Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

AI solves Rubik’s cube. And..?

The news broke out about how a group of researchers from the University of California was able to devise an algorithm allowing an AI to solve Rubik’s cube. And?

I understand the point of this research. It allows us to find the solution for problems with multiple combinations and solving the Rubik’s cube is nothing but a case study. However, aren’t we missing the point of Rubik’s cube in the first place?

When Erno Rubik invented his cube 45 years ago (yes, that long), he called it the Magic Cube. The purpose was to have a working model explaining three-dimensional geometry. The cube had 43,000,000,000,000,000,000 of possible arrangements and he couldn’t solve it at first. Eventually, he did, but as a toy, since he was Hungarian, the Magic Cube didn’t come out until 1979 (I was 3-years old by the way). From that Toy Fair in Nuremberg, it became one of the most successful toys in the world. Why?

It’s fun! Plain and simple.

And solving it in front of others who can’t, seems magical.

An Artificial Intelligence is able to solve it, and Lego’s robot solves it in 3.25 seconds, but who’s having fun? No one. You’re amazed by the speed, but you are not the one solving it. It’s something else and you are just an observer.

It doesn’t matter how fast you can solve it. For those who know (like I do), it’s identifying patterns and perform sequences, which you memorize through deliberate practice. But nothing compares to the fun of solving it and reaching the final organized result, no matter how long it takes.

The Magic Cube is not about being smart or intelligent but challenges your capacity to patiently have fun.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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