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Christian Hubicki and the Science of ‘Survivor’

Christian Hubicki and the Science of ‘Survivor’

Christian Hubicki and the Science of ‘Survivor’


John Powell – GlobalTV.com

When it comes to the game theory, John von Neumann and John Nash may be the most famous names in the field but robotics scientist Christian Hubicki may have a thing or two to add to their research based on his 39 day experiment called Survivor.

“I saw a ton of connections with science in the game. I mean, you only saw about 10 percent of the science analogies I made out there. There is one I based on the science of metallurgy. There is a concept called annealing which is sort of about breaking up structures within metals by heating up a metal. There are analogies in the game that are interesting and informative. Then, there is the literal science of algorithms to finding idols,” said Christian elaborating on the links between the Survivor game and science.

One of the opportunities that excited the Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Florida State University was being able to apply the scientific method to his Survivor: David vs. Goliath experience.

“Well there is psychology and also scientific methodology. So often you are trying to gather evidence about the vote. Where do people lie? You have to evaluate the quality of that evidence. That person told me they are voting this way. Is that good evidence or is it not? Is that corroborated by anything else they have done? This is the scientific methodology. It was pretty fun applying that to the game,” he said with more than a hint of excitement and wonder in his voice about his information gathering exercises,

I think that is a lesson for a lot of people. If you are genuine, passionate and honest about something you love, people will love it too.

While you can apply all manner of scientific principles to the game of Survivor, the experience is also about human bonds and emotions which are oftentimes unpredictable such as when Gabby Pascuzzi did the unexpected and turned on Christian.

John Powell: Some say Survivor is just a game but it isn’t when there are human beings and relationships involved. You cannot see the other players are just pawns. Having said that, what was your reaction to your closest ally turning on you?


Christian Hubicki: “So, you make a good point. These are all real people with real bonds. At the same time, I knew Gabby was coming for me at some point. She had to. I kept getting the credit for moves when did as a collaboration. I wasn’t trying to do that. People just kept giving me credit. I couldn’t avoid taking the credit if I tried. Eventually, she couldn’t sit with me. I knew she would target me. I just didn’t expect it at eight. I thought maybe she would at seven. In terms of my emotions on the matter, as soon as Davie [Rickenbacker] told me my first thought was…That makes sense. In a weird way, I was proud of her for taking control of her own game. I mean, I didn’t want it to work but I was proud of her.”

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John Powell: If Davie hadn’t warned you, would you have played your idol at that Tribal Council?

Christian Hubicki: “I have a counter intuitive answer for you which is…Yes; I would have played it even if Davie hadn’t told me about it because long after Davie told me, three other people individually told me. I was tipped off from multiple angles. I was like…either this is the most conspiratorial lie in history or I am being targeted. (Laughs) I was totally playing that idol at Tribal Council. Me, acting at Tribal Council like I was reading the room was an act for people in the game. I was covering for all the people who had tipped me off.”

John Powell: This season we have seen many players use the powers they have gained to save others instead of retaining those advantages for themselves. Did you find this odd when you were out there on the island or watching the show from home?

Christian Hubicki: “You wouldn’t think that would be the case but it is when you tie yourself strategically to a group like the Davids did. You would be thinking…If it is Christian who goes now; it is going to be me next. Davie played that idol for me and that was really great. He didn’t do that though out of the kindness of his heart. He did that because he would be picked off eventually by the Goliaths and they made it clear that they didn’t want to work with us yet. So, Davie playing his advantage that way was for his benefit as well.”


John Powell: Watching the episodes from home what has most surprised you the most?

Christian Hubicki: “I am most surprised by the fact that I can grow a beard. (Laughs) I didn’t know I could do that. Looking back, it was really interesting to see how long Mike [White] was going against me. It is fascinating because in the game I thought I had a pretty good relationship with him but he was biding his time for the right moment to take me out. It is pretty impressive. I was impressed by that.”


John Powell: Like you, I am a geek or nerd, whatever you want to call it. I grew up reading comics, playing Dungeons and Dragon as well as video games and I still do. There are certain stereotypes that come into play like expecting a nerd to be socially awkward, for example. How much did it mean to you to shatter that stereotype?

Christian Hubicki: “It was great for me from a greater standpoint to break that stereotype. I enjoyed that a lot. I kinda knew going into the game that people may be surprised that I am more emotionally attuned then they would expect. I didn’t realize though the degree to which that was true. I found that very flattering. I didn’t know I was that well regarded in the game as I was. I like to think I am a nice guy and empathize with people but I also talk about science all the time, data points and all that stuff. So, how well is that going to go down with the Mayor of Slamtown (John Hennigan)? It turns out that the Mayor of Slamtown was totally game for talking about the demographics of Slamtown. I think that is a lesson for a lot of people. If you are genuine, passionate and honest about something you love, people will love it too.”


John Powell: If you hadn’t been voted out what was your plan going forward?

Christian Hubicki: “My read would have been that if Alison [Raybould] had gone home you would have Davie and Nick [Wilson] still in the game. They don’t really trust each other. I would try to drive a wedge between them. I would also been a good idea to get rid of Angelina [Keeley] if I could marshal the votes for that because everyone wanted to keep Angelina around but I didn’t have any reason to do so myself. Getting her out would be a good way to free up a spot in the final three.”

John Powell: As a juror what criteria was crucial to you in picking a winner?

Next time on Survivor

Christian Hubicki: “While I always listen to emotion of someone who is describing their game but what I am determining as a juror is who played the best game and for me it is something very specific. Who made moves that maximized their likelihood of winning the game from their perspective and did they do that intentionally or were they Mr. Magoo where they just happened to get to the end? Whatever way they got to the end did they exercise some kind of control to shape the fact they would get to the end?”

John Powell: If you were asked to play again would you and what would you change about your strategy?

Christian Hubicki: “If I got that kind of call from CBS I certainly would take it very seriously. I enjoyed too much of my experience to dismiss that possibility. In terms of what I would do differently, I don’t know the answer to that question because my strengths and weakness in the game were just me being me in that I tried to be a person people would want to talk to and that was really helpful for some of the game and really harmful in others. I wouldn’t know what to change about that. That would have to be something I would give thought to.”

Watch the finale of Survivor: David Vs Goliath next Wednesday night on Global.

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