Tinkering intellectually

I’ve just enjoyed an interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb by Bryan Appleyard. Well worth reading. I particularly liked the bits about the value of tinkering and why you shouldn’t trust people who wear ties. I was going to include those extracts in this post, but now you’ll have to go to the article yourself read them. (A quick google showed that the tinkering bit had been well covered in many blogs.)
Instead I’m going to quote a bit from Taleb’s Notebooks, number 33 to be exact, which I stumbled upon in my googling and may have less exposure:
“It is an irony that the academy does not have a word for the process by which discovery works best –but slang does. I was trying to describe in a letter what I am currently doing: French would not let me. But argot lends itself very well… I am involved in an activity called “glander”, more precisely “glandouiller”. It means “to idle”, though not “to be in a state of idleness” (it is an active verb). Gandouiller denotes enjoyment. The formal French word is “ne rien faire” (to do nothing), which misses on the active part –so do words that have a languishing connotation. Glander is what children without soccer moms do when they are out of school. It resembles  flâner which has this perambulation part; though glander does not have any strings attached. The Italians have farniente but it is really doing nothing. Even the Arabs do not have a verb for glander: the construction takaslana from the Semitic root ksl denotes laziness (other words imply some inertia).
Glander is how I write my books, how I brew ideas. Remarkably it best describes the notion of lifting all inhibitions to “tinker intellectually in an undirected stochastic process aiming at capturing some idea that will enrich your corpus”. “Researching” or “thinking” smack of a top-down activity. Newton was my kind of a “glandeur”; In [Dijksterhuis 2004]:
George Spencer Brown has famously said about Sir Isaac Newton that  “to arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating.  Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is that one needs to know.”

(I am assuming the Dijksterhuis quote that I have put in italics is from “Think different: The merits of unconscious thought in preference development and decision making”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 586–598)