Curiosity is a free app for download in the App Store and Google Play. Directed by Peter Molyneux and created by the team at 22Cans, Curiosity will make you plenty curious. This game/ experiment, has a prize at the end but no one except Peter Molyneux knows what it is. Not even Apple or Google the distributors of the app. What the winner decides to do with the prize is up to them. They can share it, or keep it a secret. So how do you get the prize? In this experiment, which is one of 22 being planned by the company, the object is to tap blocks on the current active layer to reveal the layer beneath Once that layer is gone and only when it’s gone with the next layer be activated. The more blocks you tap, the more in game money you make, allowing you to buy tools that can get rid of more blocks per tap. Here is where I think this experiment gets the most interesting and can relate to computational design.
First of all, there are a lot of people tapping away at this cube, and each person will make their own decisions on where, how fast, and when to tap each block. As more blocks are taken away and new layers revealed, the cube gets smaller, which is a direct effect of the the choices being made by each person. For the majority of this post, I’m going to describe the intensive and extensive properties that influence the outcome of this experiment.
First looking at the process intensively. The outcome of this cube, such as when it will be completely destroyed, how fast, and the different patterns that different layers will create as it’s being chipped at, are only dependent on the environment. In the picture above on the left, the cube is shown as floating in a space. Now imagine all around the cube are thousands of people (influencers) that are tapping away at the cube constantly. This is the environment in which the cube lives in. All of the factors like, how many people, what tools they use, whether they tap for speed or accuracy are all determining the cubes fate and the patterns being made. I mention the patterns being made while everyone is chipping away because this is actually the easiest computation to see in the process of this experiment. If you think of the users collectively as a computer making decisions over and over again, it makes a lot of sense. Each person has rules in their head and for the most part, the rules are all the same. The difference between one persons rules and another person is where on the cube they decide to tap. As these decisions permeate, they create a design that is emergent. Meaning no one person, or decision could produce the design created, because that one person is not making the decisions needed to make that design. But collectively we get a design that is a direct effect of the environment it is working in.
The second part to this experiment is the extensive properties of the cube. The more accurately you tap the blocks away, the higher multiplier you receive for each tap. Suddenly tapping one block grants you 5 points instead of 2. Then 7 points instead of 5. Soon you are getting points much faster though you are tapping much slower, and have the ability to buy tools that will allow you to remove more bricks per tap. As this happens the speed at which the blocks are broken increases, thus reducing the amount of decisions being made yet reducing the entire cube at a faster rate. With each layer you go down towards the center of the cube, the less blocks there are per layer. The more accurately you tap the blocks the slower the progression but the faster you will eliminate them later in the experiment. I say this because in order to tap accurately, meaning you only tap the cube where the current active layer exists, takes more time to tap each block. Being careful not to tap the layer showing through the blank spots (red in the photo) will grant a higher multiplier but doesn’t allow you to just tap wildly as you would if you didn’t worry about accuracy. Because, just tapping away anywhere on the cube is a perfectly fine thing to do. You will tap more blocks overall than if you shoot for accuracy, they just won’t be worth as many points which are required to buy more efficient tools.
Here is where the decisions of many determine the outcome of the block. Do the users, as a collective group use the slow and steady technique, that builds speed as time goes on? Or just tap away as fast as we can and risk not using the multiplier technique thus actually requiring more time to eliminate the blocks in the long run. The important thing to remember is that is is an experiment. I’m sure the makers of Curiosity have computed the fastest means of eliminating all of the blocks. But the one aspect they can’t predict are the decisions being made by each individual. It raises one of the biggest questions in computational design. How do you predict/ design something you cannot think of? Meaning the programmers have an idea of logistically the fastest way to eliminate this cube layer by layer. But how can they really know the best way when millions if not billions of decisions are being made by not a computer driven by math but a human mind.