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I was re-watching the TNG episode Haven and it hit me that the telepathy of the Betazoids is completely dangerous and highly immoral. Lwaxana Troi seemed so willing to read people minds and blurb out secrets that it seems there should be a law to protect those who don't want there minds read or some equivalent to the data protection act.

What would happen if the the victim was unwilling to having his/her mind read and the Betazoid did it anyway either forcefully or more secretly? Could the victim have the Betazoid arrested or sue him/her because what the Betazoid had done is really just mind-rape.

What if the Betazoid did one further and used the information to black mail the victim, psychologically torture the victim with personal info like being raped as a kid, steal info from a top Starfleet officer or use the info ruin someones marriage etc?

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    "there should be a law" I think the proper pronunciation is "there oughta' be a law!" while shaking your walking stick above your head. ;) – Andrew Thompson Sep 18 '14 at 0:15
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    dangerous and highly immoral. Guess what, aliens are alien. They will have different cultures and norms. A society of telepaths (that don't require contact) is going to drastically different from non telepaths, or touch telepaths like the Vulcans. Reading minds wouldn't be dangerous/immoral, it would be 'normal'. – Zoredache Sep 18 '14 at 2:20
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    @AndrewThompson Lwaxana Troi is the law! – calccrypto Sep 18 '14 at 2:56
  • @Zoredache In one comment, you just summed up the biggest lesson of the entire Star Trek franchise. – Nerrolken Jul 31 '15 at 22:17
  • I'm sorry, what is the actual, concrete question here? "What if"? – Andres F. Jul 31 '15 at 23:10
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Nothing.

Lwaxana Troi read minds ad nauseam in her episodes and often blurted out what people were thinking in public settings. Other than everyone looking embarrassed and annoyed, nothing happened and nothing was done to her.

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    Well, she does usually get rebuked by Deanna – Izkata Sep 18 '14 at 2:37
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    Devinoni Ral used his (Half-)Betazoid abilities freely when negotiating, and the only consequences he really suffered were Troi breaking up with him. – Brian S Sep 18 '14 at 14:16
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There is an episode called Violations where a Ullian uses telepathy to assault people, plant false memories, and causes a few people to fall into comas. This is clearly an extreme example - it's beyond the realm of normal telepathic use and social faux-pax and falls into the category of assault. Picard comments at the end of the episode that the Federation has no laws against assault via telepathy (which answers your question), although it's only because they've never had to deal with it before. The Ullian government on the other hand does have a law against it, because they have had to deal with it and the penalty is "quite severe". Given that this is pretty much the most extreme thing you can do with telepathy, and the federation has no law against it, I think it's safe to say the federation has no laws restricting the use of telepathy at all.

To wax philosophical for a few minutes, a telepathic society outlawing telepathy would be like Elephants outlawing tusks because they're sharp and pointy. It's a part of their bodies - how could they prohibit it? Their society would develop very differently, and it is likely they view secrets far differently than we humans do, and perhaps they don't even have that concept. This could also help explain Luwaxana Troi's rude behavior - it's simply not rude where she's from because everyone knows what everyone is thinking all the time. No one has an secrets that can be embarrassingly revealed.

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    "(telepathy..) It's a part of their bodies - how could they prohibit it?" Eyes are part of our bodies, but that doesn't prevent society from frowning upon sneaking into the women's locker room for a perv. If there are 'degrees of telepathy' I would not be surprised if there were at least social norms about when and to what extent to apply it. ..Having a tusk doesn't mean you have to shove it in something. – Andrew Thompson Sep 18 '14 at 3:12
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    Deanna's sister was a huge secret that Lwaxana kept for a long, long time – Izkata Sep 18 '14 at 4:07
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    @izkata - Yes, and led to long-term psychological harm. It would have been better had the secret come out sooner. – Valorum Sep 18 '14 at 6:33
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The problem is that you're working from a distinctively human outlook. Entire species use telepathy as an everyday form of communication. What you call "mind-rape" would, to them, be akin to asking a question.

Also, Troi's ability to sense emotions is sometimes shown to be out of her control (such as when she suddenly senses lifeforms). At that level at least, complaining about her intrusion would be as unfair as a blind species complaining about how sighted species can see things they consider hidden. Or to use another comparison, what if Data or Geordi's visor could pick up bodily signs of deceit in certain species? Are we going to blind them for the comfort of others?

Blackmail, torture, and espionage are already illegal. If a Betazoid used their abilities in such a way, I imagine they'd be punished the same as any other. But blurting out secrets is rude, not illegal... and only rude by other species' standards.

  • Yes, this is a very human-centric question. You could easily ask why there are no laws against hiding secrets – Valorum Sep 18 '14 at 6:34
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Let's translate that from telepathic to non-telepathic mode:

  • You often have a human commenting on another human (in real life) that they look afraid, or tired, or angry. Basically, doing the non-mind-reading but body-language-reading equivalent of what Deanna Troi did.

  • You have people claim to know what others are thinking ("he is against Barack Obama because he doesn't like black people" to give an example I just read off a comment in Politics.SE). At least with a telepath, one has a defense that if that telepath makes *!(t up, another telepath can confirm that it was BS and the person is NOT thinking what they are accused of thinking.

Neither kind of behavior is considered illegal and very frequently acceptable by a large segments of society.

Why would this be any different from a telepath?

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