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Genetics / Natural Talent vs Hard Work / Practice

cmhardw

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I haven't read every post, but I have been following this thread with interest. I would say that I tend to be on the same side as Dene for a lot of the discussion I have read. I think genetics plays a large role, practice can overcome this, but only to a point.

I have an analogy that I've been working on that is how I think of these things. This has no basis in science, and is simply based on observations from my experience. This relates to matters of intelligence and not to things like sports or physical skill.

I think there is a difference between knowledge and intelligence. I define knowledge as what you know, and intelligence as "the relative ease with which you can learn new things." Picture a water tower with a capacity of 1000 liters. The capacity of this tower is like your capacity for knowledge. For most everyone, the capacity for knowledge is enormous. Now picture that there is an opening at the top of this tower where you pour in the water. The size of this opening is your intelligence. A large opening allows you to pour in water quickly. A small opening means you have to pour in water more slowly.

An expert at something is someone who has a water tower that is very full of water (knowledge). The person's intelligence determines how long it took them to fill the tower, but even someone with low intelligence, given enough time and dedication, can gain a tremendous level of knowledge.

However, I do believe that as intelligence increases, so too does the capacity for knowledge. Back to cubing. I think nearly anyone can gain a very high level of knowledge no matter your intelligence, but only up to a point. Those with higher intelligence can learn more easily, and at the very highest levels will also have a slightly higher capacity for knowledge.

I feel like I personally have a large knowledge about cubing, but probably an average or less than average intelligence for it. I've always been very slow to break personal cubing barriers compared to the average, but as long as I stay dedicated and practice a lot I do eventually get there. I don't think I have the capacity for knowledge to get to Feliks level, but I think even I could get sub-10 on average with a tremendous level of effort and dedication. I could be wrong in that prediction, but I think it is not unreasonable.
 
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I don't think anyone is saying practice isn't important, all we're saying is that it's not enough.

I think there is a difference between knowledge and intelligence. I define knowledge as what you know, and intelligence as "the relative ease with which you can learn new things."
I've always thought of knowledge and intelligence as completely different things too, the only distinction is that I'd define intelligence as something like "the ease to use the knowledge that you have to achieve goals".
 
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I haven't read every post, but I have been following this thread with interest. I would say that I tend to be on the same side as Dene for a lot of the discussion I have read. I think genetics plays a large role, practice can overcome this, but only to a point.

I have an analogy that I've been working on that is how I think of these things. This has no basis in science, and is simply based on observations from my experience. This relates to matters of intelligence and not to things like sports or physical skill.

I think there is a difference between knowledge and intelligence. I define knowledge as what you know, and intelligence as "the relative ease with which you can learn new things." Picture a water tower with a capacity of 1000 liters. The capacity of this tower is like your capacity for knowledge. For most everyone, the capacity for knowledge is enormous. Now picture that there is an opening at the top of this tower where you pour in the water. The size of this opening is your intelligence. A large opening allows you to pour in water quickly. A small opening means you have to pour in water more slowly.

An expert at something is someone who has a water tower that is very full of water (knowledge). The person's intelligence determines how long it took them to fill the tower, but even someone with low intelligence, given enough time and dedication, can gain a tremendous level of knowledge.

However, I do believe that as intelligence increases, so too does the capacity for knowledge. Back to cubing. I think nearly anyone can gain a very high level of knowledge no matter your intelligence, but only up to a point. Those with higher intelligence can learn more easily, and at the very highest levels will also have a slightly higher capacity for knowledge.

I feel like I personally have a large knowledge about cubing, but probably an average or less than average intelligence for it. I've always been very slow to break personal cubing barriers compared to the average, but as long as I stay dedicated and practice a lot I do eventually get there. I don't think I have the capacity for knowledge to get to Feliks level, but I think even I could get sub-10 on average with a tremendous level of effort and dedication. I could be wrong in that prediction, but I think it is not unreasonable.
+1

Very well said :tu
 
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In discussing the influence of static genetic advantages in speed-solving, I don't think it is correct to reference athletics. The malleability of the human body toward performing a physical skill is different from the malleability of the human brain toward an intellectual goal.

Physical traits that cannot be improved with training cannot instead be overcome with a change in thought. However, intellectual goals can often be achieved through a change in approach or perspective.

Less abstractly, I mean that physical skills cannot be substituted. If you have below average leg length but above average arm length, running upside-down on your hands will not make you an above average runner.

Unlike physical training, the conceptual nature of intellectual goals allows variety in approach. Intellectual skills can be used in place of one another if necessary. A person with a below average ability to remember numbers may find it difficult to remember phone numbers. However, if that person has an above average ability to remember visual patterns, they may become above average at remembering phone numbers by focusing on the path made on the number pad when dialing. Even a simple analogy may turn a student's confusion into immediate understanding.

With the water tower analogy, there would have to be many holes available to pour water in. Each hole would represent a different intellectual ability, and vary in size from one person to another. If a person is unsatisfied with their fill rate, they may need search for a larger hole.

To be clear, I am only arguing the side point stated in the first sentence. I would agree if one pointed out that speed-solving still has a reliance on genetic physical traits for hand movement, I just don't believe that using the names of world class athletes is reasonable when discussing a skill that is mainly a matter of mental improvement.
 
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...I just don't believe that using the names of world class athletes is reasonable when discussing a skill that is mainly a matter of mental improvement.
I think you're downplaying the physical aspect of cubing. For CFOP, for instance, the last layer of the cube takes a big chunk of your solve time at medium and high levels, and it is mostly physical.
 
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I think you're downplaying the physical aspect of cubing. For CFOP, for instance, the last layer of the cube takes a big chunk of your solve time at medium and high levels, and it is mostly physical.
In my closing I stated that I would agree with speed-solving still having some reliance on physical prowess.

You're right, it is mostly physical, but not nearly to the same level as athletics. The genetic reliance is almost completely on very specific non-interchangeable physical traits for athletics. With such a significant amount of the genetic reliance of speed-solving being on a malleable brain and interchangeable approaches, I don't think there is enough of a parallel to athletics to make reasonable reference to it in this kind of discussion.
 

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I don't think we will see anyone born with a special ability for cubing until an autistic savant comes along with cube visualization and/or alg learning skills that are far beyond reach for other cubers.
Learning algs has very little to do with speedcubing. It's processing the state of the cube, and finger speed. Feliks clearly has these abilities better than most. In saying that, he isn't unique and there appear to be others that could quite possibly match him (and there's no reason to believe there won't be anyone better in the future).

Well, actually, no. Bar maybe 2 or 3 people everyone agreed from the start that genetics/natural talent plays an important role.

That only real argument is everyone trying to show you that you are really downplaying/ignoring the fact that practise/breaks or lack thereof definitely also play a role almost as significant, if not just as or perhaps even more significant than whatever natural talent an individual possesses.
There were quite a few people, and it was the disagreement with my first statement that blew out this whole discussion, so obviously the disagreement existed to a reasonable extent.

Also, I suggest you go back and read this entire thread again, as I never downplayed the role of practise. Perhaps if you re-read it for what it is, and without making baseless assumptions about my point of view, you'll realise you're not disagreeing with me at all. Let me directly quote a line from my first post in this discussion just in case you can't be bothered (italics added just to emphasise how much emphasis I clearly place on practise):

... combined with a lot of practise, made him by far better than anyone else. To match him would take the combination of natural ability with an enormous amount of practise.
In discussing the influence of static genetic advantages in speed-solving, I don't think it is correct to reference athletics. The malleability of the human body toward performing a physical skill is different from the malleability of the human brain toward an intellectual goal.

...

To be clear, I am only arguing the side point stated in the first sentence. I would agree if one pointed out that speed-solving still has a reliance on genetic physical traits for hand movement, I just don't believe that using the names of world class athletes is reasonable when discussing a skill that is mainly a matter of mental improvement.
I disagree with you almost entirely, because I believe speedcubing is almost entirely physical, and the intellectual aspect has very little to do with it. After all, a key term in speedcubing is muscle memory. I highly doubt Feliks spends too much time thinking about his next move, but rather just doing.

I think genetics plays a large role, practice can overcome this, but only to a point.
In essence I pretty much agree entirely with what you've said here. The anology could do with more detail, but we'd be here forever trying to work out the definition of "intelligence" :p

But this part I've quoted has wording that is a bit strong (i.e. "large role") so I have to clarify my own stance. I suspect you will agree with me on this. In my opinion, genetics play a role in only two ways:
  1. The speed at which improvement progresses
  2. The capabilities of speed at one's physical limits
 
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cmhardw

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In essence I pretty much agree entirely with what you've said here. The anology could do with more detail, but we'd be here forever trying to work out the definition of "intelligence" :p

But this part I've quoted has wording that is a bit strong (i.e. "large role") so I have to clarify my own stance. I suspect you will agree with me on this. In my opinion, genetics play a role in only two ways:
  1. The speed at which improvement progresses
  2. The capabilities of speed at one's physical limits
I do agree with your two points about how genetics influences cubing. That is very well put.
 

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I left for New Years and come back a few days later to have an overwhelming amount to read and reply to. Having conversations like this is better for a podcast style or something because typing takes ages, and if everyone chimes in, it gets overwhelming to keep up with.

As mentioned above, I believe it has a lot to do with processing speed. This generally involves taking in simple information, the brain processing the response, then sending out the necessary signals to act on it. It isn't perfectly comparable, but if everyone on here took this reaction time test, they'd get different results. I just did it quickly and got ~260ms reaction time, which seems to be a bit slower than average. This would initially suggest that no matter how hard I tried I would always be a bit slower than the average person as far as reaction time is concerned.

Cubing is obviously different to pure reaction time because you have control over where things are moving etc. etc. but that's not the point. What matters here is the speed at which the brain is able to process information, and get signals back to your fingers. Not everyone in the world is going to be identically capable at this. For some people, their brain will just process the information quicker. For others, the signals that get sent to the fingers will travel faster. There's absolutely nothing anyone can do to influence this. It is a genetic limitation that everyone has in different capacity. Therefore not everyone is going to be equally capable at speedcubing.

As for Feliks himself, obviously I have no evidence to show that he has superior processing speed. But given no one is able to get close to his times, despite people practising astronomical amounts, it suggests that Feliks likely has superior genetic ability. This, combined with his huge efforts practising, put him out of the range of the vast majority of people.

Another thing worth noting is the speed at which some people seem to get really good. I can absolutely guarantee that by the time Feliks was faster than me, I had spent much more time practising. Why did he get so much faster so much quicker? We see this time and again, with some people getting super fast out of nowhere, and you know they haven't practised as much as yourself all up, yet they're miles ahead of you. And before anyone says "it's all about effective practise bla bla bla", Feliks himself has stated many times that he never really did any special practise, so really that argument is dead.
The whole free will debate aside, lets discuss this more.

I don't think using sports as a comparison to cubing is fair. While it does portray that not everyone can reach a certain level at certain things, it does little in describing where the genetic component of cubing is. I agree that genetics do have an affect, but it is very small.

You mention reaction time: the skew in results could be from age, prior experiences regarding reaction, practice with reaction, etc. Note in cubing you first start out moving slow and practice to become quicker, both physically and recognizing things mentally. You can practice to improve, like most things in life.

I agree with you that some people will be able to process things faster naturally, but that doesn't mean people without that advantage can't reach the same levels. If cubing is around long enough and there is enough competition and incentive to improve, there will be a point where without a genetic advantage you can't compete. But I don't think we're there yet, and nothing really shows this being the case other than our assumptions.

I'm not saying that no one will come close. It certainly seems like he has exceptional memory skills. But it's harder to say if he's taken the event to near its limits because not enough people have tried.
That's the key, where are the limits? Years ago people were saying Matyas Kuti was reaching the limits, which in hindsight clearly wasn't the case. Obviously Feliks is closer to reaching the limits since times have declined, but that isn't to say cubing is so competitive that limits today are now only reached by people of a certain gene pool. We see world records being broken continuously (and often by people who have only been cubing the last couple years) so clearly the limits aren't reached or too close yet. There will probably be a day where a world record is only broken every few years, if cubing is around long enough and interest stays after records aren't attainable without huge practice (like say, becoming a grandmaster in Chess, which is very competitive).

It seems people in this thread are all prepared to deny that everyone has different limits in every skill possible, including "brain" skills. Work ethic is indeed important, and your genetics will strongly contribute to that too. But no amount of determination will make you the best in the world at sprinting if you don't have suitable genetics; no amount of practise will make you a memory champion if you aren't born with an outstanding memory capacity; and no amount of speedcubing practise will make you the best in the world if your body and brain aren't built in the right way.
You just tied sprinting to memory and cubing. Sprinting has been competitive for far longer so the limits are higher, and is physically biased - hence why the best runners are all black (extra muscle). I don't think those sports are up for debate really, nor should be compared to the current level of memory or cubing. I'd argue that both the memory championships and the cubing championships are still open to almost anyone who is physically able (ask the people who win the memory tournaments - the former US Memory champion wrote a book which inspired the latest world champion to even get started). The mental limits I don't think are close to being reached, and that is based off the fact that we see new people jump into the sports and dominate within a rather short period of time. Though they should be discussed separate, I don't think memory or cubing have reached limits where you need a gene advantage to win championships.

I have an analogy that I've been working on that is how I think of these things. This has no basis in science, and is simply based on observations from my experience. This relates to matters of intelligence and not to things like sports or physical skill.

I think there is a difference between knowledge and intelligence. I define knowledge as what you know, and intelligence as "the relative ease with which you can learn new things." Picture a water tower with a capacity of 1000 liters. The capacity of this tower is like your capacity for knowledge. For most everyone, the capacity for knowledge is enormous. Now picture that there is an opening at the top of this tower where you pour in the water. The size of this opening is your intelligence. A large opening allows you to pour in water quickly. A small opening means you have to pour in water more slowly.

An expert at something is someone who has a water tower that is very full of water (knowledge). The person's intelligence determines how long it took them to fill the tower, but even someone with low intelligence, given enough time and dedication, can gain a tremendous level of knowledge.

However, I do believe that as intelligence increases, so too does the capacity for knowledge. Back to cubing. I think nearly anyone can gain a very high level of knowledge no matter your intelligence, but only up to a point. Those with higher intelligence can learn more easily, and at the very highest levels will also have a slightly higher capacity for knowledge.

I feel like I personally have a large knowledge about cubing, but probably an average or less than average intelligence for it. I've always been very slow to break personal cubing barriers compared to the average, but as long as I stay dedicated and practice a lot I do eventually get there. I don't think I have the capacity for knowledge to get to Feliks level, but I think even I could get sub-10 on average with a tremendous level of effort and dedication. I could be wrong in that prediction, but I think it is not unreasonable.
The question is, is the "tremendous level of knowledge" beyond what most people can know today. I think we've barely tapped into the knowledge that can and will be acquired with the right technology.

As for your average intelligence: what's the barrier stopping you from getting to Feliks level? Obviously you guys are different ages and that could very well play into it, but you also have potentially bad habits that are harder for you to break, less time, perhaps less motiviation to win worlds (based off age, outlook, etc.), less incentive, etc. If you were his age, started at his time with all the hardware and info available, could you have got to his level?

I've thought about this whole topic a fair bit over the years, and I think expectations play a huge role. Yes, hardware has allowed for us to spin faster, the big community has allowed us to share and aquire knowledge which helps, but I think seeing the limits affects expectations. 10 years ago we expected 11 seconds to be insanely hard to reach, but today it seems very doable because you see so many people doing it. If the world record is 15 seconds, that expectation heavily influences how fast we think we can get, our motivation, etc., which in turn influences what we accomplish.

In discussing the influence of static genetic advantages in speed-solving, I don't think it is correct to reference athletics. The malleability of the human body toward performing a physical skill is different from the malleability of the human brain toward an intellectual goal.

Physical traits that cannot be improved with training cannot instead be overcome with a change in thought. However, intellectual goals can often be achieved through a change in approach or perspective.

Less abstractly, I mean that physical skills cannot be substituted. If you have below average leg length but above average arm length, running upside-down on your hands will not make you an above average runner.

Unlike physical training, the conceptual nature of intellectual goals allows variety in approach. Intellectual skills can be used in place of one another if necessary. A person with a below average ability to remember numbers may find it difficult to remember phone numbers. However, if that person has an above average ability to remember visual patterns, they may become above average at remembering phone numbers by focusing on the path made on the number pad when dialing. Even a simple analogy may turn a student's confusion into immediate understanding.
Those are also things that can be improved. It is obvious that memory, reaction, recognition, etc. can all be improved. It was a wide awakening when I realized how I improved with blindfold cubing when I practiced. You see this all over cubing, and it is amazing to see how deliberate practice can really improve results, whether it be memory or something else. The question is, at what limit can your mind no longer improve? Surely some people will genetically have some advantages, but in cubing we haven't seen anything obvious that says such.

I disagree with you almost entirely, because I believe speedcubing is almost entirely physical, and the intellectual aspect has very little to do with it. After all, a key term in speedcubing is muscle memory. I highly doubt Feliks spends too much time thinking about his next move, but rather just doing.
I think it is far more intellectual and less physical. Feliks, along with all other cubers, don't think about algs once they are in their muslce memory. And that is because we train them to be that way, and anyone can. The question is, to what limit can we train them? You suggest we've passed the point where anyone can reach it through training, but I suggest otherwise. Sure genetics play a role, but we aren't to the limit where people without whatever genetic advantage can't reach the same speed.

Sure, us older cubers especially have our biases against this because 7 seconds seems impossible for us now. I think we neglect the age we're in now with great hardware, abundant information, quite a competitive and vibrant community, more money in the game, the sheer amount people practice today, our expectations, our age, our old bad habits, etc. that all influence how we look at it that give us this bias.

But this part I've quoted has wording that is a bit strong (i.e. "large role") so I have to clarify my own stance. I suspect you will agree with me on this. In my opinion, genetics play a role in only two ways:
  1. The speed at which improvement progresses
  2. The capabilities of speed at one's physical limits
I agree, though I think genetics is a much smaller role than you think in cubing. Regarding 1, I think it is more influenced by the method of practice you choose, and the time you put in (1 year for 1 person could mean 400 hours or it could mean 2000 hours to another person - so total time). Regarding 2, I don't think we're at the physical limits yet, and I don't see any reason to believe we've reached that level.
 
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I don't think so. You can practise sprinting as much as you like, you'll never outrun Usain Bolt unless you have the genetics. Feliks has a brain that processes this particular ability better than most (taking in patterns, processing combinations, working out a solution, and sending that information to the fingers). That, combined with a lot of practise, made him by far better than anyone else. To match him would take the combination of natural ability with an enormous amount of practise.
I think it's very similar to chess.

You could live and breath it every single day but unless you have the talent, you'll never be as good as Bobby Fischer or Gary Kosporov.

I'd say it's something like 90% practice and 10% talent. Anyone can go that 80% - 90% but it takes that extra 10% bit of talent to reach the very top and actually break a world record or become a world champion in chess.

But one thing to remember about cubing is that more luck is involved than is so in chess. Every chess game starts out the same. Every cube starts out differently. You don't have to be the best 3x3 solver in the world to break the world record. You just need lots of skill and a lucky scramble. That's one thing that I don't really like about speed cubing. The luck aspect. But at the same time, if every solve were the same then it would be incredibly boring. :p
 

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I hear what you're saying, and I don't think we disagree too much about the fundamentals. I just want to clarify something. In most of my posts I was being general, not specific to Feliks/other top cubers. As in: in general genetics will play a role at the top level of cubing (as with other physical activities that I frequently alluded to).

We only really seem to disagree on whether cubing has reached that level or not. On this point we can only speculate so I'm not really interested in trying to defend my view. I do think Feliks (and possibly Maskow) is at the point where someone that doesn't have the natural talent won't be able to consistently match him. I could be wrong, but don't lose sight of the fact that solving a cube at 8-10tps consistently is actually quite insane. Perhaps super new methods that can solve the puzzle in much less moves will allow for faster times. But with the way cubing methods are at the moment, I don't think anyone without the right genetics could match that tps consistently.

The only other thing I want to say is I think you misunderstood me when I said cubing is physical, and not mental. What I mean is, in the moment, in a competition, when you sit down to solve that thing as fast as possible, the vast majority of what happens is purely physical. The mental work is done in training, as it is with any sport (even sprinting). But when you actually go to solve in competition the last thing you want to be doing is thinking about it.
 
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People do learn at different rates. Whether or not that's genetic, I don't know, but it's a fact that 10 hours of practice for me will give a different result than 10 hours for another person. There's a study somewhere that I can't find now that looks at the number of hours of practice it took several chess players to reach grandmaster status. It varies wildly from less than 2000 for some to over 20000 for others. I don't see why cubing would be different. Sure, we can all reach sub-10, maybe even sub-8, but some of us will need to put in a lot more effort to get there. So, what is it that makes some people improve so quickly compared to others?

That said, I'd say its maybe 5% natural talent, 85% practice and 10% raw determination that leads to world class (consistently sub-8 average) times.
 
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But then people like Mats, Lucas, and Kevin started taking his world records.
I think it should be understood that while Feliks doesn't hold all the single WRs, he does wreck in all the average WRs. He owns it for most of the cubic puzzles which are the cubes he truly participates in (I suspect, I don't have any inside info or video confirming this): the 3x3, 5x5, 6x6 and 7x7. Though he doesn't hold the 3x3 single, he does hold it for the 4x4, 5x5 and 7x7. I take nothing away from Lucas who did I ridiculous sub-5 official solve, a solve in which he obviously predicted the PLL skip or used one of those single LL algorithms (I think some of those algorithms are the same as OLL algorithms, with the difference is knowing that it's a PLL skip if you look at it from OLL perspective). Feliks may not have the turn speed and he may not have the singles record which everyone gives most acclaim towards, but I truly believe he's the world's best and most consistent cubic puzzle cuber.
 
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I think it's very similar to chess.

You could live and breath it every single day but unless you have the talent, you'll never be as good as Bobby Fischer or Gary Kosporov.

I'd say it's something like 90% practice and 10% talent. Anyone can go that 80% - 90% but it takes that extra 10% bit of talent to reach the very top and actually break a world record or become a world champion in chess.

But one thing to remember about cubing is that more luck is involved than is so in chess. Every chess game starts out the same. Every cube starts out differently. You don't have to be the best 3x3 solver in the world to break the world record. You just need lots of skill and a lucky scramble. That's one thing that I don't really like about speed cubing. The luck aspect. But at the same time, if every solve were the same then it would be incredibly boring. :p
chess is very unlike cubing in that it is 100% knowledge based and it takes at least 1-2 decades to play at the top level, with huge participation and huge competition. speedsolving is just starting out, people become world class in a few years of hard practice. the knowledge you need in speedsolving is not much, some algs, f2l cases, ability to do some blockbuilding. it comes down to mostly good lookahead and tps, both of which i think most people can develop sufficiently to become world class in their lifetime if they do a good amount of practice.
 
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chess is very unlike cubing in that it is 100% knowledge based...
That is completely false. You can have 2 people with the same knowledge about the game performing at completely different levels. Even at the top level, there are tons of IMs out there that know just as much (if not more) about the game than some GMs but can simply not see the moves that more talented players can. Chess is actually a great example of a skill where natural ability makes a huge difference when it comes to how well a person performs/improves.
 
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That is completely false. You can have 2 people with the same knowledge about the game performing at completely different levels. Even at the top level, there are tons of IMs out there that know just as much (if not more) about the game than some GMs but can simply not see the moves that more talented players can. Chess is actually a great example of a skill where natural ability makes a huge difference when it comes to how well a person performs/improves.
You're right about the knowledge thing. But i still believe the skill needed to reach today's world class level is no where near where lack of oustanding talent can cause you to fail. Some people said they felt at full time 3x3 speedsolver, they would not be able to do it in 20 years. I would think, starting young, at most it would take 5 years practicing 6-8 hours a day for most people to become world class. I would expect the majority to do it in around 1-2 years. talent will defintely set peaple apart, but hardwork (and relatively not that hard of an effort) is enough now to be a top cuber.
 
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I haven't read the thread but I wanted to add that just some days ago there was a german report about "superbrains" on TV, in which they portrayed the Weyer twins.
They also made some scientific tests with the following results:
Their physical ability to move fingers/hands is average. (They had to tap fingers as fast as they can and similar stuff. A scientist conducted the test so I think it is reliable)
In some math-like puzzles they also performed average. (They had to sort some disks according to some rules. Don't ask me how it worked)
However they were above average in cognitive tasks. (Again I don't know exactly what they did. They were shown sitting in front of a screen with different figures. Maybe it were some IQ-test-like tasks of sorting the odd one out and so on.)
 

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I haven't read the thread but I wanted to add that just some days ago there was a german report about "superbrains" on TV, in which they portrayed the Weyer twins.
They also made some scientific tests with the following results:
Their physical ability to move fingers/hands is average. (They had to tap fingers as fast as they can and similar stuff. A scientist conducted the test so I think it is reliable)
In some math-like puzzles they also performed average. (They had to sort some disks according to some rules. Don't ask me how it worked)
However they were above average in cognitive tasks. (Again I don't know exactly what they did. They were shown sitting in front of a screen with different figures. Maybe it were some IQ-test-like tasks of sorting the odd one out and so on.)
Sounds interesting, I'd be interested in hearing more about the tests and checking out the report. Can you provide anymore info or a link? Thanks.
 
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Just from what you've said I don't think those tests are that 'scientific' - or at least, they're not doing testing that has any reasonable relationship to speedcubing ability. IQ testing is a messy enough field and tapping fingers is silly. Though it is TV so there's that.

Regarding the rest of the discussion I think there are important genetic determinants for cubing ability but they are probably 'under the hood', so to speak.

To me, it seems most young people can practice RUR'U' a bunch and get just as fast (or faster) than I am at it - get a bunch of sub-9 cubers together and get them to handscramble as fast as they can and I imagine the variance will be fairly small. So I'm hesitant to say that raw ability to turn is a massive influence (though it is certainly there).

I think there are some parallels in computer gaming - having the ability to use very precise timing in long chains of button and mouse presses without needing to process any of those actions discretely. To me, it's the ability to encode the sending of a large number of individually precise and complex commands at high speed which is genetically determined (phew!). I think most people can perform these with practice (ever seen videos of factory line workers?) but cubing requires a massive bank of these actions, each of which present themselves in a multitude of forms and chains. So I like to assume that a proclivity for it helps a ton when trying to be top 0.1%.

I do think these things are distinct for fine motor skills compared to large motor skills (cubing vs sports). From an evolutionary psychology pov this would seem to make sense - an intelligence for chasing things down and an intelligence for precise tool use are both useful but simultaneous development would be 'over budget'.

This is all guesswork but I do think high-level speedcubing taps into a very interesting niche of 'intelligence' that isn't really covered by 'move your hands fast' or 'solve this hard problem', and there is something more fundamental going on.
 
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Sounds interesting, I'd be interested in hearing more about the tests and checking out the report. Can you provide anymore info or a link? Thanks.
Well it is a german TV report. It should be viewable for some more days at this link: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/kana...2632228/Supertalent-Mensch-II:-Die-Superhirne

@others:
It may be that those tests were not so focused on cubing specific skills. But however we can most likely conclude that speedcubing doesn't require some above average dexterity. Because if it would, they would have performed better at the first set of tests.
 
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