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In my world, telekinesis is a common ability, to the point that it is unusual not to be able to use it to some degree. It is an ability that was genetically grafted onto the human genome when humanity had access to advanced technology. A series of wars, and technology disrupting magic use have lowered the majority of my world's tech infrastructure to a tech level ranging from mideval to Pre-electricity industrial revolution. There are pockets of advanced tech here and there, but these areas are not the focus of the question at hand.

Telekinesis cannot lift more weight than your own approximate level of physical strength. You cannot move living objects, such as people, plants or animals. You can only throw something with telekinesis about as hard as you could physically throw the same object. Small microorganisms and bacteria (like those found in water) make telekinesis up to 50% harder to use, but don't interfere to the same degree as larger life forms. Using telekinesis is mentally and physically draining. The more precise the attempted movement, the more mental strain. The more force behind your telekinesis, the more physical strain there is. You cannot feel an object using telekinesis; you can only observe its effects using your own body's senses.

At the time telekinesis was discovered, locks were electronic, and could not be tampered with via telekinesis. Since then, physical mechanical locks have become the new standard as electricity is no longer commonly available.

I'm wondering what changes would need to be made to a mechanical lock to prevent it from being picked or opened with telekinesis by anyone but the owner of the lock, or possibly the locksmith.

What changes would need to be made to make locks reasonably resistant to the type of telekinesis described?

It doesn't need to be perfect, but it should be at least reliable enough that only a specialist would be able to pick locks with telekinesis.

(if there is anything I can do to clarify or improve on the question, please, let me know in the comments.)

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    $\begingroup$ How would an average Joe pick a lock even with telekinesis though if the telekinesis doesn't allow him to feel the object being manipulated? Without some sensory feedback, it's sounds like random poking around in the lock. $\endgroup$ – Achilles Nov 15 '16 at 1:19
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    $\begingroup$ If I knew the approximate location of a doorknob I could turn it from the other side with some trial and error. Maybe use a piece of material to tap the other side of the door to listen for the location of the handle. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Nov 15 '16 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Achilles -- problem with double bolted locks is they are against fire code just about anywhere which has a notion of fire code... $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Nov 15 '16 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds as if even a telekinetic person would still have to be a skilled locksmith to pick a lock, so what does it matter whether the lock is any good at withstanding telekinesis? $\endgroup$ – colmde Nov 15 '16 at 9:02
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    $\begingroup$ "Small microorganisms and bacteria (like those found in water) make telekinesis up to 50% harder to use" - This doesn't quite make sense to me. Bacteria are omnipresent on our planet. If there is a physical surface, it is covered in bacteria and, if possible, full of them. It is hard to understand when/how bacteria would make telekinesis harder, because the presence of bacteria is completely normal for anything not excessively sanitized (so it might be that sanitized stuff is just easier). Could you clarify what's going on with this statement? $\endgroup$ – doppelgreener Nov 15 '16 at 11:57
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When it comes right down to it, locks are mechanisms that require a certain piece of information to open them. whether that's the correct heights for the pins in a modern pin-tumbler lock, or the position of the wards and lock jammers in an old warded lever lock, or some kind of dial combination, the key is that the person trying to open the lock needs to know or be able to guess some piece of information in order to do it.

Telekinesis as you have envisioned it just lets you apply arbitrary force to arbitrary points. You still have to know how the lock works and what the proper forces are. Essentially, everyone has a set of lockpicks with them all the time. That's really all it does for the person attempting to break in. A modern pin-tumbler lock with extra break points that jam the lock (temporarily or permanently) if tripped would be sufficient. In fact, some high security locks already use similar tactics. Heck, an old warded lever lock with variable bolt position and sensitive jam wards would likewise work rather nicely.

The one thing you'll see with this kind of telekinesis that you won't see otherwise is locks with no externally visible mechanism. A lock can be a simple bolt inside the door, and the "key" is knowing which pattern of forces to apply to open it. If anything, locks in this world will likely be simpler and lock with greater holding force since there's no mechanical reason for opening it not to require lifting a 30 pound steel beam two feet off its pegs once you unhook all the dogs that hold it in place with various patterns of motion. The average house door could be secured with the same level of bolts as a bank vault since there's no need for a complicated gearing mechanism to maintain security while providing leverage to open them.

If you really must have non-telekinetic access, and perfect security from telekinetic attack, then the trick would be to make the operation of the lock involve manipulation of living organisms. Carve the lock into the living tissue of a woody plant, or have it involve a trained gerbil or something...

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  • $\begingroup$ But do make sure your deadbolts are double-bolted so that the intruder can't simply turn the lever on the opposite side of the door. $\endgroup$ – Devsman Nov 16 '16 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Devsman He has to know where said lever is and which way it turns. Assuming that it's only one lever, of course. Completely hidden locking mechanisms are probably going to be the norm, with internally-visible release mechanisms made out of TK resistant materials. $\endgroup$ – Perkins Feb 1 '17 at 1:16
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You cannot feel an object using telekinesis, you can only observe it's effects using your own body's senses.

This, on its own, should be enough to ensure a garden variety tumbler lock is secure against telekinesis. Telekinesis will offer no benefit here. The same goes for garden variety combo locks. In both cases tactile feedback is utterly essential (well, tumbler locks can be bumped, but that's unaffected by telekinesis).

Beyond that, it's worth considering the example from your comment:

If I knew the approximate location of a doorknob I could turn it from the other side with some trial and error.

This concept needs to be fleshed out before a solid defense can be mounted. How the telekinetic can turn something without any sensory input is going to be a major factor in how telekenesis is defeated. Security always adapts to the environment it is in. Instead of focusing on what telekenesis is good at, start exploring what it's bad at. Then find things which require that thing which it is bad at.

Also, remember: locks keep honest people honest.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree. Picking locks can be done without feedback using the rake method. You put about five pounds of pressure on the cylinder and use a pointy pick to rake the pins (typically back to front). The pressure causes the top pins to stick in the upper cylinder and the bottom ones to fall. A telekenetic could also reproduce the action of a pick gun (which also works without feedback). $\endgroup$ – jorfus Nov 15 '16 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ @jorfus I did mention bumping, and I suppose I could have mentioned raking as well. I translated the OP's question as worrying about capabilities a telekenetic could have that a normal person could not, not the abilities which normal people already have. The only real advantage they have is that they would not need to walk around with a set of lock picks $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 15 '16 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, totally. I bet a lot of people would never try to pick a lock. But I also think the availability of a casual option would change the dynamic (especially among young people) just enough that telekinetic proof locks would be common. Look at the screws of a bathroom stall next time you're in one. One or two idiot kids and now every bathroom stall is built with safety screws. $\endgroup$ – jorfus Nov 15 '16 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ There are plenty of ways in which standard pin tumbler locks are already pick resistant. i.ytimg.com/vi/enFRn189Qo0/hqdefault.jpg is an image of a spool pin which will not lock in the way you want it to when picking a lock. Skilled lockpickers can get around this but we are really back to the point that all telekinesis is doing is substituting for lock picks, not for actual skill at lock picking. And given the lack of tactile feedback not even a good substitute. $\endgroup$ – Chris Nov 15 '16 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ +1 on this answer. Since the person cannot use the telekinesis to feel their way around, then any lock that is sufficiently pick-proof is good enough here. In fact the prisoner would be at a disadvantage compared to a lock picker since the lock picker can feel and hear how the lock reacts to their manipulations. Also an easy way increase the tamper resistance here is to place the lock out of sight, while using a sturdy cable from it to do the actual fastening. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Nov 15 '16 at 15:10
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Mechanical combo locks would probably do the trick. I can't think of a way to defeat them with telekinesis. (Provided the restriction on force feedback). Maybe that would change if I could see the inside of one, or play with it with my mind.

Standard tumbler locks would be trivial to pick, even without force feedback --you put a little pressure on the cylinder and rake back and forth on the pins till it turns (doesn't work every time, but you can always try again). A one minute explanation of how locks work would be sufficient for a kid to know what to try, and I expect every kid would try at one time or another. Some of my friends got a a lock picking book when I was in high school. After the hard part of making your own picks, a dozen kids learned how to do it --most using the rake method which is slow and less reliable, but requires no real skill or force feedback.

Latching padlocks probably won't work either. With a little bit of practice anybody could trip the internal release, I suspect every kid would figure that out in middle school. In my middle school a kid learned that a good hard smack with a three ring binder would pop the lock open by snapping the shaft past the release. Imagine what the telekenetic troublemakers would get up to! And remember a few troublemakers is all it takes for people to invent locks that can't be easily circumvented.

You also wouldn't have locks that automatically open from the inside with a bar, handle or lever. Or doors that can pull shut to lock (because those could be tripped by telekinetically pressing on the wedge latch)

You could make a cool easy-escape door for fire safety: Lets say there are a dozen buttons around the knob. One of them has a green tab in the window (resets mechanically each time the door opens). If you can see it or feel it you can get out. If not, you can randomly guess, but there's a (3 second?) time-out for wrong guess and maybe an audible alarm. Each wrong guess and the timeout doubles.

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  • $\begingroup$ Latching padlocks would very simply be replaced by ball-bearing locks. Where you need to turn the actuator before the ball can recess into the body to release the shackle. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Nov 15 '16 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ "Each wrong guess and the timeout doubles." - seems like a bad idea. $\endgroup$ – Random832 Nov 15 '16 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Random832, yeah. This could be bad news in a fire. There's need to be protection against simply trying all the buttons though. $\endgroup$ – jorfus Nov 15 '16 at 18:44
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What is the range of the telekinesis?

If you need to secure something, why not use two locks where you need the key inserted at all times for the same door, located far away from each other (depending on range of telekinesis). That way you cannot manipulate both at the same time.

How much complexity can you handle with telekinesis?

How much can you multitask? If you need to hold tumbler A, turn knob B, press spring C, lift lever D etc. at the same time, you need a might need a high level of concentration to make it work.

Telekinesis sensors?

Is it maybe possible to have a sensor for telekinesis, (is it similar to a magnet field that can be detected by some device?). If so, then you can have alarms triggered if telekinesis is detected, or you can have some kind of very strong locking mechanism that disables the lock when there is a telekinesis field detected.

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Two approaches may include:

  1. A standard combination lock.

  2. A standardized tumbler lock which would require a sturdier key with a handle shape with more leverage and a very hard spring to prevent the lock from being turned without such leverage. In other words if a person attempting to throw the bolt can get a telekinetic grip of the inside of the key hole, and even guess the tumbler combination, the amount of leverage needed to turn the lock would amount to requiring a pair of pliers or vice-grips ( if the lock were standard and the key were hard steel and not the kind of softer metals that standard keys are normally made of ). The way to make this lock accessible to the owner of the lock is to either exchange or add, in addition to the tumblers, a combination lock which would release the lock from the hard spring preventing it from turning effortlessly. The backup, if a person is under the weather that day for instance, would be the actual key for such a lock - like the old hoosegow butterfly key with the metal loop handle, or given that an additional combination/release mechanism is in place, just a normal key.

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You could say that some materials block or hinder telekinesis. In some settings, for example, lead blocks magic.

Then every lock made from an alloy containing this stuff would be resistant.

Or if there is a kind of stone, plant or part of some kind of creature that inhibits telekinesis that could be included in the lock design. And it would not even need to block telekinesis completely, only make it harder so fine-manipulation becomes impossible. Like using crude lockpicks while wearing mittens.

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You can try using a combination of what some others have suggested, including what I am about to suggest: Without going onto the technical details of how locks actually work, as you mentioned there are people who possess varying strengths of telekinesis and the practice is draining. Therefore the internals of your locks must contain an overly complex mechanism which requires certain parts to be pushed and other parts to pulled, or manipulated in some opposing direction which would make it impossible for a single person to achieve the feat...It would be the equivalent of trying to remember 20 digits, in order, requiring a Herculean amount of concentration. Unless he or she had multiple accomplices. Even then, coordinating would become a challenge, as high levels of synchrony would be required between the individuals. Also, the locks can utilize magnets to make the required operations even more difficult.

Another idea is that the internals of the lock can change in size. i.e. they are made of compressible materials. A very specific level of compression is required on a number of inter working parts in order for the lock to open, and nobody can really get the correct amount of pressure quite right on the mechanisms involved.

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You make a lock which has a very large number of interlocking parts each of which has to be turned a very precise amount in order to unlock the mechanism. For example instead of a lock which requires 8 bars depressed as in a typical key it has 64 bars in the form of a cylinder. Have all parts positively locked so that there is no way to move anything without correctly depressing all the bars.

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What about creating a lock containing bacteria. Wouldnt that block people from using telekinesis ? Even an expert lockpicker wouldnt be able to crack it.

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