Why the Rubik's Cube Explains the Modern Economy

Why Rubik's Cube Explains the Modern Economy

Phil Yu on speedcubing and battling with Rubik’s

Rubik’s Cube, brainchild of the Hungarian architect ErnÅ‘ Rubik, burst onto the toy scene in the late 1970’s. The puzzle — easy to pick up but hard to master — has since according to some measures become the world’s best-selling toy. True, it experienced a wane in the astonishing popularity it enjoyed in the decade after its debut, but since then a subculture of dedicated players has arisen. They have been responsible for the growth of Rubik’s solving into a competitive sport — speedcubing. For this week’s podcast, we spoke with Phil Yu. Yu is one of the leading speedcubers in the world — holding record-breaking times in one-handed solving — and the founder and operator of The Cubicle, a business dedicated to serving the needs of speedcubers worldwide through specialized products and video tutorials.

The story of his small company — a popular insurgent serving a well-established need in a market dominated by a single player — is the story of American innovation writ small. We talked with Phil about why the cube has been such a smash and what you can do to become a champion solver yourself (with a detour into his company’s fight with Rubik’s).