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This question already has an answer here:

Human beings have the ability to communicate with their minds. This form of telepathy is quick and efficient, relying on concepts and ideas rather than words. A person can mindlink with others in their immediate vicinity, say20-30 feet. Rarer, stronger individuals are able to extend this to an indeterminate amount. Individuals can share thoughts, feelings, and memories with no misunderstandings confusion between them, and can include multiple people at a time. This ability has been present in humanity since its earliest days.

All people have a "shield" surrounding their minds, protecting them from unwanted intrusion. Individuals generally cannot force a mindlink with someone. They have to "ping" the person mentally by sending out a signal. That person chooses to respond and opens a connection, or disregards it. All people are capable of this for of communication, but telepathy isn't used very often in society. People normally use traditional forms, such as body language and talking, with most other people.

What would be a good reason for why this ability isn't widely used despite it being more efficency and reliable?

EDIT I have increased the distance of 3-5 feet to 20-30 feet on advice from respondents.

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marked as duplicate by Telastyn, L.Dutch, Frostfyre, Bellerophon, sphennings Oct 2 '17 at 14:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    $\begingroup$ I would hazard a guess that many of them find the 3-5 foot limit cumbersome; if my coworker is down the hall, it's far easier to shout to him or send him a quick IM rather than to get up from my desk and go to where he is, unless what i need to tell him is complex enough that it can't be phrased succinctly and telepathy is needed. $\endgroup$ – DanDoubleL Sep 28 '17 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Is your human actually android with wifi capability? $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 29 '17 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Vylix that's super-NFC range. Wifi is at least 50 ft. Even bluetooth is about 10-15 ft. $\endgroup$ – Nelson Sep 29 '17 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Nelson Depending of your definition of wifi: typical consumer AP: 32 metres (105 ft) indoors and up to 92m (300ft) "outdoors" (line of sight). Directional antenna will give even better range. Bluetooth goes up to 240 meters (800 ft) with Bluetooth 5. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Sep 29 '17 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ i would argue that my question is different and not a duplicate. this is about reasons why people wouldnt use telepathy if everyone had the ability, while the other is more about whether or not language would even develop. $\endgroup$ – user32862 Sep 30 '17 at 18:33

27 Answers 27

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It is Difficult

Mind-links may take a lot of energy and effort to maintain or establish. Maybe a mind link requires a large amount of energy, requiring those with the mind-link to consume a lot more food to maintain it. We're talking about at least another meal's worth of food.

It is Uncomfortable

Mind-links are dangerous, because such direct communication is unfettered. Every emotion and thought is transmitted: you cannot control what is sent and what is received.

Example: I see a pretty person and happen to think about how good they would be in a swimsuit. My mind-linked buddy, who happens to have the opposite preference in partners, now has a vivid picture of a person they're not into in their head. Eww...

It is Dangerous

Mind-linked individuals cannot distinguish between their own thoughts and the other person's thoughts. This would result, over time, in a "hive mind" of linked individuals. They can't tell each other's thoughts apart.

Example: Was I going to get the groceries, or was my mind-linked buddy going to? I just came from the bathroom, why am I desperate to find one?

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    $\begingroup$ Ha, that failure to distinguish between thoughts is great, +1 Pipper. I showed up at my spouses home, only to realize I'm not married and this is the home of a work friend that I mind-linked with earlier today. In any case my friends children greeted me as if they were my own as they fully recognized and confused me from mindlinking with their parents. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 28 '17 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth Whole sections of matrimonial law need to be rewritten ... $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 30 '17 at 20:47
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There is only one "shield" (or "firewall" in more modern parlance) between the telepaths.

Once a person acknowledges a ping and forms a connection, both parties have unlimited read-access to each other's knowledge, memories, emotions and even the current input from their senses. That access ends as soon as the connection is severed, but while it is active, there are no walls between them. Everything can be seen, experienced and known by both parties.

It is therefore impossible to have casual communications via telepathy. Every connection is intimate.

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    $\begingroup$ Henry's correct. Imagine anyone that has had an affair. now imagine all the other secrets humans often wish to keep secret. $\endgroup$ – DPT Sep 28 '17 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Your last sentence implies that telepathy is reserved only for husband-wife relationship. If you know what I mean. I like it. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 29 '17 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ This is the one that came to mind for me. In particular, choosing to communicate in this way might leave one feeling very much "naked" in a much more intrusive sense than mere body-nakedness, having someone inside your thoughts and feelings - even partly - could be considerably more intimate even than sex; not something you'd choose to do with just anyone. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Sep 29 '17 at 23:56
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Mentally transmitted diseases.

You aren't just sharing your mind with a person, you're sharing your mind with everyone they have ever shared their mind with.

Cults and half-baked ideas spread fairly easily even with the limited connections we have now. With a full connection things could get a bit worse.

Remember when you got goatse'd in 7th grade? How long did that image stay with you? That's a simple meme only capable of transmission through dead media. In a living brain all sorts of sophisticated patterns can be made and transmitted. Relatively benign ones just manifest as a fear of clowns or the opinion that Portuguese and Italian are really the same language and can be weathered until your reason or at worst therapy will eventually free you, but it's rumored that an incurable meme that turns people into Birthers has been observed in the wild.

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  • $\begingroup$ Goatsied? What's that? $\endgroup$ – user32862 Sep 28 '17 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Shardmartin an offensive meme popular in days gone by. It was often presented via innocent looking link. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Sep 28 '17 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Shardmartin Do NOT google it at work. (I would say don't google it at all, but... well... you've been warned.) $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Sep 28 '17 at 21:14
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THE NSA IS MONITORING OUR THOUGHTS!!! Fear everything! Tin foil hats will protect you though.

One major reason people might not want to communicate telepathically is because people could listen in, whether using natural telepathic abilities, or complicated machinery that intercepts telepathic signals (And is potentially able to intercept transmissions form a long distance). If the government, or worse other even more nefarious mafia-esque groups were listening, you wouldn't want to broadcast sensitive data. The telepathic equivalent of sexting would provide a great opportunity to blackmail people if intercepted, and the government listening in is just creepy.

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    $\begingroup$ :-) Braydon... you've been here long enough to know this would be flagged as a low quality post. It's funny, but it isn't an answer. It should have been posted as a comment. Sorry, dude. (Thumbs up for the Signs reference, though.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 29 '17 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH It kind of answers it though, what if the government monitors telepathic communication? I'll elaborate though and make it less of a joke answer. $\endgroup$ – Braydon Sep 29 '17 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ Makes sense. If the ability has been around since humanity exists, there will be studies about it, and intercepting should be one of the most sought research branches. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 29 '17 at 3:58
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    $\begingroup$ +1, especially with the edit. If telepathy reveals everything communicated to all hostile and powerful groups on the planet it would likely be avoided as much as possible. $\endgroup$ – Lycan Sep 29 '17 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Cheers, Braydon. The edit helped tremendously. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 29 '17 at 5:14
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First, it could likely be that not everyone can use this ability. Just like eyesight and blindness there will always be some who are disabled. Society could be considerate towards the privacy of these individuals and it would be the social norm for everyone to converse primarily. Educational institutions would certainly have to follow this.

Next

One flaw with your system is the abuse of the ping. This telepathic network can be compared heavily to the internet and trolls. If someone pings you, you don't necessarily know who is requesting to speak to you so if you open the link you can be spammed with a thousand mental images of they did to themselves last Friday night. If you try to argue that their ping contains adequate information to identify themselves and their intent then that is enough information they could use to spam you with disturbing information.

The likely solution to this problem is people would likely verbally agree to open communications and or agree upon identification of their ping. This way through verbal interaction they learn enough information about the ping to identify their partner without allowing the ping to contain enough information so as to be abused.

Because of the amount of discussion for this, it could be seen that the telepathic communication between individuals is an intimate act (akin to kissing). Thus, socially, it would be frowned upon to engage telepathically with everyone willy-nilly (mind slut).

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  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, people with motor disorders or deafness would benefit incredibly from this being available. $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai Sep 28 '17 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ Except you cant really teach a whole class with only 5 ft $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 28 '17 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't thinking primarily of classrooms, but that's accurate. $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai Sep 28 '17 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ But you are right that it kind of loses the disability majority probability with there being more hearing or vocally challenged. But I think it being considered an intimate act still holds strong $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 28 '17 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Telepathic adverts would be terrible. Let us all be glad humans are not telepathic. $\endgroup$ – Braydon Sep 29 '17 at 2:55
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It is socially rude to hold secrets from other people. Your mind linking society grows up learning the thoughts and feelings of others so in a public space they find it rude to have secret conversations with others. This would be similar to texting while out for dinner with friends.

Telepathy makes others suspicious of your actions. In a police state no one wants you talking without being heard and even in a free democracy the government wants to keep tabs on it's civilians. As a protection to their personal freedom people speak out load so bugs and video cameras capture the events.

The lack of speaking makes the person socially strange. Allowing unfettered emotional contact with any random person is the trade mark symbols of a sociopath who never questions his own thoughts.

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  • You can't walk and talk

    During the process of telepathy, the person is physically stunned and unaware of their environment. They can't be doing anything else while they are communicating.

  • You can't be polite

    Because telepathy is a stream of thought rather than a sequence of words, it is not possible to imply fake emotion. You can send the message to your boss that you think her idea is right but you can't say it like you believe it.

  • It's a strain on the brain

    Because telepathy is straight from the brain, it can leave the sender with a confusion or brain-fog for a few moments afterwards. This is not a issue for a quick message but a long conversation could require a few minutes to get your thoughts back into order.

  • There is no evidence

    Telepathy can't be artificially recorded and since it is not in words, it can't even be written down. Messages with any consequence aren't sent telepathically because there can be no record that they took place.

  • It's difficult to filter out emotions

    There is always a risk that you will slip and tell you teacher what you think of them or tell your work colleague that you have a crush on them. For this reason telepathy is normally reserved for more intimate or poetic communication.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your first point is unique, +1 $\endgroup$ – person27 Sep 29 '17 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ Well done for "No evidence" - I think it's actually more like "No lingering impression" - it's not only the legal sense of lack of evidence, if there's no spoken or written language, Humanity miss out on record keeping (history, administration, bureaucracy, scientific observation records etc.), long distance communication (letters, phone, radio etc.) and arts (poetry, literature, song, etc.). However, this is all based on the suggestion that no spoken language automatically also means no written language, and that there's no equivalent means to write down or electronically broadcast thoughts. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Oct 1 '17 at 15:27
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Status Symbol

Telepathy, being such a common skill among human beings since time eternal, has somehow become a base method of communication used only by the most uneducated of plebeians. Speech as we know it is the mark of class and status, and regarded as impressive. As such, most people prefer to verbalise and vocalise, and it looks bad on you if you fail to reciprocate.

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  • $\begingroup$ I doubt telepathy would be ruled out by the elite due to its extreme benefits and convenience. Maybe with mental diseases or a combination of other factors, but not alone. $\endgroup$ – person27 Sep 29 '17 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ @person27 It's more like writing letters to friends with a fancy fountain pen when you have a drawer-full of ballpoint pens for doing bills. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Oct 2 '17 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Depending on how much control you want the elite to have over the rest of the population, promoting speech as a communications medium could be a conscious effort by the elite, because the spoken word can be monitored and controlled. Telepathy, I would imagine, is a lot harder to control and censor. $\endgroup$ – Xenocacia Oct 3 '17 at 1:11
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Using English as an example and if you remove the Telepathy portion for a second, we kinda do this already. A person within a close enough distance to another to talk can ping that person and begin a conversation. A persons mind still exists as conceptual, the English 'translation' that goes through our head is just that...a translation of the conceptual (I'm of the opinion many people mis-identify this translation layer in their head as themselves and fail to admit the conceptual). Human interaction becomes conceptual translated to english, communicated to another, and translated back to conceptual for that person to understand. A "failure to communicate" usually lies with one of the communicators failing at that translation level and not the communication of words.

As such, English is an exceedingly exacting language where one word or phrase can really only be translated to conceptual in one manner. It's also the layer in which we add the 'political' or 'politeness' touch, choosing what information to convey and how to convey it. Without this translation layer, concept to concept communication would be exceedingly blunt, honest, and potentially destructive.

Me conceptually - Oh great, this person is an absolute waste of humanity and should be torn limb from limb for the way they treat other humans.

Me post translation layer - 'Hi, how are you?'

In short - your very good reason is concept to concept can really only happen between two very familiar and very trusted peoples, or they are going to share concepts they a) dont want to and b) in a manner they don't want to.

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  • $\begingroup$ This "translation layer" sounds more like a filter. $\endgroup$ – Phil Sep 30 '17 at 8:03
  • $\begingroup$ It's a combination (afaict): a selective translation layer with added politeness and social constructs. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Sep 30 '17 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Phil - I kinda combined a few concepts there as wizzwizz4 suggests. translation layer from concept to thought must exist prior to filter. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Oct 2 '17 at 17:35
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It is more difficult to organise your thoughts than your words. If you open the mental door to allow a message to escape, you'll probably also give them a whole lot of things you never meant to tell them. A lot of people don't like being that vulnerable to anyone except a close relative or spouse or something.

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See the other answers for reasons you can create, but to elaborate on @DaniellYancey's comment, the logistical concerns are:

- Distance

Imagine my coworker is leaving, but I need to clarify one thing before they go. To start a telepathic conversation I have to first catch the person. That's less convenient then shouting at them to stop and then catching up to them.

Imagine leaving a restaurant. Frequently the staff will thank you for coming, but that won't work telepathically.

Meetings where the participants don't fit nicely in a 5 ft circle wouldn't do well with telepathy—at least as the primary form of communication.

And some other conversation situations: the lazy coworker shouting at you from down/across the aisle; bump into a friend at the grocery store and shop together; a teacher instructing her students.

- Delivery

This may be less of an issue, but if someone is focused on their work and shielding from all pings, how effective would a telepathic "Fire!" be. Or a gunman in a store.


If they already have to speak verbally in so many situations, then it might become the default mode of communication. However, I suspect it would still be used to clarify assumptions/understanding or establish facts. Consider the impact on testing, teaching, and legal systems. E.g. testing an apprentice's understanding of your craft; teaching what front-line warfare is like; "Is my kindergartner lying to me?", ask for the memory.

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Interference

Telepathy only works when nobody else around, except the target and you. If there are other conversations going on, either you will have incomplete thoughts sent, or receive thoughts mixed from other conversations.

Technology

Technology is unable to integrate with this psychic ability. Technology is able to empower communication with other methods (body language, text, and talking) to have higher reliability and cover more distance.

Unreliability

Because the thoughts are directly fed to our brain, we tend to forget once the link disconnects. Even talking is significantly more reliable than telepathy, because it feeds to the hearing senses first, before processed in the brain.

Permanently Modify Your Brain

Telepathy permanently modifies your brain, even after the link disconnects. You will never be the same. You will never know which thought is yours. (similar to Pipperchip's)

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It is too personal and your true thoughts are private

Telepathy works a bit too well some times. Sure, you can telepathically tell someone to move out of your way so you can get past. When with speech you would say something like "can I please get past you" or "could you step aside a bit? thank you", your telepathic thoughts could reveal that you are actually thinking "Get out of my way you stupid fat cow!". After all, telepathy is not a text-to-thought understanding, it is a thought-to-thought, and you can't always present your thoughts as nice as you can present your words.

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Speech helps thinking

There is a theory that many years ago humans developed tools because of speech, not the other way around. If we're to follow this approach then necessity of verbal communication can be easily explained.

While formulating their thoughts using words, human develops the ability to think rationally. This allows us to understand abstract ideas and complicated concepts on language level. I can hardly imagine a bunch of speechless scientists trying to share their understanding of quantum physics. Though I do agree, that mind sharing with ability to speak can make wonders. Besides, there may be no way to store thoughts except literacy. What will happen to the culture without it?

So, in this telepathic world people study language and use it pretty much the same way as we do it. It's natural. So I believe that mind sharing will be used more often when one needs to show something emotional, like "duuude, I got one hell of dream last night..." or "their costumes are lame, no one wore this stuff in sixteenth. Here's how they definitely looked like..." and so on. This also can be used to share some general idea, like "let me show you the main concept of string theory.... er...urgh... done! Ok, now when everyone has the general idea, let's look at the blackboard and do some maths".

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It is illegal

Years ago people all across the world would almost exclussively communicate by telephaty. However, the government as well as many malevolent organizations started developing telepathy radars and made huge advances in scientific research.

This led to a lot of conflicts. Everyone was being monitored 24/7. More and more people started to step away from their powers and only use them for emergencies. During this time, a new technology was developed that allowed them to hack into peoples minds. They started on researching methods to brain-wash people. There have also been multiple information leaks from other organizations that caused panic across the world. Businesses collapsed, suicide rates were on the constant rise and in the end there were civil wars all over the world.

It all ended in another world war which fundamentally changed the perception of our telephathic abilities forever. Any scientific research about telephathy was immediately stopped. These powers are now considered extremely dangerous and destructive in a similar way that we think of nuclear bombs. Just a lot smaller in scale and more easily accessible. Nowadays, the developement of these telepathic abilities in children is actively discouraged. Modern medicine even managed to develop a drug that suppresses our abilities. A lot of people are interested in these, as they protect you from hacking attempts. In some countries, these drugs are even considered a fundamental right and are being distributed for free every month.

In this society any use of these abilities is prohibited by law to prevent anything like this to ever happen again.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sounds a lot like mobile phones and the internet. $\endgroup$ – Clearer Sep 29 '17 at 9:48
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A couple of possibilities:

  1. Mind links are only point-to-point. If I want to share a thought with 3, 4, 100 persons, I have to either send a message to everybody (boring) or use a "broadcast" way such as the voice
  2. Mind links cannot be recorded. So if you want your TV show to be broadcasted, your message to be remembered in the future, your song to be bought, you'll have to use your vocal chords. And in trials, mind links are strictly forbidden; everything must be recorded for transparency
  3. You cannot send "false" mind messages. Any "Am I fat?" question, consequently, is expected to receive a "vocal" reply... And it is a social accepted behavior, since it will lead to a lot of troubles otherwise. Consequently only the shortest and deepest messages should be delivered "mentally"
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The primary issue is that 3-5 feet is incredibly close. Consider your average sitting room. In such a setting people are not close enough to talk telepathically. As a result, the ability is impracticable. It cannot be used to communicate unless you sit on the same bench or stand right next to each other. As a result, there is no way to effectively use the ability. Whether it is equivalent to choosing what to send or whether it allows full open communication the issue is that speaking verbally has a range of at least 20-30 feet, whereas your communication has a measly five feet. This means that some people literally cannot communicate mentally to the distance from their head to the bottom of their feet. That will pretty much make it a useless tool. It would be good if someone needs to explain something really difficult, but other than that casual conversation would probably be easier. Imagine a teacher in a classroom trying to go from person to person to mentally send the knowledge. It would be more efficient to do a normal lecture. Similarly the same could be true for any group environment.

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I agree with PipperChip when he says that random thoughts like the swimsuit might happen, what is considered gross. But I assume that if telepathic communication is more efficient, you can control what of your memories, opinions and feelings are shared with the listener (instant thoughts pass, because you just got then from an outer source).

But I'd say that the main reason is simply tradition. You don't share a mental link with anyone you don't trust/like if you don't really need it. That is a symbol of trust. If someone pings you, it means you are important for then.

And people also doesn't just accept pings from someone they don't even know, because, as you said:

Individuals generally cannot force a mindlink with someone

What if this random person pinging me can somehow force himself on my mind and read it completly? I must not let my guard down.

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Horrific consequences in the past

Perhaps something horrific happened in the past. Some possibilities:

  • A political movement bent this ability to lethal ends. Loss of privacy makes it very easy to centralize information about people who would disagree with actions of the dominant party. The dissenter wouldn't even need to expose themselves directly to party agents for this to occur. Everyone that knows the person is aware of their views so only 1 person out of their entire social circle need link with a party agent. The party used this information to hunt down and execute all known dissenters.
  • Collectives of permanently linked humans formed. They grew large and gathered significant power. They considered the agency of unlinked humans irrelevant and casually murdered individuals whenever it furthered their purposes.

There was a crisis and a conflict. It was bloody. When it was over the survivors grimly surveyed the destruction and decided it was telepathic communication that made it possible. A cultural prescription against telepathy with the force of all that remembered death and agony quickly spread. It persists to this day.

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Telepathy is sacred

The society is highly religious. The vast majority of the population faithfully follow a single religion. This dominant religion teaches that telepathy is a sacred ability to be used only in limited circumstances. Perhaps it is reserved as a special experience between husband and wife.

The motivation of the religion might be benign or nefarious. Whatever the origin of the teaching most people follow it. Telepathic communication is virtually unused.

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    $\begingroup$ The teaching could easily originate from fear of the unknown or the uneasiness people have in non-face-to-face communications. Fear of the dark is a good example of how widespread this effect is. $\endgroup$ – person27 Sep 29 '17 at 19:56
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Environmental interference makes it very painful

If a natural event or manmade technology modified the environment in a way that interferes with the physics of telepathy, perhaps it has become physically painful to use telepathic communication. A kind of telepathy jamming signal. Most people forgo it to avoid the pain.

If it was manmade it might have been:

  • A weapon used during a war intended to affect only the enemy. Control was lost and the effect spread, eventually becoming global and permanent.
  • A radical cult that considered telepathy in some way unnatural or demonic successfully created and deployed a technology to eliminate it.
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Why do we run wires for communication when we can communicate around the globe wirelessly? Because it's difficult, it's less clear, less bandwidth.

Perhaps one cannot send clear messages psychically but only feelings or impressions or mental images which are difficult to encode. One might also not want to open themselves up for communication, similar to how we can pick up the phone and call anyone, but instead use indirect methods of communication, like facebook or texting vs phone calls.

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Individual Risk

It's well known that some people die due to an unknown defect in their brain when they first try to use their psychic abilities. Anybody that can use it successfully will never experience issues. Every individual has to make this leap of faith since science can't predict a risk factor. You'll end up with a society including groups of psychic users and a large base of people who don't want to risk life.

Any risk scenario will work here as long as it's a significant risk and it's a personal choice whether to take the plunge or not.

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There are a lot of practical reasons to choose vocal over mental communication, which have already been mentioned (privacy, effort involved, social custom, etc.). One thing that I haven't seen is a simple appreciation for the spoken word.

There is an art in speech and communication that would be lost if you were simply doing a data dump to communicate. The sound of your voice, the words you pick and choose, the tone and inflections you use - these are all things that would be lost in a mental communication. Those are things that you can use to build a work of art - a rousing speech, or a song, a Shakespearean soliloquy, etc.

There is also a need for sensation that we have. We crave sensory input. So standing in a group of people that are all carrying on silent conversations would probably be somewhat uncomfortable, as you are not getting any input from one of your senses.

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Inneficient channel

Even if telepathy has no maximum range, it may be too slow to communicate this way - imagine it takes minites to convey a single sentence.

Also perhaps communication is always between to people only. It would be a pain to convey a single phrase to a crowd.

Morse code telepathy

Perhaps telepathy cannot convey words nor emotions,.bur only a kind of signal that requires serious study to learn how to interpret. The effort would be akin to that of a non-deaf person learning sign language, or a civillian learning morse code.

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Racism, of a sort, have a look at John Wyndham's The Chrysalids for a more detailed description of my inspiration, you describe the psychics as being a "subspecies", as such I'm going to assume they constitute a persecuted minority. That being the case and telepathy being the signature of their difference from the mainstream then using telepathy becomes extremely risky, one doesn't want to be seen to know things that they shouldn't.

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As NachoDawg said. Imagine being able to share your exact state of mind with all feelings and thoughts. That is the most intimate thing a person could do. And obviously, that is reason enough to not use that telepathic ability as a main means of communication.

Furthermore, in normal interactions, the usage of body language and verbal communication would be better suited to convey your concepts, thoughts, and ideas without all the extra fluff. This also avoids, as mentioned here before, the situation of:

  • Thought: "That guy is a piece of shit."
  • Verbal communication: "Hi Larry, nice to see you!"

Not using telepathy to communicate would be a sort of natural filter in relations. This also would put telepathy in the category of being used mainly for an exact description of distinct ideas and concepts but also the act of displaying love and affection for one another.

Really, there is a lot to build on here if the OP wants to do so. In my opinion, reasons such as energy drain, legal reasons, distance etc. are just shallow reasons that do not feel very true to human nature. Shame and embarrassment I feel are higher in the list of why people would under normal circumstances not want to use telepathy.

In short; The main reason not to use telepathy would be to avoid the situation of having to say every single thing you think out loud.

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  • $\begingroup$ What if you were able to filter out your emotions in your thoughts that you didn't want conveyed? Only send the info you wanted to be sent? $\endgroup$ – user32862 Oct 2 '17 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say, that there are few situations that would be applicable for using telepathy. If the range is limited to <30feet. Except if one would want to transfer an idea or concept that is much too complex for using words. One of the few areas I can think of would be computer science and perhaps philosophy. I mean, you can hear someone speak at that distance and humans today have very few occasions where being inaudible while communicating is paramount. Another area of use would be military/ special ops/espionage. $\endgroup$ – DannyBoy Oct 2 '17 at 13:23