Back to creativity 1.0

Soramimi Hanarejima


The escape of domesticated doubts from an uncertainty breeding operation.

You leap up from the sofa, what’s left of your coffee nearly sloshing out of your mug. But even if coffee had fallen upon your living room rug, you would have scarcely noticed. Because this idea about runaway doubt is full of potential. You’re sure that C3S—the Computationally Collaborative Creativity System—will do wonders with your idea. After plunging into the imaginative aether of distributed, iterated intelligence, your initial idea will emerge full-fledged: a narrative complete with depth, nuance, even humor.

Jittery with glee and caffeine, you sweep your free hand before you to manifest the Cognisphere. The holographic interface illuminates to full instantiation around you. Navigating nimbly through the phantasmal infoscape of softly glowing images and symbols, you get to the C3S portal within seconds.

But when you attempt to access the algorithms that will propel your idea into a network of countless ai and hi agents, an advisory message tells you that the system is down for maintenance. No estimate is given for when service will be restored.

So you go to the kitchen and make a sandwich.

After you’ve enjoyed a press-grilled combination of avocado, Jarlsberg cheese and mayonnaise on thick slices of whole wheat bread, you try again, only to be met at the threshold of collective creativity by the same message as before.

This leaves you at the cusp of becoming resigned to waiting several hours—or even a whole day—for C3S to come back online, but you are pulled back from the brink of passivity by your desire to see your idea take shape.

You opt to develop it the old fashioned way—alone with low-tech or even analog tools. Why not? This will require only your time and mental energy, and there’s no danger of ruining the idea, no risk of compromising your Inspirateur status. Even if you make a misstep, you can always put the original idea into the C3S matrix of cloud-coordinated joint intentionality and get the optimal outcome.

At the little desk in your study, it takes you several minutes to rouse your long-dormant creative instincts, but soon they launch you into writing and diagramming as a means of rendering the essence of the idea. Thoughts gather on your notebook page.

The husbandry of doubt: With the right pedigree, doubts can be raised to be helpful—cooperative.

Different broods can each specialize in a particular kind of task.

Doubts focused on other people raise accountability. Doubts oriented towards new information improve skepticism. Doubts trained on… their breeders? their owners? they keep egos in check.

How are their pedigrees constructed?

What kind of facility is needed for doubt breeding?

Just who are these breeders?

The unfurling landscape of your idea is now becoming a maze. You see myriad directions awaiting you, each with its own net of branchings. You grow anxious about getting lost, about hitting dead ends, about running in circles. Used to following paths based on insights from peers and probabilistic recommendations from machine learning, you’ve atrophied your ability to navigate the terrain of creative potential. You languish in disorientation for a long 37 minutes, then consider your possible resources:

  1. Wait until C3S is operational again, and let it take things from here.

  2. “Make decisions” arbitrarily by selecting directions at random to try out different routes like the algorithms do, just more slowly.

  3. Ask Virea for guidance—if you can’t tap the wisdom of the ai & hi crowd, you can at least harness the power of a single hi with a reasonable track record of spot-on discernment.

The last option is clearly the best. So you call Virea. She answers by enabling only the audio stream, as per her preference to focus on the sonic details of conversation.

“Sure, I’d love to offer suggestions,” she says after you’ve explained your idea.

Her voice is quiet, like it lacks substance here without her physical presence, but these soft words delight you.

Then she says, “But to be true to your idea, you should first carry it at least a little further by yourself.”

And your delight is gone.

“How?” you blurt. “I told you that I’m at an impasse.”

“But not for lack of possibilities. You need to give some of those possibilities time and space to become clearer, so you’ll get to know the options you’re choosing among.”

“All right. So I should meditate or go for a hike?”

“You can do both of those simultaneously in a shrunken down way by going out for a walk.”

“Okay, I could do with a trip to the grocery store.”

“No! No errands. No Cognisphere info feeds. No mentally reviewing your to-do list. Just walk.”

“Okay. But if that doesn’t help, you’ll give me a hand, right?”

“Of course!”

So if nothing else, the walk will be the price of her assistance. That works for you.

“Great, I’ll let you know how it goes,” you tell her.

“Yes, do keep me posted, and enjoy your time outside.”

A few minutes later, you’re ambling about your neighborhood’s urban forest. The lush tree canopies alleviate the fatigue of seeing bare branches for months, a tiredness you are only aware of now through its mitigation; it’s like the subtle but persistent abrasion of wiry twigs scratching your vision all winter long is being soothed by the verdant salve provided generously by the springtime cityscape.

At the insistence of old memories, you embark on the familiar route to Observatory Hill. Abstracted from its surroundings by modest elevation, the gently rounded peak has always been a calming place for you. Its distance from the city’s streets and buildings accords them with an elegance otherwise imperceptible, like you’re looking at a model metropolis left behind by a precocious child in a luxuriant lawn.

As you ascend the wooded slope, you pass little houses nestled into it. Now and then, your gaze drifts up to the sensor packs dangling from some of tree branches to collect data for ecosystem optimization.

Soon, your attention turns from your surroundings back to your idea.

Lab-raised doubts gliding off into the night, fanning out to seek fresh pastures, new homes, a measure of unprecedented freedom—laying tenacious hold upon the mentality of the city to deeply transform the character of the metropolis.

But could a city even become infested by varieties of tamed doubts?

With their smaller stature and lesser ability to prey upon attention, could docile doubts even survive?

Is the premise flawed?

“The irony,” you murmur. “Doubting my idea about doubts.”

You afford yourself a moment to be humored by this, then continue on.

Doesn’t their survival depend on the purpose behind their pedigrees—depend on what traits they’ve been bred to have?

If they’ve been raised as a means of keeping cognitive ecosystems from being dominated by ego, is there then an outbreak of humility?

So the outcome of the escape is ultimately shaped by the roles the doubts were bred to fill.

Or could the escaped doubts turn feral and become as vicious as their ancestors?

Shouldn’t they be far too interdependent on human caregivers now?

What if I’m wrong about all this?

This last thought jostles you with concern but not panic. The question is quiet, not confrontational. Allowing for a sort of answer.

Instead of plaguing the minds they enter, these doubts enrich them with a gentle uncertainty.

You stop walking and look up at the cerulean sky, letting a sense of certainty wash through you. This is the direction you should take with not just the idea but also your own thoughts more generally.

Without the ability to preemptively crowdsource away these doubts, you now see them for what they are: instigators, provocateurs and collaborators of creativity—prodding curiosity, tuning faculties of observations, sparking inquiry.

Is this the sort of doubt the fictitious emotional husbandrists have unwittingly bred?


Soramimi Hanarejima is a writer of innovative fiction and the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said, "captures moonlight in Ziploc bags." Soramimi’s work can be found in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction, STORGY Magazine and The Esthetic Apostle.