Abstract: The Rubik's cube sits at the intersection of cognitive puzzle, skill learning, cultural transmission, and group theory. Studying competitive cube communities I find universal collective learning of the Rubik's cube with constant rates of improvement for over a decade of competition. The evidence suggests that progress is driven largely by episodic improvements in reducing solution paths. Blindfold solves are in a different problem class than sighted solves and dominated by skill improvements overcoming short-term memory bottlenecks. Competitive cubers cluster into sighted and blindfolded expert communities with connections established through learning sweet spots. Sophisticated puzzles like the cube reveal the complex nature of cognition that seamlessly integrates absolute task difficulty, collective problem solving, and individual skill acquisition.
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David Krakauer, Santa Fe Institute