The Quantum Loop Snake is an in-progress project.  It is being developed as an ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major) senior project at UCSD.  This project aims to explore the ability of a site-specific artwork to exist in a space that constantly moves, while the piece itself is also constantly rearranging. This human-powered animal lives on earth just as any other animal does.  It gets its energy from the sun and its direction and purpose are derived from an external source of consciousness (in this case, the collective human consciousness).  

The piece consists of five discrete blocks or chunks that are connected by electronically controlled latches.  An approaching viewer/participant is directed by the LEDs on the end block to disconnect the end piece and reconnect it to the front block.  Upon moving the block, a new end piece becomes the next movable piece, and the entire structure will begin to move one block at a time as the structure is disconnected and reconnected one piece at a time (see video below).  

Future versions of the snake will be released in different locations, and the snakes can join together to make one long snake if they find each other in the wild.


Theo Jansen’s Strandbeesten

Since 1990, Jansen has been creating strandbeesten (Dutch for “beach beasts”, singular strandbeest), which are moving kinetic structures, sometimes wind-propelled, that resemble walking animals, described by Jansen as artificial life. All of his models are based on a system of triangles and connecting links which convert the rotation of an axle into a stepping motion of six or more legs. This allows the strandbeests to travel over sand much more efficiently than if traveling on wheels. What was at first a rudimentary “breed” has evolved slowly, with the help of evolutionary computation techniques,[5] into a generation of kinetic sculptures that to some degree can react to their environment. Jansen has said

I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind. Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storms and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.[6]

Constructed from PVC piping, wood, fabric airfoils, and zip ties, Jansen’s sculptures are constantly being improved and are designed to function in the sandy beach environment in which Jansen releases them. The sculptures are also able to store air pressure in order to propel themselves in the absence of wind.[7] Once they have entered water, Jansen’s more sophisticated creations are able to detect that, and to move away from it. One model is capable of anchoring itself to the earth if an approaching storm is sensed.



hitchBOT was a Canadian “hitchhiking robot” created by David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University.[1] It gained international attention for successfully hitchhiking across CanadaGermany and the Netherlands, but in 2015 its attempt to hitchhike across the United States ended shortly after it began when the robot was vandalized and destroyed in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania.[2]

The robot had a cylindrical body composed mainly from a plastic bucket, with two flexible “arms” and two flexible “legs” attached to the torso. The top section of the cylindrical body was transparent, containing a screen which displayed eyes and a mouth, making the robot approximately humanoid in external appearance.[2]

The robot was able to carry on basic conversation and talk about facts, and was designed to be a robotic travelling companion while in the vehicle of the driver who picked it up. It had a GPS device and a 3G connection, which allowed researchers to track its location. It was equipped with a camera, which took photographs periodically to document its journeys. It was powered either by solar power or by cigarette lighter sockets in cars.[2]

The robot was not able to walk – it completed its “hitchhiking” journeys by “asking” to be carried by those who picked it up.

It was created as a social experiment. The robot’s “hitchhiking” was reported by the press in many countries.[2]

/r/place (Reddit)

Place was a collaborative project and social experiment hosted on the social networking site Reddit that began on April Fools’ Day 2017. The experiment involved an online canvas of one million (1000×1000) pixel squares, located at a subreddit called /r/place, which registered users could edit by changing the color of a single pixel from a 16-colour palette. After each pixel was placed, a timer prevented the user from placing any pixels for a period of time varying from 5 to 20 minutes.[1]

The experiment was ended by Reddit administrators around 72 hours after its creation, on 3 April 2017.[2] Over 1 million unique users edited the canvas, placing a total of approximately 16 million tiles, and, at the time the experiment was ended, had over 90,000 users viewing or editing it.[3] The Place subreddit was archived on 19 April 2017.

The experiment was based in a subreddit, called /r/place, in which the user would be greeted by a screen displaying a section of the canvas with posts showing below. Registered users could place a pixel (or “tile”) on an empty canvas, but had to wait before placing another.[3] The waiting time varied from 5 to 20 minutes throughout the experiment. The choice of color for a user’s pixel was between white, light gray, gray, black, pink, red, orange, brown, yellow, light green, green, aqua-blue, green-blue, blue, violet and purple.[4]

Loop Quantum Gravity, Reference Frames

“There are two classical branches of the universe connected by a quantum bridge. This connects the former collapse with the current expansion.” While Abhay Ashtekar and his colleagues, Tomasz Pawlowski and Parampreet Singh, may not have come with a completely new theory, what they have done is create a systematic way, through quantum equations, to look back in time to the birth of our current universe.

Ashtekar and his colleagues use Einstein’s quantum equations from Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG), an approach to the unification of general relativity and quantum physics. LQG does not presuppose the existence of a space-time continuum. Ashtekar and his fellow team members find that quite likely there is a classical universe, one that looks and behaves pretty much like our currently universe, on the other side of the Big Bang, which he describes as more of a Big Bounce. In these classical universes, spacetime is a continuum and Einstein’s theory of general relativity is mostly accurate. But between these two classical universes, Ashtekar says, is a point at which general relativity doesn’t apply. “We know that on the quantum level the theory of general relativity breaks down,” he explains, “and this quantum bridge, which lasts for such a small period of `time,’ connects the two branches of the universe.”

Read more at:

Reference frames such as the train and the platform are physical systems and ultimately follow quantum-mechanical rules. They can be, for example, in a quantum state of superposition of different positions at once. 
Physical systems are always described relative to a reference frame. For example, a ball bouncing on a railway platform can be observed either from the platform itself or from a passing train. A fundamental principle of physics, the principle of General Covariance, states that the laws of physics which describe the motion of the ball do not depend on the reference frame of the observer. This principle has been crucial in the description of motion since Galileo and central to the development of Einstein’s theory of relativity. It entails information about symmetries of the laws of physics as seen from different reference frames.

Read more at:

Concept & Research

 The ​Quantum Loop Snake Project is an in-progress project. It is being developed as an ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major) senior project at UCSD. This project aims to explore topics related to collective consciousness and social responsibility, distributed computing and artificial intelligence, cosmological theory, and synthetic biology. This human collective consciousness-powered animal is intended to be released into society and live among all other beings on earth. This is a site-specific work existing within the physical site of the Earth and also within the interactions between individuals, the work, and society. It receives its energy for internal function from the sun and its purpose and kinetic energy are derived directly from voluntary human interaction (in this case, the collective human consciousness).

The piece consists of five discrete blocks or chunks that are connected by a cable. An approaching viewer/participant is directed by the lit up text on the end block to disconnect the end piece and reconnect it to the front block. Upon moving the block, a new end piece becomes the next lit up and movable piece and the entire structure will begin to move one block at a time as the structure is disconnected and reconnected one piece at a time.
A screen on the side of the snake reads the current set destination of the snake and participants must choose between helping the snake reach its destination or they can choose a new destination for the snake if they connect to the piece via bluetooth on-site. Each time the piece is reconnected to the beginning, the entire snake lights up. Participants can also change the light pattern through connection on-site.


The main aesthetics of the work are based off of the function and interaction necessities.  Fitting within the aesthetic of the Maker Movement, the primary objective of the aesthetic of the piece is based not in form, but rather in function.1 Because of the public interaction of this work, a primary necessity of the work is durability from both the climate and from human manipulation.  The form of the work is also based primarily in function, with the intended outcome meant to provoke the conceptual ideals being explored in the work.  

Symbolism also plays a large role in developing the forms.  The entire structure is intended to symbolize a looping snake in reference to the ouroboros symbol. One of the earliest notations of this symbol, which is a snake eating its own tail, was seen in ancient Egyptian times.2  One of the most prominent Egyptologists, Jan Assmann, explains that the ancient Egyptians used this symbol to reference “the mystery of cyclical time, which flows back into itself.”  She furthers that the ouroboros “symbolised repetition, renewal, and the eternal cycle of time.”3 The ouroboros is seen next within the context of the Greek alchemists, where it is held as one of its oldest symbols.  A Greek alchemist papyrus from the 3rd-Century AD depicts the ouroboros, with the words ‘One is All’ written in Greek in the center of the image. The remainder of the text, ‘One is All, and by it All, and for it All and if it does not contain All, then All is Nothing’ is also written on the papyrus.4  The ouroboros in this context represented the concept of eternity and endless return, as well as the unity of time’s beginning and end.

Discrete blocks were chosen to symbolically hint at children’s play blocks and to represent the insulated self as part of the whole of society. One kindergarten teacher explains that he uses blocks in his classroom because they encourage social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills. They also encourage problem-solving, symbolic thinking, math concepts, spatial skills, logical, mathematical skills, planning, construction, and social dramatic play opportunities.5  This association with children’s blocks is intended to subconsciously bring participants into a beneficial mind-frame for fully engaging both physically and conceptually with the work.

Sarah May & Edward P. Clapp (2017) Considering the Role of the Arts and Aesthetics Within Maker-Centered Learning, Studies in Art Education, 58:4, 335-350, DOI: 10.1080/00393541.2017.1368287
Bekhrad, Joobin. “Culture – The Ancient Symbol That Spanned Millennia.” BBC. December 04, 2017.
Joobin. “Culture”
Joobin. “Culture”
5 A Place of Our Own: The Importance of Blocks.

A major inspiration for this work is Theo Jansen’s Strandbeesten.  Jansen describes these kinetic structures as artificial life. The sculptures are released onto the beach and have complete anonymity.  They are able to react to the surrounding environment and are usually powered with wind.6  These animals bring to question what makes something alive. Alva Noë, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley often writes and teaches about perception, consciousness and art. He analyses Jansen’s notions of creating new life by denying that life as a concept even exists.  He explains that, “If life isn’t real—if life is just a sort of beautiful complexity—then the distance between artifacts like the Strandbeest and things we normally consider living is removed. With this distance removed, we are free to see the Strandbeest as “alive.”7  Though the Strandbeesten are made to be completely autonomous, requiring no outside intervention, the Quantum Loop Snake requires outside intervention in order to give it purpose and motion.  The snake can sustain itself in its internal functions relying only on renewable sun energy to power its electrical components.  The snake could exist fully functional in this state, completely stationary with no set destination, sourcing all energy needed from the sun.  For the snake to have a directive and motion, it must receive this energy from an external source, in this case, human minds. Combining the body of the snake with the mind of a human parallels a similar notion of the possibility that humans are also a body with an external source dictating our actions and directives.  By dissolving the individualism present in Jansen’s Strandbeesten, Quantum Loop Snake begins to explore the possibility of a collective consciousness permeating through all.  The ‘beautiful complexity’ Alva Noë describes correlates to the idea of a collective unconscious present in all, bringing everything to “life” in an intrinsically connected and complex web.  

6“Strandbeest.” n.d. Strandbeest.
7 Noë, Alva. 2016. “Imagining Life Through Art.” NPR. NPR. September 2.

Participants can only move the entire sculpture by individually carrying one piece at a time.  The entire snake only moves when many individuals participate in secular actions. In our society, we each make large amounts of decisions pertaining to our own individual journey, yet often the consideration of societal implications are ignored.  Finding the balance between making decisions based on personal desires versus making a decision that will benefit the entire group as a whole is a dilemma often faced in human decision-making. Within the context of the Quantum Loop Snake, the individual participant has two main choices to make in regards to how they will interact with the work.  The participants must decide if they would like to help the snake reach its current set destination, or if they would like to set a new destination entirely.  They must also decide how to angle the front block so that it can avoid (or target) obstacles in its path. Similar interactive principles can also be seen in the /r/place project that took place for 72 hours on the website Reddit on April 1st, 2017.8  Individuals were allowed to change one pixel at a time every five to twenty minutes on the 1 million pixel display.  This social experiment was wildly popular, drawing over a million unique participants. The participants were met with the text,

There is an empty canvas.

You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another.

Individually you can create something.

Together you can create something more.9

Just like in the Quantum Loop Snake, participants had to choose whether they wanted to join groups of people attempting to accomplish a certain goal, or if they wanted to diverge from a group’s collective consensus and make an entirely new goal.  The results of /r/place experiment were an excellent example of this dilemma individuals must face when faced with individual desires and collective consensus. Dissenting opinion about what choice should be made occurs when “each member of a population faces the same choice problem and wants to optimize the same objective function, which depends on an unknown state of nature.  If agents knew the state of nature, they would make the same decision. However, they may have different beliefs about the state or may cope with their incomplete information by using different criteria to make decisions. Hence, acting independently, they may choose different actions even though they share the same objective.”10  As this goal is undefined, it creates a sense of uncertainty resulting in these differing opinion about the best course of action to get to the goal.  To avoid this goal uncertainty, teams began to form their own subreddits to meet and discuss the image they wanted to create on the /r/place project. Explicit designs were developed and communicated to these formed groups in order to work towards a specified common design.  Should these groups have formed having just the same objective, say to create a star, the ultimate goal may have been the same, yet individuals may have competed against each with different ideas about how to accomplish the same task. One of the main questions asked within the context of the Quantum Loop Snake is the social experiment regarding how the participants will work with or against each other.  Like in the /r/place experiment, the choice to help on a common goal versus act individualistically becomes the dichotomy faced within each individual participant.  Much like society today, though common goals are often shared amongst society, our differing life experiences cause dissenting opinions about how those goals should be obtained.  

Machkovech, Sam. 2017. “Did Reddit’s April Fool’s Gag Solve the Issue of Online Hate Speech?” Ars Technica. April 4.

9 Machkovech 2017

10 Manski, Charles F. WHEN CONSENSUS CHOICE DOMINATES INDIVIDUALISM: Jensen’s Inequality and Collective Decisions under Uncertainty NBER Working Paper No. 15172 July 2009 JEL No. D7,D81,H42 (p. 1)

The individual participant must not only decide which directive they would like to persue in the overall direction of the snake, but once the destination is decided upon, they must then determine the best way to persue this destination.  HitchBOT was a project developed as a social experiment in Canada by David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller. The “hitchhiking robot” was not able to walk on its own, but instead relied upon random strangers to pick it up and help it get to its preset destination.  The individuals who participated in this experiment were only told the intended destination, and were then able to make their own individual decision about how to best help this robot reach its desired location.11  In the robot’s case, the path from point A to point B was not predetermined, and the individuals were developing the robot’s route to the destination.  Thought the robot had no navigation system on board telling it the exact path to get to the destination, it was still able to reach set destination points by outsourcing small parts of the computational problem to the individual participants.  Prof. Vijay Kumar of the University of Pennsylvania explains that,

the central challenge in multi-robot systems lies in the synthesis of collective behaviors which enable group performance that exceeds the ability of individuals… At a fundamental level, coordination is beneficial when individuals are confronted with a task that they can complete but can do so more efficiently as a group. Cooperation refers to the ability of robots to accomplish tasks they could not have completed on their own. Collaboration is useful for groups with different types of robots with diverse capabilities and tasks which cannot be completed with a single type of robot. This talk will discuss biological inspiration for these paradigms, mathematical frameworks, and resilience in collective behaviors with applications to ground and aerial robots.12  

The hitchBot utilized the collaboration of individuals in order to solve this navigational task of moving from one city to another. The robot collaborated with the human population as a whole in order to meet its objective. In the case of The Quantum Loop Snake, not only will the snake be collaborating with the human population in order to solve its own complex navigational task, but one additional level of collaboration will be introduced.  Participants will also be in collaboration with the snake in terms of setting a directive in the first place. By collaborating with the general human consensus, the snake will be able to utilize the diverse experiences and abilities of the individuals in society in order to determine the best possible directive for the snake.  By exploring what the ultimate general consensus of society would be for the snake, the project hopes to explore the procedure of defining general consensuses of the human population. Charles F. Manski proves this concept mathematically in terms of economics and defines that, “in every state of nature, a majority of agents receive at least as high a payoff with consensus choice of action as they would with individualistic decision making.”13  The possibility of increasing payoff in an economic sense has been proven to be equal or higher for decisions made when collective consensus in known.  If the collective consensus is known for the whole of society, then it can move forward and receive the higher payoffs for these choices if choices are made with this consensus in mind.  In order to accomplish this, the actual collective consensus must be determined first. This process of making desired directives for the snake known and public, this project hopes to explore a speculative method of uncovering a vital piece of information needed in order to align the population toward its common goal and to examine the possibilities of what such a goal could potentially entail.

11 Victor, Daniel. “Hitchhiking Robot, Safe in Several Countries, Meets Its End in Philadelphia.” The New York Times. December 21, 2017. Accessed March 18, 2019.

12 Vijay Kumar “Coordination, Cooperation, and Collaboration in Multi-Robot Systems” Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems Springer Proceedings in Advanced Robotics ISBN 978-3-319-73006-6 ISBN 978-3-319-73008-0 (eBook)

13 Manski, Charles F. WHEN CONSENSUS CHOICE DOMINATES INDIVIDUALISM: Jensen’s Inequality and Collective Decisions under Uncertainty NBER Working Paper No. 15172 July 2009 JEL No. D7,D81,H42 (p. 1)


The separate block pieces of the snake also represent the self and the current disposition in society to think of oneself as a separate entity rather than part of a larger collective. These seemingly separate yet intrinsically connected blocks mirror the concept of individualism versus individuation.  C.G. Jung, a Swiss psychologist explains the process of an individual becoming part of the collective consciousness in his book The Relations between Ego and the Unconscious.  He explains that, “ individuation is the process of becoming the self, which leads to the

“realization of the collective purpose of a human being.”

“The ego creates the mirage of being an individual and strives to sustain that awareness. Our persona consists of our ego and conditionings and develops false identifications in life such as names, positions, and titles.  This persona tries to overlay the collective unconscious which affects the individual unconscious through the variety of artificial options it offers… the persona lures us into the perception that something such as the individual has its own existence, while the process of individuation leads to the greater experience of the true self which mirrors the collective unconscious. After becoming the self, the awareness expands into the collective consciousness.”14

Each separate block represents the persona taken on by all individuals.  Because these blocks are all connected together as part of a larger whole, it emphasises the dual perception of existing as this persona while also simultaneously existing in the collective unconscious.  The dissipation of the individual unconscious through the decision to participate in the collective consensus is meant to provide a tangible experience in this paradigm shift for the individual. Seeing that the snake has a larger purpose or direction than is present when only moving one block at a time gives the participant a micro and macro view into both the individualistic perception of self and the beginning steps in the process of individuation of self.  This process of individuation is the start of bringing more individuals into the awareness of the collective consciousness.

14  Jung, C.G., Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten. Munich: DTV, 2001. (p. 59)

Choosing to present these concepts in a participatory and interactive experience was to promote the most optimal and effective way for participants to truly understand the concepts on a deep level.  Experiential learning theory defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.”15  By participating in this work individuals will experience for themselves the benefits and drawbacks of the process of moving towards collective consciousness and ultimately System Flourishing as described by the Center for Evolutionary Learning (CEL), a global network of business professionals and researchers. CEL helps organizations evolve towards higher models of performance, sustainability and social responsibility.  The organization describes the five learning steps in the field of collective consciousness as beginning with individual flourishing:

“Individual flourishing begins with the first two levels: Know Thyself and Master Thyself. The third level of Collective Consciousness is where the effects on the individual start reaching out and blending into other individuals, and the bridge to collective flourishing is built. In Levels 4 and 5 the individual development is increasingly put into the service of the organization and then the system (other organizations and stakeholders, the environment, the world). Level 4 focuses on the flourishing of the organization itself; however, Level 5 breaks those boundaries as it reflects the identification with the good of the “whole” (i.e., the system).

There is nothing better than your own experience when you perceive these subtle and yet deep, fundamental changes.16


15 Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. (p. 41)

16Guillén, Manuel. “Creating Better Human Motivation Theories for Personal Flourishing in Organizations.” Personal Flourishing in Organizations, 2017, 49-65. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-57702-9_4.(p. 25-26)

Initial Concept Designs

Iteration 1

Iteration 2

Iteration 3

Iteration 4

Technical Needs

Prototype Phase A

Solar panels

Solar Panel Controllers

Batteries (Lead Acid)

Reed Switches

LED Strips of 10 (individual RGB WS2812b)

Arduino Controllers



Cable connector

Prototype Phase B

GPS Radio Transmission Setup

Bluetooth connection

Website for Tracking Location and Data

Prototype Phase A Schematic



Evolution of the Snake

Early Testing

First Tests of LEDs

Testing Leds with Arduino

Testing Led Strip with Arduino

Testing Solar Install on Prototype

  • Beginning Snake Sketches

  • First Box Design

  • Early Circuit Design

  • Next Box Design

  • Box revamp

  • making box front template

  • boxes built

  • boxes painted

  • boxes paint detail

  • All Box Frames Built

  • circuit diagram

  • circuit built

  • circuit secured

    entire board is removable for testing and manufacturing duplicates purposes.  All soldering can be done outside the box.

GPS Send and Receive Test

Fun Loading Screen

First LED Test

Copyright © 2019  ERICA ESSERMAN creative™. All rights reserved.