Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Cockiness and Arrogance

Cockiness and Arrogance. Warning! Do not conflate!

Cockiness and Arrogance. Perhaps correlated but not the same.

A helpful component when tackling a problem is to believe one is equipped with the abilities to handle it. This belief is a function of one’s self-confidence. To overestimate one’s abilities is called cockiness. Note that cockiness is not necessarily in relation to other people’s ability to handle the same problem but simply with oneself.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is specifically tied to how one compares against others. To be arrogant is to believe that one’s abilities set oneself apart or make one superior.

One can be cocky without being arrogant. Jill may overestimate her abilities without holding the view that those abilities would place her above others.

One can be arrogant without being cocky. Jack may have a good estimate of his abilities (and limitations) while still holding the view that whatever abilities he does have places him in a special class above others.

See what you think about the following lines (an excerpt from a longer blog post):

MIT gave 3 Sprowls awards (aka Best Thesis in Computer Science), including one to me. However, they can only forward 2 theses to the ACM competition, and they instead chose to forward another theory thesis.

Now, I am not trying to insult the Sprowls award. I’m sure it was a success to many people who received it. But I was convinced that I had a serious claim to the ACM award, so this decision came as a major surprise to me. I have no intention of painting this award as anything other than a failure. … I doubt there are lessons to be learned beyond a reminder of the politics inside academia, and the lip-service type of commitment that our discipline has to proving lower bounds.

My personal view is the author in the excerpt (and in the post overall) does not come across as cocky but does come off as arrogant.


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