What is human?
It feels like a very simple question to answer. Eyes, hands, feet, brain, butt. Conscious and subconscious thought. Homo sapien.
We think, we feel, we differentiate right from wrong and can justify our actions accordingly. We make song and dance, war, love and spaghetti.
Human. What a concept.
My mind has been rattled lately with abstract, primarily due to what’s frequently referred to as the Tulpae Phenomenon. It’s engendered in me a series of interesting thoughts pertaining to the nature of life. The idea brings to mind words written by Warren Ellis, author of (many amazing things, but particularly) the comic Transmetropolitan
, in which things are quite a bit more profound than one might envision when they think of comics.
“…He woke up one day with the question: would intelligent robots be like people? Or would they be
people? …Well, he got to thinking: if a guy has a prosthetic leg, is he still human? Sure. It still does the same job, does what you tell it to. So how about if he had two artificial legs? Artificial arms? A plastic heart? Carbon-fiber bones? Artificial neurons? Where do you stop being human?
“[He] figured you just didn’t,
then made the next leap: you could put a human mind into an entirely artificial body – and that person would still
be a person… This is postbiological man we’re talking about here.”
is set in a distant future that shows astounding development not only in science, but in human thought. There are people that are entirely artificial, and are still considered people not because of what they are, but who. In that series there are people who are made up of sentient clouds of nanomachines. They live, they joke, they love, they make spaghetti. The reader doesn’t have a single doubt that they exist as people – human – and there is no differentiation between them and people with a fleshy, gooey existence.
The concept of tulpae reinforces the question in a way that is, honestly, much more real. The translation into English of tulpa is thoughtform, but it doesn’t feel fair or true to describe a tulpa as anything other than human. Consider that tulpae think and feel in very much the same, if not precisely the same way that you or I do. Surely, we consider ourselves human – so then how can we differentiate ourselves from tulpae by saying they aren’t? The biggest difference would be the physical one, but anyone with a tulpa can tell you that the lack of something in the immediate world doesn’t make one’s existence feel any less real.
I feel it is also foolish to think that this is a new mode of thought. According to what few records we’ve been able to find, the concept of tulpae has existed for quite some time, but seems to have remained somewhat buried in the annals of spirituality and philosophy. Not that this is a bad thing, or wrong to think that it may be divine in nature, but my personal belief is that even divinity can be comprehended via scientific and psychological means. In this sense I can’t say that I speak for the community, and I don’t pretend to do so by saying that. Perhaps it is only now becoming a widespread ideal, and perhaps it is because the Internet can relay ideals so quickly worldwide. But who are we to say we know at this very moment? I think we can agree that the concept has outlived us all, in the shadows.
The creation of a tulpa is a very personal process. The process is tailored by and for the individual who goes through it, despite the fact that ultimately the desired result is the same. It’s this personalized quality of tulpae, I believe, that makes it as appealing to us as it is. Sure, there’s the appeal of the secondhand eidetic memory, and the many other things documented in research on Tulpa.info forums. But if that were all that mattered, we’d all be lurking on Servitor.info instead.
One of the things that make us human is that in some shape or form we seek human interaction, and tulpa gives us that in a way that is incomparable to anything else we can experience right now. Tulpae give us the ability to experience a uniquely intimate bond with humanity. It is truly a beautiful thing.
The concept as a whole sometimes feels so overwhelming to me that I really don’t know what to think. But we are on the road to understanding the mind, and perhaps life itself, on an entirely different level.
It’s rather exciting, isn’t it?