About Teo Kai Xiang
Teo Kai Xiang holds the Guiness world record for the fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube whilst juggling.
Kai is currently a freshmore at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, pursuing a degree in engineering. Before this, he took a very typical education route in Singapore, completing both GCE O level and GCE A level examinations.
Kai solves the Rubik’s Cube competitively. He has been doing this for 10 years. When he is not solving the Rubik’s Cube, he finds himself reading on space travel and dreaming of space tourism. He aspires to build a fleet of Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) spaceplane that bring common man into earth orbit as well as lunar orbit.
His hobbies involve building things and tinkering with things. He is part of the Makerspace club and he builds ‘gadgets’ for fun. Recently, Kai built an arcade machine powered by a raspberry pi. He is also in the process of building a pressure sensitive led lit floor installation.
How did you become interested in Rubik’s Cube? How did you discover it and how it became a passion?
I first got my Rubik’s Cube when I was 6-7 year old, but I couldn’t solve it, so my mum and I would take it apart and reassemble it. When I was 10, I tried to learn it, but failed. When I was 12, I tried to learn it again because my cousins were all playing it. Each of my cousins taught me a different step. I did learn the advance methods on my own though, through online resources. I succeeded in solving in then. In that same year, I got bored and stopped playing with it.
My passion was reignited the following year. My friend didn’t believe that I could solve a Rubik’s Cube, so I brought one to school and showed it to him. From then on, I tried to get faster and got ‘addicted’. The same year, the first ever competition was held in Singapore, I joined and got 3rd for the 4x4x4 category. This taste of success turned my hobby into a passion. At the age of 14, I competed internationally. As I got better overtime, it became harder to stop playing it.
Please tell us about getting the Guinness world record. What is the procedure to get this recognition, how did you felt obtaining the record?
Getting the Guinness World Record was a rather random decision actually, I suddenly thought of getting it and went to look up how to do so. I found out that I have to submit a proposal and wait for instructions. I wrote the proposal and received a reply weeks later. It turns out that I had to complete the record attempt under certain guidelines and with 2 witnesses that fulfil some requirements. I started planning for the record and attempted it at a local competition. With the witness statements and video recording, I filed for the record and received my record months later. I don’t remember if I felt happy, but I felt pride, I felt like my hard work has finally paid off. Every now and then, I do find the idea surreal, I find it hard to believe that I actually hold a world record. As for how I felt during the attempt, I have to admit I was very nervous. Every solve in any competition has always been really nerve wrecking for me. Till today, I cannot perform to my peak under pressure. I am still working on that.
What is the (mental) profile of a champion? Is there a secret you would like to share?
I think that the most important thing is to not have self-doubt. Self-doubt prevents one from reaching their full potential. I always believed that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, that enables me to try things that others would not dare to. I feel that it is better to try and fail than to never try.
Please describe your daily training for solving the Rubick’s Cube.
There really wasn’t a training program, I simply practiced for 4-5 hours daily back when I first started. As I grew older, I had less time, so I practiced fewer hours daily and my improvement started to slow down.
About mental abilities and performance
Have faith in your own abilities.
What are the benefits of this mind sport? Why would you recommend it to the teenagers?
Contrary to popular belief, Rubik’s Cube doesn’t help with math, although most Rubik’s cube player are good at math. It’s a correlation, not a causation. The main benefit of this mind sport is the confidence it builds. As Rubik’s Cube is generally recognised as a difficult puzzle, being able to solve it builds the confidence required to tackle other difficult challenges.
I would recommend it to teenagers simply because it is actually very rewarding to solve the Rubik’s Cube for the first time.
Where the kids should get information about Rubik’s Cube?
Shameless self-promotion is necessary. Please visit my website at learnhowtosolvearubikscube.com
For competitions, visit www.worldcubeassociation.org
What would you advise the parents which want to develop their children abilities to think?
Challenge your kids and encourage them to work on difficult things. Puzzles are great for this!
How a champion see the future
How do you see the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Is there something we should be afraid for? Will be the top performers beaten by machines?
I am currently planning to start a career in AI, so I have a favourable view of it. The biggest issue with AI is the displacement of jobs, I am still struggling with the morality of causing people to lose their jobs.
Machines are already beating the top performers, a machine can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than 1 second. But this is not something to be afraid of, only by creating AI that is better than human will mankind progress.
We will be able to confront the future world, like AI?
Sure, but we have to plan ahead. One example is the need to plan for the large scale displacement of jobs that lie ahead of us due to the advancement of AI.
In your opinion, what are the intellectual challenges of the human kind?
I believe it will be energy. We as a species will have to figure out how to capture more energy to fuel our progress. Chances are, man will have to learn to harvest the energy of the sun more efficiently to become a type 2 civilisation.
2 or 3 subjects the school curricula should include.
Computer programming is important in my opinion because it instil logical reasoning, something crucial to sharpening the mind.
It is also important to have curricula structured to help kids figure out where their passion lies and what their strengths are early on. This would help kids develop their strengths and unleash their potential.