Re: the practical implications of arrogance

From: Philip Sutton (
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 12:28:34 MDT

Hi Eliezer,

I think it's fine for people to have a strong ego and be at ease with
being bright/clever/brilliant. But over-weening arrogance can take
clever people into unproductive modes of operation.

Over-weening arrogance can block useful collaboration because some
other people find it quite off-putting.

It can block communication of good ideas from the brilliant one to
others for the same reason.

It can cause the brilliant one to be less inclined to question their own
thinking *where other people raise issues* - which is bad for science.

It can attract followers who are less thoughtful because they like
basking in the brilliance of their guru.

It can attract followers who are not as brilliant but who like being
arrogant too and take the cue from their arrogant guru to behave
similarly, even though they are less justified in having such a good
option of themselves.

In my experience, clever people are not always clever *all* the time
and are not always right *all* the time. So it is very useful for clever
people to be mindful of that and open to other people's ideas and
reactions which may alert the brilliant ones to errors, gaps, and
occasionally less than brilliant ideas. I think it is hard to be in mindful
mode and over-weening arrogance mode at the same time - even for
clever people who can multitask.

So if getting the science as good as it can be is a priority and doing it
fast is important then some moderation in arrogance might be helpful.

And also an organisation that is dominated by somebody who is
uncontrollably and severely arrogant is likely to develop disfunctional
tendencies that can cause it to perform suboptimally and thus
jeopardise its mission.

Cheers, Philip

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