Humans Are Psychic in the Future
In many science fiction stories, human beings, although only a minority thereof, are shown as having
Magic Psychic Powers in the future. There is frequently no explanation of where these abilities could have come from between the audience's time and the setting of the show, nor, if these abilities were supposed to always have been present, why they only became accepted common knowledge (as opposed to dismissed as pseudo-science) in the future. This usually goes hand-in-hand with one or another kind of official recognition or registration efforts.
This is sometimes justified in story through resort to the idea of Evolutionary Levels. Compare Telepathic Spacemen, which is primarily concerned with aliens with psychic powers; the two tropes, of course, can and do appear in the same stories.
This trope may have first arisen from science fiction writers keen on initial research into claims of psychic powers in the 1960s and 1970s. In modern day such claims are generally considered bogus, but in the past, it seemed yet another body of knowledge just about to unfold, fooling more than one respected scientist along the way.
Another source of the idea may have been the "Age of Aquarius" concept, popular among the New Age movements, but that appeared around 1900 if not earlier. According to it the position of equinox in one or another zodiac constellation corresponds to dominant technology (the concept is beautiful, but the timings are off). The current age — of Pisces — saw the rise of Christianity and later the industrial civilization. In the next age, which may have already begun, or may begin in 1-2 centuries, the occult sciences and paranormal stuff are going to shine.
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Anime & Manga
- Toward the Terra is all about this. It's eventually revealed to be the result of genetic engineering.
- AKIRA, both the manga and the anime, revolves around the ESPers, including especially the title character.
- PS Yren explains this as some kind of particle in the air that causes the human body to develop psy powers or die.
- The Universal Century timeline of Gundam is all about this, with some people developing into what are called Newtypes and an ideological debate over whether or not they're the next stage of human evolution. The alternate universe spinoff Gundam X takes a different look at the same concept.
- Newtypes also exist in canon in the Cosmic Era, though not nearly as focused on as other series with newtypes.
- Gundam 00 features something similar with the Innovators, humans with telepathic abilities enhanced by GN Particles. Telepathy turns out to be a tremendously important tool in First Contact with an inscrutable alien race.
- The Topless of Diebuster. Humanity is starting to evolve the abilities of its enemies. While the most talented can bend physics around them, it is still a flawed power that can be both hard to control and lost with adulthood.
- Es Otherwise has a 'species' of human suddenly flare up with incredible psychic power, but normal humans ostracize them.
- From the New World is a coming of age story taking place 1000 years after psychic users emerged in the twenty-first century, and focuses heavily on how the society of the protagonists tries to preserve the human race through its genetic and social engineering. The toll that these measures take on its protagonists is the center of conflict for most of the story.
- Nexus has a certain percentage of the human population as telepaths in the future. Several important characters, like Stanislaus Korivitsky, Michana Loomis, and possibly Horatio Hellpop. Also, anyone who survives decapitation develops psychic abilities.
- Judge Dredd has the Psi-Division Judges, most notably Psi-Judge Anderson.
- In ElfQuest's future Jink and Rebels storylines, some of humans are "tweaked" for telepathy because the now-hidden elves allegedly possessed it. It's later revealed in the 'present day' storyline that the human Shuna can send to other humans after decades in proximity to the elves and their Palace.
- X-Men and similar x-titles portray their mutants as the next stage in human evolution. One of the most common abilities in mutants is telepathy since that will be the most likely outcome of humanity.
- Star Wars is only sort of an example, since, while certainly being a futuristic setting, it is technically set "a long time ago".
- Starship Troopers, especially the film version. In the 22nd century, some humans are displaying latent psychic abilities and demographic tests are conducted to find people for the Federation's Psy-Corps division. To quote an ad that's shown on the TV: "If you think you're psychic ... maybe you are!"
- The Last Mimzy
- In The Black Hole, Dr. Kate McCrae is revealed early on in the film to have ESP.
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes, although technically they're *mutant* humans.
- Children Of The Damned the cells of the children are said to be advanced to millions of years ahead.
- Minority Report
- In Looper, which takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future, 10% of the population is telekinetic, or TK. Most of them are only able to clumsily move small objects, such as coins. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun near the end of the movie.
- Probably the best explanation for some of the abilities in the Giver Quartet. The Giver has the ability to transmit memories via touch, which Jonas is able to do to Gabe later on inadvertently. Years later, in Messenger, Jonas seems to have some sort of remote viewing ability, Matty can heal via touch, and Kira from Gathering Blue, has some sort of psychic ability when she weaves.
- The Chrysalids has humans developing telepathy. The ones developing telepathy try keeping it hidden from the main population due to their extreme phobia of mutations (a.k.a. deviants).
- Known Space has a plethora of telepathic species, which include humans and dolphins by 2105.
- Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus books feature psychics who have been proven psychic by means of a "Goosegg" test that measures the relevant brainwaves.
- A key element of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels. While some humans possess psychic powers as a consequence of crossbreeding with the alien chieri, others are shown to just have innate psychic potential, which can be awakened by exposure to telepaths, the psychoactive pollen of the Kireseth flower or matrix crystals.
- Used Dune as one of the many effects of the spice Melange. Though it requires massive doses that only Spacing Guild Navigators and Kwisatz Haderachs can survive.
- Alfred Bester:
- Despite being a "hard" science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein has many of his stories with some kind of psychic powers.
- Time For The Stars: Telepathic twins are used to communicate between relativistic ships and earth.
- Methuselah's Children: The Howards' eugenics program occasionally produces children with mental or physical disabilities and telepathy. They are used to secretly alert the families that the authorities are coming for them.
- Stranger in a Strange Land: Mike learned psychic powers from the Martians, he teaches it to his followers as well.
- Mentioned out of hand in Starship Troopers
- The point of Julian May's Galactic Milieu novels, where having every member of a species being psychic is the main criteria for entry into Galactic civilization (and the fact that humans were let in before this point causes all sorts of trouble.)
- In James White's Sector General series, humanity has telepathic potential... in its evolutionary history. Human development took some steps toward it, but never got all the way and the capacity is now atrophied and useless. When some characters get contacted through it, the feeling is compared to having a wire brush taken to one's brain.
- Isaac Asimov went down this route with the Mule, the Second Foundation, Gaia, and, in a much different way (less mind reading/control more telekinesis) the Solarians.
- The Mule was justified as a mutation when he appeared but later retconned into an outcast of Gaia.
- The Second Foundation was justified in that the entire purpose of the Second Foundation was a deep understanding of human psychology on both the personal and civilization levels, so they developed the ability (and technology) to screw with minds and keep Seldon's plan in motion.
- Forget how Gaia was justified, Except for the part where robots did it.
- And the Solarians' developed genetic modification and personal separation to such an extent that their modified brains can harness the thermal energy of the massive amounts of land each individual has in order to convert it into other forms of energy.
- The Horseclans novels by Robert Adams have this for humans...also horses, cats, and whales.
- The novel Riadan has most humans evolving the ability to communicate telepathically. In fact, the youngest generation shown develops other abilities, such as levitation and teleportation. Kinda makes it difficult for parents to ground them, doesn't it?
- Andre Norton's Moonsinger series used this: in the first book, narrator Krip wonders suspiciously if the fellow he's talking to is esper — but doesn't seem to think it's at all odd to probe with his own esper powers. In the second book, someone takes a reading and comments that Krip's psychic ability level is seven; the people who knew him are startled, because he was "only" a level five a fairly short time ago. The phrasing, by the way, makes clear that five is considered pretty high.
- In Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl, human societies go through three stages that boil down to childhood(which would be before modern science), adolecence, and adulthood. During the "adulthood" of a society, they learn how to communicate through telepathy.
- Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhoods End has all of the world's children slowly becoming psychic and forming a hive mind capable of making rivers flow upstream and changing the moon's rotation speed.
- In the backstory of another Clarke's novel The City and the Stars at some point humans upgraded themselves to become telepaths. It was a part of larger improvement effort to bring themselves on par with more advanced aliens. By the start of the novel the inhabitants of Diaspar have long lost the ability, though they still command their machines telepatically. The humans of Lys are still telepaths.
- In Lisanne Norman's Sholan Alliance, human telepaths weren't recognised until the Terrans met the Sholans, a certain percentage of which have psi abilites.
- Ursula Le Guin made telepathy a part of Ekumen society in The Left Handof Darkness, but dropped the idea in the Hainish Cycle books written later because she decided it was too implausible.
- There are psis in the La Nague Federation series by F. Paul Wilson, with psi-schools and psi-potential readings in every person's file. One psi is powerful enough to kill people in a particularly unpleasant manner and another is capable of subjugating a race of aliens with her powers.
- Telepathy is a normal part of society, complete with elaborate codes and taboos, in The Hour Before Morning.
- In M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox stories espers are extremely rare among humans and most of the Pelted races they created, but they are known to exist. There is one Pelted race, the Glaseah, that is almost entirely composed of espers though, and the Eldritch are another human offshoot race of espers.
- In Peter Watts' Rifter cycle telepathy is explained as a result of quantum entanglement processes in the brain. People can "tune in" to other people's minds under favourable conditions, mostly involving chemically-induced altered states of mind.
- In The Monster by A. E. van Vogt we meet resurrected humans from four different epochs. Ancient Egyptian and present-day human are of no interest. Near-future human is frighteningly quick-thinking and able to mentally operate museum machinery and kill his captors. Nuclear bomb does kill him, though. Far future human can brush off blaster fire, stop nuclear explosions and teleport to extrasolar planets. It is never mentioned if humans deliberately upgraded their genetics or there was some other reason they improved so much.
- As are most but not all other sentients in the Theirs Not To Reason Why series. This turns out to be due to the Feyori interbreeding with us periodically for inscrutable reasons of their own.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5 had the PsiCorps, the Orwellian organization that regulated and policed human telepaths, and the much rarer telekinetics. Justified in this case because the psychic members of humanity and other species had been Touched by Vorlons about a hundred years before. Occasionally a subject of comment, "As You Know, people suddenly gained telepathic powers about a hundred years ago.
- The Observers from Fringe have telepathy powerful enough to Mind Rape people into vegetables.
- Stargate SG-1 had a storyline wherein humans were evolving (slowly) towards a telepathic, telekinetic 'superhuman' state, and in a number of episodes, a few characters get pushed forwards into this state - temporarily, since the awesome mind-powers tend to come with drawbacks attached.
- This evolutionary step actually happened to the Ancients first, so, as they are a past evolution of humans, it's sort of "Humans Were Psychic In The Past".
- In Firefly, and, by extension, in the film Serenity, River Tam turns out to have been given psychic powers. There are some implications in the R. Tam Sessions that River had psychic abilities before she went to the Academy, but that the Academy's work greatly enhanced them.
- In the Star Trek pilot (the second one, "Where No Man Has Gone Before") it's apparently a routine thing for people in the future to be tested for ESP, and their ESP quotient is on file along with more mundane statistics such as height, weight and age. This was never seen again, though.
- In the TOS episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" there is a blind human telepath, Dr Miranda Jones, who has studied telepathy on Vulcan and is looking to work with the telepathic alien Medusans, whom no human can see without going insane. The origin of her telepathy, whether it was somehow linked to her blindness or whether or not she was a purebred human was not explored in detail.
- In TNG, we're introduced to Betazoids, humanlike aliens with telepathic powers, and we already had Vulcans. Not quite the same thing, until later it's revealed that the reason there are so many humanlike species in our galaxy is because they all came from the same genetic material. So humans don't have telepathic powers (usually) but it would make sense for the federation to keep an eye out just to be sure.
- The Weevils in Torchwood are hypothesized to be what humanity turns into in the future and able to sense if another Weevil is being beaten up or if their is something unnaturally "wrong" with a person.
- In the 1985 revival of the The Twilight Zone, the episode "Quarantine" is set in a future where survivors of World War III have reverted to living in Arcadia, eschewing all mechanical technology, but having developed a wide range of psychic powers and Organic Technology.
- Warhammer 40,000 has psykers, who serve many vital roles throughout the Imperium. Additionally, psychic power largely plays the role that magic does in Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
- Also characteristically made Grimdark. Psykers, when left untrained, are prone to things such as insanity up to possession; it is mentioned in the fluff that psykers, allowed to experiment with their powers on more liberal worlds, opened the way to demonic invasions that contributed to the end the first human empire.
- It's also mentioned that psychic power tends to directly correlate to mental instability. The highest grades of Psyker (everything above Beta) have an almost 100% likelihood to be too insane to exist as a functional human being. Pretty scary, considering that grade of psyker can do things like rip buildings in half.
- Also notable that the training process for most psykers often lead them to become: Astropaths, who often lose their eyes and are responsible for the setting's faster-than-light communication; members of the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition; or Sanctioned Psykers of the Imperial Guard. Psykers that don't have the potential to be of any use to the Imperium are shipped to Terra and hooked up to the Golden Throne, where their psychic powers run the Astronomican until they shrivel and die. Plus the other races' psykers and the Chaos psykers.
- White Wolf RPGs Aberrant and Trinity, set in the same continuity, have this in two flavors. Humans can become one of two "species", Novas or Psions. The former are really powerful and have a variety of superhuman abilities, but are prone to all the negative power tropes, including The Corruption and Power Degeneration, collectively known as "Taint". Psions are less powerful and have narrower sets of abilities, but are also far more stable. Though both existed at the same time, novas had a big surge of unexplained "eruptions" in the early 21st century and then sharply tapered off their "birth rate" (even as the bulk of their number were kicked off Earth), effectively being replaced by latent psions. The decline of novas and their being kicked off aren't coincidental; the "Aberrant War" that led to novas being slaughtered or fleeing Earth was started with the reveal that the Mutant Draft Board was secretly sterilising all novas in the name of Muggle Power.
- In Traveller, psionics form the foundation of the Zhodani's empire but were unknown in the other branches of humanity until the Long Night. When the Third Imperium arose it came to suspect that many of the "psionics institutes" were funded by the Zhodani and suppressed them. Prejudice against psions persists.
- GURPS Psionics comes with a table full of possible explanations for the GM. Ranging from Broken Masquerades to frisky aliens. It advises to leave them unexplained unless they're plot-related.
- Many citizens of Alpha Complex in Paranoia have psychic powers of some kind, or some other mutant weirdness going on. Rather than simply fail to explain where these powers come from, the game offers quite a lot of different explanations from radiation to design.
- In Eclipse Phase, some humans are infected with the benign Watts-MacLeod nanovirius strain, which seems to do nothing but give them psychic powers, divided into two main categories: Psi-Chi is available to all psychics and allows the individual to alter their own mind, while Psi-Gamma is only for strong psychics and lets them alter other people's minds. However, as this nanovirus was created by the TITANs acting under orders from the ETI and every other known strain of nanovirus causes horrible death and/or mutation into an exsurgant threat, the gamemaster is encouraged to explore the possibility that this strain is a more subtle form of infiltration by the TITANs waiting to serve its true purpose or to arrange encounters with individuals who believe this to be the case. Whether these people are right or not is never answered, but it is revealed that a third level of power is available to exsurgents, Psi-Epsilon, which allows them to alter reality.
- Unhallowed Metropolis sports its own brand of psychically endowed humans in the post-apocalyptic London, circa 2105. These powers range from the standard Telekinesis and Telepathy to Pyrokinesis and Electrokinesis, with the relative potential of any given individuals gift ranging from being able to levitate a quarter to creating KILOMETERS-WIDE EARTHQUAKES. Treads the line between Blessed with Suck and Cursed with Awesome considering that, unlike a happy setting such as Warhammer 40,000 where going insane is the price you pay for HAVING psychic powers, in Unhallowed, psychic powers are the price you pay for BEING insane to begin with.
- In Fading Suns exposure to the energies of Jumpspace before shielding became mandatory on all jumpships kickstarted human psionic potential. Presently most of the neo-Medieval peasantry fear psychics and the Church persecutes them, but as their powers are one of the few things that can stop the Symbiots some sects have started to allow psychics to "repent" instead of being burned at the stake.
- The Reign setting Out of the Violent Planet completely inverts it - humanity is so terribly psi-blind that aliens completely failed to recognize us as a sentient race and wondered where our keepers were when they came to Earth. In fact, we're so not psychic that the aliens' strongest telepathic assaults might make a human sneeze, and that's if the alien rolled really well.
- In Mass Effect, people can become "biotics" through in-utero exposure to dust-form element zero and an implanted biotic amplifier, granting them the ability to naturally generate mass effect fields. Only about ten percent of exposures are successful; thirty percent get terminal cancer while the remaining sixty percent are completely unaffected but sometimes gain biotics from being exposed a second time. It is thus, technically, not an example of Psychic Powers (as merely Unobtainium implanted within a living body) but narratively it's telekinesis for all intents and purposes.
- Psionic abilities are a researchable technology in the Master of Orion games. May be this and Telepathic Spacemen, though, as it's available to all races, not just humans.
- In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Silver the Hedgehog is from 200 years in the future, and has psychic powers for no other adequately-explained reason. Likewise, his friend Blaze who has pyrokinesis.
- In StarCraft the frequency and potency of human psychics is supposed to be greater in the future (than the current 0) and an impending commonality of psychic abilities in humans is why the Zerg want to assimilate them before taking on the Protoss, or to somehow free themselves from the Dark Voice.
- Similar to Mobile Suit Gundam below, Super Robot Wars has Psychodrivers.
- Used with dolphins in Ecco The Dolphin.
- In Star Control, there is mention of esper ratings on human members of the crew.
- One of the three playable factions in Sins of a Solar Empire are the Advent, an offshoot of humanity that possesses psychic powers.
- In a similar way, the Pilgrims of Endless Space are mystics and, through the magical mysteries of Dust nano-tech, implied to have extraordinary powers.
- On the individual level, all species - including robotic species - appear susceptible to becoming this when exposed to Dust, and come in a few general flavors that conveniently help you run various aspects of your economy or military more effectively.
- Researching human capability for psionic (psychic) capabilities is one of the focuses of UFO: Enemy Unknown. Aliens that attack have psionic powers that can ruin entire squads with just one psionic attack, and developing countermeasures is a major focus of the game. It can get to the point that you can outright obliterate a UFO full of aliens with just one man sitting in the cargo hold of your transport, simply by psionically taking over enemy aliens, and having them kill each other off, all while you remain unharmed.
- Subverted in Otherspace, where the human-derived Laters are often immune to psionics, and a few can actually negate nearby psionic activity.
- In the backstory to EV Nova, the Vell-os developed psychic abilities sometime prior to 980 AD, which they used to leave Earth. In the game proper, psychics are reasonably common among the Polaran humans, and as evidenced by the Player Character in the Vell-os and Polaris storylines, are starting to develop among mainstream humans as well. The epilogues to four of the seven storylines reveal that psychic powers eventually become endemic to humanity, after which we Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and become precursors to an unnamed alien race.
- Subverted in Final Fantasy XIII-2; apparently humans are MAGIC in the future.
- In Sword of the Stars 2 psionics are a technology path that all the races (including humans) have a chance of being able to research. Liir and Zuul (who had psionics with no game effect in the first game) generally have the highest probability while Tarka have the lowest, unless the power is related to combat or diplomacy in which case the Liir and Zuul, respectively, have extremely low chances.
- Imperium Nova: Psionics are a sphere that houses can operate in, their main use being counter-espionage. What exactly it entails varies a lot from galaxy to galaxy.
- In the Chakona Space verse psionics are usually possessed by genetically engineered human-animal hybrids, mostly Chakats and Skunktaurs, but it's the same principle.
- In Metamor City psychics started showing up out of nowhere less than a century ago. They are distinct from mages, who have been around practically forever.
- Batman Beyond: There is an organization of people with naturally-occurring psychic powers, and Willie Watt's telekinesis was treated in an oddly normal manner, although he wasn't born with it.
- According to the The Simpsons episode "Holidays of Future Passed," people will be able to read thoughts in the year 2041.
- This may become Truth in Television with the aid of brain implants and radio signals, although this possibility has more in common with the Magic from Technology trope. You put radios into two peoples' heads and hook them up to their nervous systems. If you do it right, the two people can trade thoughts and ideas through the radio without the need to talk. Recent advances in brain scanning have given this idea new hope. It can only work between people who have the implants though, not to a person who doesn't. Also, military ECM will probably drive these people mad.
- On a similar note, there's been talk of brain implants that would send out a signal when triggered by a certain thought (i.e. the electrical brain impulse that corresponds to that particular thought) which would allow a person to, for instance, turn on the lights or television with his mind.