped people cases, but the knowledge about the case will be seen as indication that the anonymous caller is somehow related to the case, and cause the police to look for him; if he does it too often, chances are high that they ultimately will track the calls back to him.

  • $\begingroup$ The heck do you mean by light cone? $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ I expect it means the speed of light. I.e. if he goes back one second he can see everything within 1 light second of him. Which is already 186 thousand miles....so basically he can see anywhere on earth. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB: Exactly. On earth it's not really a limitation, but he can't for example look at a star (whose light is travelling for a long time before reaching earth) and tell the astronomers "point your telescopes there, in one hour you'll see something happening with that star". $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 23:35

5 Answers 5


Build a fortune and use it to do good. He could use his abilities for "insider trading" without actually being an insider, being aware of companies' secrets and using them to invest more wisely. This would give him a significant advantage on the stock market that would appear to be luck or smart "educated guesses" based on studying public data. But where does he get the initial investment capital?

Make a fortune at poker. He would have to be sure to lose often enough that people didn't get suspicious, and to not keep winning against the same opponents, but if he doesn't use this trick too often, he can use his power to peek at opponents' cards, etc., to gamble very effectively.

Become a vigilante. If he's cowardly all around or very obedient to the law, this one wouldn't work, but if he is afraid of organizations and not individuals, he could play Punisher and go after kidnappers and killer's himself, using his power to ensure he always catches them asleep or otherwise unprepared.

Pretend to be"just the messenger". He could become a journalist or start a Wikileaks style website and get info from anonymous sources, then mix in his own info, faking that it came from an unknown tip. He still has to throw in an occasional wrong or slightly inaccurate answer to seem real, but while he might face investigation from interested parties, nobody is likely to (literally) shoot the messenger if they know that the leaks in their own organization could just give the info to someone else to publish.

Use his powers to find a few trustworthy cops or agents and anonymously deal only with them. Build a reverse spy network, where he has a few people that he has investigated and believes he can trust (and keeps an eye on) and who agree to not hunt him down in exchange for great anonymous info.

Have a back-up plan that secret information damaging to these agencies gets released to the media if anything ever happens to him. The old dead-man's switch. If captured, he might be able to use this as leverage, unless the group in question resorts to torture. I admit it doesn't help humanity itself, but could be a last ditch effort to save his bacon.

Recover lost treasure, use the fortune to help people. Find all those sunken ships of gold. See if that Nazi treasure legend is real. Etc.

Write history books Help science by writing the most accurate history books ever, using your powers to guide researchers to unknown artifacts and dig sites to prove your credibility. People may never believe you are psychic, but merely the greatest savant that history/archaeology will ever know.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hate to be a downer, but these all seem to require more than just clairvoyance. He can't psychically know where he needs to direct his vision, and all of these examples require him already knowing where to look. For instance, a rich guy with some underwater drones can do a better job of finding sunken ships than he can; history books need to be backed up by re-readable sources, or it's just fiction; vigilantes still need super martial arts skills, or, why doesn't everyone do it? And so on. Just seems a nice idea, but not enough. $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ You don't need to be a psychic to know where to look for many of these. I know where the Kremlin is, and Pyongyang, etc. I also knew where my opponent is at poker. Looking into the past I could follow the escape of DB Cooper and see where all that money went. He could also rapidly check many past places and times with a little history research to find very likely dig sites. $\endgroup$ Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ Also please explain why vigilantes need super martial arts skills if he always catches opponents sleeping or otherwise not ready for a fight, and since I specifically mentioned the Publisher, please explain which martial arts style pulling a trigger falls under. Gun-fu? :) Also regarding your view that history is backed up by re-readable(?) sources, since I started that he guides experts to dig sites for artifacts, what sources do you think others use, if not physical evidence? $\endgroup$ Commented May 16, 2018 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that everything (except poker, that one works) you described either doesn't need clairvoyance, or needs MORE than clairvoyance. A laser mic and pair of binoculars will do just as well at catching people sleeping as clairvoyance does, and if he knows where to point his clairvoyance to find good dig sights, he can just go there and look, no clairvoyance needed. You're just describing things that ordinary people can already do, and tacking on "... by the power of clairvoyance" on the end. $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ No, I sure am not. They don't let me wander around the Kremlin or other sensitive locations, and if a murder is committed and cops can't point a laser mic and binos at the body to see back in time and learn who the killer is. They also won't uncover historical mysteries where the locations of things were known at one time but later vanished, as I brought up. These things are obvious, to the point that it seems you're willfully ignoring them. But if you insist on believing that the power to see into the past or any location on earth is useless, then nobody can take that away from you. :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2018 at 14:32

An option could be to join the police or one of the intelligence agencies directly.

He'd be the guy with all the fly-on-the-wall info. If he's got the charm and skills, he could always know what's coming. People would think of him as connected... maybe even backed. What they likely would never even consider is that he is clairvoyant. Some may investigate, so an answer that makes sense would be wise to cultivate.

(A more general case of this would be his coming up with any plausible explanation for his knowledge.)

Dude would be an amazing congressional research aide or even congress critter, if he has the right stuff for that, otherwise.

Basically, his advantage is that he can do some of his footwork after the fact, and safer doing it. Your limits keep this from being remotely omniscient, so any role that information can have a great impact on (medicine largely excluded) is an option.

An engineer who can examine the actual failure in progress repeatedly would have a real edge, where the symptoms are visible or audible.

An investigator could go read things before they were encoded, and so on.


Set up a website using a free hosting service. Post the information on there. Also email alerts to relevant authorities and link them to that website.

Make sure you only ever access that website or send those emails (including the very first ones to set it up) through a TOR router or similar protected method. At the moment TOR done properly is still effectively untraceable. People have been caught using TOR but only by making mistakes or visiting compromised servers.

Make sure you stay current on relevant technology and consider adding more protection and relays as required.


Inverse the Psych Solution

Psych is a TV show where a good detective pretends to be a psychic to help solve crimes, but must maintain the appearance of being a psychic, leading the correct people to evidence. The inverse of this could work well; the clairvoyant can be a policeman, investigator, intelligence agent, or whatever and pretend to be using non-clairvoyant abilities as he/she actually use his/her abilities to solve help people.

Of course, this is embracing the risk associated with helping people. This risk is mitigated by being with the correct group, but it may still be to high for our (cowardly?) clairvoyant.

The Anonymous Tipper

As the OP mentioned, becoming an anonymous tipper has some risks involved. Police can come looking for you, etc. The obvious way for this solution to work is:

  • Change your tip delivery method often
  • Focus and specialize in methods which are untraceable.

Of course, this still runs the risk of the police and other authorities seeking out the clairvoyant.

  • $\begingroup$ Or you could actually do it the Psych way. Many of the cops end up thinking he really is psychic, and he never gets picked up by the mafia etc. Fact is, there are so many "psychics" already in real life, that unless he does something huge he's gonna fall under the radar. $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 8:58

Open a business: Clairvoyant Private Investigations.

Use an .onion address and accept payment in bitcoin.

While this is sort of like Tim B's answer I think doing it as a business will permit John to do far more good as the people who need help will feed him all the details they can (for example, the last known location of the kidnap victim. He can go there and follow them without wasted detours) and since it provides an income he can do this in lieu of normal employment and thus can devote far more time to it.

Also, by working with the people and the police (and when the police realize he's genuine they're going to be bending over backwards to cooperate with reasonable requests) he can often do things more quickly. He sees the victim snatched by a car with the plate 123-ABC, the police can tell him who owns the car and what property that person owns--he can quickly check those locations rather than follow the car all over the place as they confuse the victim as to where they are taking them.


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