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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Thought Pattern Divination  
  Attempting to construct the thoughts of a person by imitating their actions.  

The Iszic were fanatical in their determination to protect their intellectual property - the seeds of their amazing house trees and other products.

One phase of the surveillance puzzled Farr. He approached the lieutenant and indicated an operative a few yards away. “Why does he mimic me? I sit down, he sits down. I drink, he drinks. I scratch my nose, he scratches his nose.”

“A special technique,” explained the Szecr. “We divine the pattern of your thinking.”

“It won’t work,” said Farr.

The lieutenant bowed. “Farr Sainh may be quite correct.”

Farr smiled indulgently. “Do you seriously think you can predict my plans?”

“We can only do our best.”

“This afternoon I plan to rent a sea-going boat. Were you aware of that?”

The lieutenant produced a paper. “I have the charter ready for you. It is the Lhaiz, and I have arranged a crew...”

From The Houses of Iszm, by Jack Vance.
Published by Better Publications in 1954
Additional resources -

A similar method was detailed in Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye; an individual alien assigned to learn everything about an individual person. See Fyunch(click)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Houses of Iszm
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Vance
  Tech news articles related to The Houses of Iszm
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Vance

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