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Electronic Telepathy

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Electronic Telepathy, or e-telepathy, is a sub-trope of Telepathy. In most cases, characters using telepathic powers will do so by using some kind of supernatural force or a highly evolved biological mechanism that comes thanks to being a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. However, in some cases, a character will have no natural or supernatural telepathic ability and instead use a Brain/Computer Interface to gain this power. In this form of telepathy, thoughts are converted from impulses in the brain (electric activity produced by neuron reaction potentials) into digital signals that can then be broadcast artificially to another e-telepath using radio waves or some other form of wireless communication. Obviously, this can lead to Mental Fusion or even a Hive Mind, just as non-technological telepathy can.

This form of telepathy is different from others in that a person must be actively transmitting a signal in order for another to receive it. However, it is possible for an enterprising cyborg to "mind hack" another user of an implant and monitor their thoughts without their permission, similar to infecting a computer with spyware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell, this is one of the many advantages of having a cyberbrain. Characters can communicate with each other without physically speaking, which is useful when trying to keep quiet to avoid detection or eavesdroppers. Of course, wirelessly broadcast connections are open to being spied on, so for very important conversations, cyborgs sometimes directly connect to one another using cables. In one episode of Stand Alone Complex, Batou and the Major even keep a conversation hidden from the Tachikomas by hiding their cyber-telepathic communication and using their actual lips to have a completely different conversation — at the same time!
  • Mobile Suit Gundam and its many sequels has the Psycommu ("Psychic Communicator") system, a machine designed to pick up the psychic emanations from Newtypes and use them as a means of communication. This allows a Newtype to control a properly equipped machine by thought alone and is usually used to explain how the pilots are able to control the various kinds of Attack Drones.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Electric Pokémon are sometimes shown to communicate this way, such as Pikachu and Zapdos, or Pikachu and Dedenne.

    Comic Books 
  • The Authority uses "radiotelepathy", a communications network of nanoscale radio implants that allow brain-to-brain communication.
  • Steve Dayton of Doom Patrol developed a helmet that granted him telepathic and telekinetic abilities to become the superhero Mento. The helmet initially had negative effects.
  • Ruby of Mosely has developed an upgrade to the Metaspace that enables her to be aware of everyone connected online at the same time.
  • In Supergirl (Rebirth), the DEO develops a device which allows Supergirl's mind to access Lar-On's comatose brain and find a way to heal his psychological damage.
  • Early iterations of Wonder Woman have a "mental radio" that allows Diana to communicate telepathically with the Amazons on Paradise Island. As shown repeatedly in Wonder Woman (1942), Di can make "calls" without a radio due to her own mild Telepathy, but with the radio, even normal humans like Etta Candy and Steve Trevor can use telepathic communications, so long as whoever they're contacting picks up on their own mental radio.

    Fan Works 
  • A Certain Droll Hivemind: This is how the titular Hive Mind communicates. The fic takes more time to discuss the limits of such telepathy, including signal range and the limits of the hardware (the Sisters themselves). In fact, 11111 says that the main reason for their Duplicate Divergence is simply that any single one of them can't absorb information from all ten thousand clones at once. Late in the fic, 11111 is too close when Mikoto lets loose at full power, and her connection to the Network is temporarily severed.
    Just for a moment when the railgun fired, I was alone. I did not like it. I could not hear Radio Noise. It was so dark. I felt small.
    I do not want to do it again.
  • Rocketship Voyager: Captain Janeway and Tech Lieutenant TuV'k use the Martian melding-of-minds to form a Mental Fusion with Nee'Lix, as they lack a common language. As TuV'k is the only Martian of the three, he uses a portable encephalo-adjuster wired to copper skullcaps placed on everyone's heads.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Black Hole: Kate McCrae shares ESP with the robot VINCENT. It's described in the novelization as a wireless computer interface implanted in her brain.
  • Demolition Man: In the future, people use this for having sex. The idea of doing it the normal way disgusts them (partly out of prudishness, and partly because there were apparently numerous additional HIV-type outbreaks in the intervening decades).
  • Flash Gordon (1980) has devices that allow for long-distance telepathic communication.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Apex uses this to allow Ren Serizawa to control Mechagodzilla, via a satellite broadcasting array connected to the last surviving head of King Ghidorah. Ghidorah hijacks this link in the finale so that he can fight Godzilla.

  • Animorphs: The Chee, a race of alien androids, basically have their own private internet so that they can communicate with each other over distances. This proves useful in book #27 when they're all paralyzed at once, since Erek can at least tell the Animorphs what the others know about the situation.
  • A Certain Magical Index: The MISAKA clones maintain their Hive Mind by using their inherent electricity-manipulation powers to act as living radio transceivers. While Mikoto (who they were cloned from) is theoretically able to do it as well since she is stronger and has far greater control than them, she doesn't have the proper training to be able to interface with the network.
  • In Dr. Franklin's Island, implants are put into the girls' "speech centers" so that even after their transformation and losing their ability to speak, they can communicate via radio. Usually, it's just like speaking out loud, but when they reach hard enough, they have mental projections of their human bodies meeting in a Blank White Void. They do not trust that they aren't being overheard, so they try to make little use of it.
  • Eldraeverse: The Precursors genetically engineered the eldrae to have organic radio transmitters in their brains.
  • In The Empress Game, Dolan's specialty is in using technology to replicate, enhance, and deploy Wyrd telepathy. However, the things he did with it caused him to be stripped of his own psi powers and exiled. They didn't seem to consider that his technology might allow him to regain his powers.
  • In Heart of Steel, Alistair Mechanus has a mental link with his robots and his computer network through his cybernetic implants.
  • This form of telepathy is used in The History of the Galaxy by cybreakers to enter the mind of another person via implants that everyone has in their brains. They can read thoughts, conduct Mind Rape, and even fry the victim's brain. Actual telepathy exists in this 'verse, but it's natural only to the Insect race. Certain brain scanners are also able to translate EEG scans into roughly approximated thoughts based on a chart developed for all humans.
  • In Imperial Radch, this is used to link the cybernetic ancillaries to their ship's Hive Mind and used in a similar manner by the emperor, who is a Hive Mind of linked clones. To a lesser extent, Radchaai ships and station can also use this to read the perceptions and emotions sent by implants in their human inhabitants, and ability Breq keeps from her time as a ship.
  • In MARZENA, when entering Dr. Sam's mind thanks to drugs and virtual reality, Lauren and Kristen communicate with each other using digital telepathy, thanks to nanobots reading their brain activity by sending wireless signals when entering inside dilated brain vessels, acting like microscopic MRI machines.
  • In The Maze Runner, Thomas, Teresa, Rachel and Aris acquired their telepathic abilities via devices which were implanted in their brains (along with the devices which WICKED use to control their subjects and wipe their memories) when they were pre-adolescents.
  • The Murderbot Diaries: This is effectively a feature of the ubiquitous communication implants that let people transmit multimedia messages directly — this background communication field is collectively referred to as "the feed". It's actually one of the least-defined parts of the world, but ever-present (much like how a story set in the modern day would not stop to explain the underpinning of smartphones), with the characters or narrator never stopping to explain it, but occasionally discussing its limitations, such as the inability to deliver software or remotely hack bots over the feed. Messages in the feed are usually akin to text messages or emails, but Murderbot once drops a complex decision tree into its conversation partners' feeds for debate, leaving them squinting. Murderbot also discusses how humans and bots use the feed differently, with humans sub-vocalizing spoken words and "speaking" in the feed, but bots use images and strings of text data to communicate.
  • In My Teacher Is an Alien, Kreeblim captures Duncan and paralyzes him with some sort of force field, then puts a machine on his head that allows her to hear his thoughts. Shortly after, he's able to communicate with Peter (who chose to Stay with the Aliens) while he's also using alien technology.
  • The soldiers in Old Man's War have computers embedded in their brains which let them do this.
  • Rebuild World:
  • The Conjoiners from the Revelation Space Series have this. In an early war against unaltered humans, they would forcibly implant the equipment into their prisoners, who generally thought "I am everyone! I know everything! Awesome!"
  • In The Stars, Like Dust, a "personal beam" allows someone to receive an electronic message sent through hyperspace across interstellar distances. Within a particular volume — an ordinary room — "space itself" is "polarized", and because the message is tuned to the brain waves of its recipient, the messages are practically impossible to intercept. Receiving requires no equipment, with the recipient of the message merely thinking "purposefully and with concentration". Sending — or simply engaging in two-way communications — does require the use of a "mechanical contrivance", which is small enough to be worn as an "ornamental button".
  • In the short story "Tableau" by James White, one side in an interstellar war develops a "mentacom" device that allows a ship's crew to communicate mentally, after finding battle noise too disruptive to vocal communication. When two pilots, one from each side, end up marooned together after a battle, the mentacom makes it possible for them to communicate with each other and make the first steps toward a peace.
  • In "Think!", Dr. Renshaw is a neurologist who has developed a novel use of lasers; creating a more sensitive brainwave reader. In fact, the computer's ability to analyze the electronic potential of human neurons is so detailed that Dr. Renshaw claims it can transmit thoughts directly between two people with electrodes hooked up to their skulls. The scientists involved are rightly skeptical and perform several tests to make sure they aren't imagining things. When they try a control test by directly connecting the input electrodes to each other, they hear the machine itself start to think...

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dollhouse, the Rossum Corporation developed a breed of Hive Mind-ed Super Soldiers who communicated this way. However, the hive mind had a weakness in that if someone else could tap into it, they could royally screw up the mental communication between soldiers.
  • In The Flash (2014), the team creates a device to let them access the mind of someone to get some critical information. Harry later modifies it so he can transmit his thoughts and feelings about his late wife to their daughter, since he's notoriously bad regarding talking about his emotions.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Living Hell", a doctor saves a wounded man's life by implanting an experimental neutral transmitter in his brain. A side effect of this is that he can now see through the eyes of an elusive serial killer who was given the same implant and had faked his own death afterwards.
  • The Borg in the various Star Trek series have built-in "neural transceivers" to connect their minds into the Collective. Each Borg ship contains a device called a "vinculum" which transmits, receives and edits thoughts to and from connected Borg drones so as to suppress their individuality and direct them in performing their designated functions.
  • In the Supergirl (2015) episode "Legion of Super-Heroes", a piece of 31st century technology is used to allow Brainiac 5 to enter Kara's mind. He's even able to do so while far from Kara's physical location.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Eclipse Phase, most people have access to the setting's internet successor via implants that make telepathy about as common as talking. The fiction notes "mesh communication" via Rainbow Speak.
  • Mindjammer has a whole list of "technopsi" abilities that are used through the Mindscape.
  • Shadowrun has had this roughly since 4th edition onwards.
    • In almost all cases, it's pretty much sending text or voice messages through the Matrix in a world where Direct Neural Interface is easily achieved. One just needs a set of trodes to wear on the head (preferably worked into a fashionable piece of headwear), and either a commlink (smartphone) or cyberdeck (tablet/laptop), and you're ready to go. Technomancers can just skip the hardware.
    • Means to achieve DNI are pretty diverse, too.
      • The most common are trodes, a commercially available net of electrodes for the head, workable into items of clothing. Recent innovations have miniaturized this into a single patch about the size of a quarter, usually flesh colored so that you can inconspicuously put it on the forehead instead of keeping a patch of your scalp shaved.
      • Old fashioned datajacks are increasingly uncommon, but are still loved by enthusiasts and pros. They also have the benefits of a wired connection which can't be sniffed out or tampered with by hackers, come with hardware which gives slight signal compensation, and can connect two people who can communicate with no further hardware needed.
      • Implanted links and decks are considered cool in concept, but stupid in practice, both in and out of the universe. It renders the hardware virtually inaccessible, meaning each time you need a repair or a routine upgrade (roughly every one or two years), you need to get brain surgery, a risky and distasteful proposition even with the advanced medicine in the cyberpunk future. It might be an acceptable tradeoff for the average working joe, but for shadowrunners who need to replace and repair gear regularly, this is incredibly impractical. There are workarounds, though. Repair nanites can be used as an addon, but can get expensive. Additionally, they can by incorporated into a cybernetic skull or half-skull, keeping the connections to the brain, but allowing easier access to the hardware for repair or replacing. In general though, it's probably best to plug an external commlink into a datajack unless you have a reason to keep the commlink concealed.
    • Technomancers have a mind that access the Matrix naturally, and hence can do everything that a link or deck does, and much more. They also have the ability to upgrade their powers to interact with other devices with a touch, and hence communicate "electronically" through skin-on-skin contact with other technos with the skinlink ability. They can also get an ability to have a true, one-way telepathic link to other technos, which can be used in the opposite direction for a full telepathic link.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • This shows up in Baldr Sky as a form of communication that many characters use (referred to as chanting) when they don't want others hearing what they have to say or when in a situation where they don't want to make too much noise.

  • Relays in Alien Dice allow this.
  • In A Girl and Her Fed, Agents can communicate this way via their implant.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Referenced when Annie impersonates a robot to infiltrate a robot-run administration centre and has a conversation with the receptionist:
    Receptionist: You realize I could have told you all this in about 1/25th of a second if you'd had a communications port installed.
  • In A Miracle of Science, it's never spelled out, but this appears to be how the Martians' collective consciousness works: faster-than-light communications gear (which may or may not be the same thing as the radio communication demonstrated on numerous occasions) incorporated into the nanotech that suffuses their bodies.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • One of the relatively minor characters is from a species that evolved a natural form of this, specifically an organic radio transmitter/receiver. The one shown has a single consciousness split across two bodies, and with a little added hardware to enable communication via hyperspace nodes, his range is extended to the point that he can pilot two separate tanks simultaneously with a level of tactical co-ordination that normally only an A.I. can manage.
    • Essperin are a mechorganic cyborg species that developed radio communication by necessity of their space-based lifestyle.
    • Some human characters with backgrounds in espionage have "bone phones" implanted in their ears.
  • This is one of the "upgrades" that CORE soldiers in S.S.D.D. can get. The "standard" cochlear implant requires the user to speak audibly, but the experimental nanotech implants that Tessa's squad received don't have that limitation.

    Web Original 
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, Dragonstorm has an entire "thought network" which is exactly this. Shelton brings some of the chips for the main characters to use.
  • Limetown: The scientists in Limetown were trying to figure out how to do this.
  • In Starsnatcher, this is the dominant form of communication among the Seizers (prior, they used touch-based communication). It is accomplished through microcomputers in their brains that transmit radio signals. When Lucas got on their moon, they had to trap him for several days to get enough MRI scans for a version calibrated to the human brain.

    Western Animation 
  • The Mindnet device in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. It was used mostly to crank up the abilities of existing psychics (the Queen and Niko) but was used by Nimrod during "Battle of the Bandits" to stupefy an audience already ensnared by The Power of Rock.
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, the five lions that form Voltron are explicitly said to be able to link with their pilots' minds, allowing for more fluid control and the ability for the pilot to see through their lion's eyes.

    Real Life