Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Psionics and Technology and My Traveller Universe

For some time, I've considered my TY to be too focused on political interactions, lacking in the elements that make adventures more fun. In an effort to change that, I've decided to bring psionics into my TU in a formal and structural way. I will have more characters & NPCs with psionic talents, and more of the 'special' talents like I wrote about here.

In my review of the Amber Zone adventure Thoughtwaves, I mentioned that I don't have an Zhodani analogue, a society that embraces psionic talents. Well, now I do. The Solaris Alliance, an insular society, has incorporated psionic talents into their culture. Additionally, the Alliance has pioneered the intersection of psionics and technology. In this post I'm talking mostly about the psi/tech connection.

I can find only three psionic technology objects in CT canon: the psi shield helmet (Book 3) a ship-scale psi screen (Adv 8, Expedition to Zhodane) and the concept of 'flicking' (AM 4, Zhodani) to activate a computer. I want more. For starters the Alliance has: 

Psionic power detectors (PPDs) TL 13. These are area-scanning devices attuned to the particular energy signature of psionically gifted brains. The detector translates its signals into a visual image, so a crowd can be scanned and the psi-talented people in the area are identified. 

Psionic activity sensors (PASs) TL 13. The PAS is an offshoot of Neural Activity sensing – it registers psionic power being applied within the sensor's detection range. In a concert hall, a PAS would spot a telepath reading minds, or a clairvoyant watching the concert form elsewhere.

There are very likely counter-technologies which disguise a psionic from PPD scans.

The Alliance makes and uses this technology, but they are very reluctant to export it or allow others to copy it. So Alliance psi-tech is hard to find in the rest of the Stars We Know.

While considering this change, I did a mind-mapping exercise to explore the social and cultural aspects of psionics. I'll share a portion of it here.
  • psi power as genetic characteristic?
    • Mind Power, naturalistic basis
    • Ethical systems for use of psi? Non-Solarians may be taught, but monitored by telepaths and taught the ethical code.
  • Are psionics super-honest or super-devious? Telepathic lie detectors in court. Social pressure to be honest with psi power.
In Alliance society, psionic talents are held in social esteem, but are not the basis of a distinct social class. For the Solarians, it is not whether you have psi-talent, or how powerful it is, but rather how you use it. Psionics are expected to apply their talents to public service, on a voluntary basis. A telempath would make an outstanding grief counselor, and a telekinetic can safely handle toxic or dangerous substances; or perform delicate surgeries without cutting the patient open. Life detection talent make missing children cases, wilderness rescues, and earthquake or avalanche recovery much easier. Telepaths can be secure communications operators, the list goes on. Those who serve the public with their talents are held up as public exemplars, and often as pop culture heroes. A Solarian who decides not to enter into public service is not considered a criminal, or legally sanctioned, but they are a disappointment to those who know them.

Eventually I'll discuss the relationship between the Church and psionics, but for starters I see it as a cautious partnership and not an antagonism. I have a lot of ideas about psionics in relation to technology and culture, but this will do for now. It's a start.

1 comment:

  1. In real-world alleged "remote viewing" espionage, an object that had inherent interest was said to be used to divert RV attempts. The object would attract RV attention and prevent nearby elements from being successfully "seen". Such things were usually like 3D fractal sculptures, complex geometric configurations, and the like.

    Perhaps there is a short tube that when energized by a psionic, concentrates psionic attack power into a shining length of solid light, like a blade or perhaps a saber. A "saber of light", if you will. ;)

    A sensory deprivation tank might allow the enhanced focus (perhaps extending the range?) of various psionic abilities.