The golden rule of ethical tulpa creation

This is the first post in the bad reasons not to create a tulpa series.

Let’s begin by pointing out that there are many excellent reasons not to create a tulpa. We do not intend in this series to convince people that they should create tulpas if they think they probably shouldn’t. Rather, we hope to reject and recast some bad reasons, leaving more room to think intelligently about the good ones.

Our problems with the reasons we discuss may seem pedantic; the reasons could be interpreted a different way that would eliminate the problems. But if they’re interpreted the way we interpret them here, they do have problems, and if people have interpreted them this way in the past, they’re liable to do so again in the future. An argument’s merit should not be judged on what it’s trying to convey, but on what it actually does convey.

People often say that one should not create a tulpa for selfish reasons. This seems like a good plan at first glance. “Selfish” sounds bad, and as an ethical tulpamancer you presumably don’t want to do anything that doesn’t consider your tulpa’s best interests.

People seem to disagree on the meaning of selfish. Many people, including me in this article, define being selfish as being concerned only or primarily for oneself, without considering others. Some people and some dictionaries instead prefer a definition requiring the selfish actions to be actively harmful to others, in which case “don’t create a tulpa for selfish reasons” is less problematic. Given the disagreement in definition, though, I think that even if you fall squarely in the second camp you’re best off rephrasing this advice, since many people will interpret it wrongly.

With that out of the way, let’s say that Alice wants to create a tulpa. Here are some of the reasons she might have, not all of them necessarily good ones:

  • She wants companionship or love or someone to talk to when nobody else is around for her.
  • She would like to be able to bounce ideas off someone else all the time.
  • She is having some sort of mental or spiritual issue and thinks a tulpa could help her with them.
  • She thinks she can become a better person with a tulpa.
  • She’s interested in what tulpas mean for the nature of consciousness and wants to try it out for herself.
  • She thinks it will be silly and fun to play around with this idea.
  • She wants to make someone else take over all the boring jobs in her life.
  • She wants to have a sex slave ready for her anytime she likes.

All of these reasons are selfish at heart: that is, the only reason for Alice’s motivation is that she thinks she’ll get something out of creating a tulpa. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to assume you agree that some of the reasons are fine and some are highly problematic. Almost everyone agrees that Alice would be wrong to create an apparently sentient being for the sole purpose of giving her sexual satisfaction, whereas hardly anyone who’s comfortable with tulpas in general has a problem with her creating a tulpa as a friend to share her life with. In the middle, there’s a gray area where some people are comfortable and some aren’t.

Each of us could probably decide how we felt about each of the above reasons and divide them into three buckets, “almost certainly fine with the right mindset,” “maybe all right,” and “definitely wrong.” But we wouldn’t make these distinctions based on whether the reasons were selfish, because they’re all selfish. Indeed, I would challenge you to come up with a single legitimately altruistic reason for creating a tulpa. It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, because the tulpa doesn’t exist yet and so hardly seems to have moral value! What really determines which reason goes in which bucket is that some of the reasons, if carried through to the end unmodified, are unfair to the tulpa.

It’s certainly important to discourage people from creating tulpas for the wrong reasons. But I think there are better ways of describing which reasons are right. Greta and I suggest this succinct formulation:

Don’t create a tulpa for reasons you would be upset about being created for.

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