[Question] How effective are tulpas?

Edit: After fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion, I’ve con­cluded that the risk:re­ward ra­tio for tul­pa­mancy isn’t worth it and won’t be pur­su­ing the topic fur­ther. I may re­visit this con­clu­sion if I en­counter new in­for­ma­tion, but oth­er­wise I’m con­tent to pur­sue im­prove­ments in a more “stan­dard” fash­ion. Thank you to ev­ery­one who posted in the com­ments.


If you don’t know what a tulpa is, here’s a quick de­scrip­tion taken from r/​tul­pas:

A tulpa is a men­tal com­pan­ion cre­ated by fo­cused thought and re­cur­rent in­ter­ac­tion, similar to an imag­i­nary friend. How­ever, un­like them, tul­pas pos­sess their own will, thoughts and emo­tions, al­low­ing them to act in­de­pen­dently.

I’m not par­tic­u­larly con­cerned whether tul­pas are “real” in the sense of be­ing an­other per­son. Free will isn’t real, but it’s still use­ful to be­have as if it is.

No, what I’m in­ter­ested in is how effec­tive they are. A sec­ond ra­tio­nal­ist in my head sounds pretty great. To­gether we would be un­stop­pable. Me­taphor­i­cally. My am­bi­tions are much less grand than that makes them sound.

But I have some con­cerns.

Since a tulpa doesn’t get its own hard­ware, it seems likely that host­ing one would de­grade my origi­nal perfor­mance. Every­one says this doesn’t hap­pen, but I think it’d be very difficult to de­tect this, es­pe­cially for some­one who isn’t already trained in ra­tio­nal­ity. Espe­cially if the degra­da­tion oc­curred over a pe­riod of months (which is how long it usu­ally takes to in­stan­ti­ate a tulpa).

A lot of what I’ve read on­line is con­tra­dic­tory. Some peo­ple say tul­pas can learn other skills and be bet­ter at them. Others say they’ve never lost an ar­gu­ment with their tulpa. Tul­pas can be evil. Tul­pas are slav­ish pawns. Tul­pas can take over your body, tul­pas never take over bod­ies. Tul­pas can do home­work. Tul­pas can’t do math.

Then there’s the ob­vi­ous false­hoods. Tul­pas are demons/​spirits/​an­gels (pick your fla­vor of re­li­gion). They’re tele­pathic, telekinetic, and have flawless mem­o­ries. They can see things be­hind you. There’s not as much of this as I ex­pected; most of the claims are at least plau­si­ble. Some guides are cloaked in mys­tic imagery (runes, cir­cles, sym­bols), but even they usu­ally ad­mit that the oc­cult stuff isn’t re­ally nec­es­sary.

It does seem like there are clear failure modes. Don’t make a Quir­rel tulpa. Don’t abuse a tulpa. Make sure to spend enough time tend­ing to the tulpa dur­ing cre­ation, etc etc. And ev­ery­one seems to agree that tul­pas are highly vari­able, so a lot of the con­tra­dic­tions could be ex­cused. On the other hand, if tul­pas were re­ally so use­ful, wouldn’t the idea have spread be­yond niche in­ter­net fo­rums?

Per­haps, but per­haps not. The stigma against “hear­ing voices”, plus peo­ple’s gen­eral ir­ra­tional­ity, plus the difficulty… those seem like pow­er­ful forces in­hibit­ing main­stream adop­tion. Or maybe the en­tire thing is com­fortable non­sense and the only rea­son I find it re­motely plau­si­ble is be­cause I want to be­lieve in it.

Given that the guides mostly say that it takes months and months of hard work to cre­ate a tulpa… well, I’d rather not waste all that work and get noth­ing. And it only gets worse from there. An out-of-con­trol dark ra­tio­nal­ist tulpa that fights me for men­tal and phys­i­cal con­trol sound ab­solutely ter­rify­ing.

Most peo­ple seem to agree that the chance of that hap­pen­ing is ba­si­cally zero un­less you de­liber­ately try to do it. And the po­ten­tial gains seem at least as po­tent. Be­ing able to spe­cial­ize in skills seems ab­surdly over­pow­ered, es­pe­cially if we each get nat­u­ral tal­ents for our skills (which some peo­ple claim is what hap­pens). A minor drop in cog­ni­tive re­sources would prob­a­bly be worth it for that.

So, if you have a tulpa, please chime in. What’s it like? How do you know that the tulpa isn’t less effi­cient than you would be on your own? Was it worth it? Does it make your life bet­ter?

And if you don’t have a tulpa, feel free to com­ment as well. If I get a hun­dred LWers say­ing that I’ve been suck­ered by highly-evolved memes, that’s pretty strong ev­i­dence that I’ve made a mis­take.