Tinkering as a method

I thought about this lecture as it applied to the construction
of the large reptile tree and the ReptileEvolution.com website. Both were built taxon by taxon by ‘a tinkerer’ unfamiliar with each taxon until it was added. 

Lecture notes
from author Nassim Nicholas Taleb talking about his book “Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder.” The following lecture quotes come from the video starting at 27:30 and concluding at 29:40 (edited for brevity and clarity below).

“My central book is on discovery. Tinkering as compared to rational top down. Tinkering is about optionality: A little to lose. A lot to gain.  As a process we show the evidence that a lot of things we think came from science, in fact came from heuristics of practice.

It upset a lot of people – where you show that two brothers: one had knowledge, the other just tinkering, and how much further you can go by just tinkering and having more upside than downside. 

Tinkerers. They didn’t know how it functioned and later on they found a theory. You fit the theory back to the past. I call it ‘lecturing birds how to fly.’

Upsets academia at all levels when I show formal knowledge versus wild optional knowledge where you gain from uncertainty. When you’re tinkering, you want maximum exposure [to] uncertainty.

The University is prison, you see. A prison of the curriculum and all that nonsense. So this is the chapter that really, really, really gets university people angry. Like emotionally angry. Particularly university assistant people in the UK.’ 


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