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Ask Slashdot: Rectifying Nerd Arrogance?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the wait-for-it-wait-for-it dept.

Education 823

An anonymous reader writes "Like some Slashdot users, I began attending university last month for computer science. The experience represents my first time away from home and I'm almost constantly with my peers, many of whom are also computer science students. Recently, I have become cognizant of the many negative opinions associated with a 'normal' person's perspective of what a nerd is like. Conversing with my college computer science peers (many of whom are quite nerdy), I have noticed that many of them are extremely arrogant. Upon introspection, I have come to the realization that I am also very similar to them and am very curious, but worried. I have noticed similar personality characteristics on Slashdot. Where does this nerd arrogance come from? How can it be rectified? I am concerned that, if I do not abolish these annoying tendencies, I may have trouble later on in life with my career and relationships. Has anybody run into problems in life with the arrogance that seems to be so prevalent with nerds? If so, how did you handle the situation?"

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I think that's all college students (5, Funny)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#41765829)

I'm pretty sure that's not unique to CS students. If you think arrogance is a trait only CS majors have, head over to a 500-level philosophy class sometime and talk to some of those majors. Hell, go to pretty much *any* high level class in *any* major.

The problem isn't the major, the problem is the combination of youth and a little knowledge. Most 21-year-olds are just knowledgeable enough to be cocky, but not knowledgeable enough to appreciate the fact that they really don't know shit. I believe Socrates observed this phenomenon even in his time, and commented on it. "Stop being such cocky pricks! You don't even appreciate how dumb a bunch of shits you are yet, you little fuckers!" he would tell his students (I paraphrase the Greek).

No worries, though. Ultimately, life will fix the problem.

Re:I think that's all college students (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#41765933)

Said far better than I ever could :)

I will add that part of the reason that you are cocky because most of the people you have dealt with to this point in life have probably been idiots. This will change when you get an entry-level job where you are the idiot among your peers. The good news is that some of the best (and most humble) engineers that I work with now were UNBELIEVABLY cocky right out of MIT/Cornell/etc. On the other hand, some of them stayed cocky :)

Re:I think that's all college students (0)

mulvane (692631) | about a year ago | (#41766031)

I have forgotten more than you will ever learn! This will hold true unless you realize you know shit and seek to expound instead of hold what little you know over those who know less which becomes a slowly shrinking number unless you constantly phase out those who make you look like a dip shit in search of new people to troll.

Re:I think that's all college students (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#41766279)

Part of it is a lot of geeks cut their teeth in the industry by dealing with level 0 or level 1 phone support.

There, you get the people who oftentimes have no clue what they are doing, but yet have an attitude. This is a perfect ground for breeding the "I'm smarter than you" aura. After a certain amount of calls of "I just pulled the DIMMs out of this box and put them into this other... now why isn't my RAM drive working?", one has to deal with it some way.

Re:I think that's all college students (4, Interesting)

mikael_j (106439) | about a year ago | (#41766411)

Meh, pulling DIMMs at least implies a little knowledge, when I did tech support there were people who called in to complain about how they had to cut parts of the connector on their network cable off to make it fit the RJ-11 connection on their DSL modem and what a bunch of idiots we were because it still wouldn't work even though they had "fixed" our "defective" hardware...

Re:I think that's all college students (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year ago | (#41765955)

IMO, rectify it with logic.
Ask them about a medical issue they wont know, or perhaps a plumbing problem.
Then tell them, well it is a good thing there are people smart in these areas. If it dawns on them that everyone has their place in society, they will dismount their pedestal.

nope (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766245)

Yes, because knowing the (always the same, canned) reason you need a vent pipe for a sewage line is just as difficult as knowing what you need to know for designing a switching power supply, or laying out a PCB in such a way that microwave signals behave, or just about anything else an engineer is called upon to do.

Doctors are one thing; that's a technical job requiring some smarts. Plumbers - not so much.

The gaussian is the elephant in the room here. More than half the people cluster from 100 IQ and below; these people are not engineering, or doctoring, material. Period.

So if you use "logic", you'll end up at the same place.

OTOH, if what you want to take down is arrogance, what you need to use is compassion on the one hand, and recognition that what you have is an accident of nature, not something you deserve credit for, on the other.

Re:I think that's all college students (5, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#41766025)

No worries, though. Ultimately, life will fix the problem.

Usually not too soon after graduation. There's something humbling about filing dozens of job applications only to get one or no offers. :P

Re:I think that's all college students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766105)

Oh man, I remember that experience--leaving college thinking that people would be LINING UP to hire me, fighting one another to get a piece of my brilliance. ...Only to have the reality hit that no one was nearly as impressed as I had expected them to be.

Re:I think that's all college students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766089)

Just don't be a pretentious jerk.

It's just a phase, you're smart know things that others don't, even other supposedly smart people.

But you haven't experienced enough to understand that though you may know a lot about a particular area, or even several, there are many areas where you're completely clueless, and some of those areas will end up being important to you at some point.

Re:I think that's all college students (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#41766155)

I'm pretty sure that's not unique to CS students.

It isn't unique to CS, but it is more pronounced. I think it is because with CS there is a bigger dichotomy between people that "get it' and people that are just inherently incapable of the complex abstract reasoning needed for programming. Additionally, CS tends to attract people more comfortable dealing with "things" than with people, so they often lack the social skills to temper their arrogance when it is inappropriate.

Re:I think that's all college students (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#41766157)

I believe Socrates observed this phenomenon even in his time, and commented on it. "Stop being such cocky pricks! You don't even appreciate how dumb a bunch of shits you are yet, you little fuckers!" he would tell his students (I paraphrase the Greek).

He did, actually... well, Plato did, through the character Socrates in Apology. "The first step to enlightenment was the realization that I knew nothing."

Re:I think that's all college students (2)

MrSenile (759314) | about a year ago | (#41766231)

No worries, though. Ultimately, life will fix the problem.

Except when you're an upper manager of a large corporation or a CEO.

They never seem to learn, and they tend to turn around saying at 20+ million a year, they don't have to either.

The only ones who suffer are those poor bastards working under them.

Re:I think that's all college students (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766273)

As you say, high level people in almost any major display a level of arrogance--it's not just the young. Professors do this, doctors do it, lawyers do it, etc. All of those are highly professional people to whom arrogance cannot simply attributed to youth or inexperience. In many ways, it doesn't just wear off. Life doesn't just "fix" it. You'll find many a medical doctor who is an arrogant prick and just awful to deal with.

The issue, at its core, is not the arrogance itself. All of us have some level of arrogance. It's essential to any working person: if someone challenges your work, you need to have the confidence to defend it and back it up when that is warranted. Of course, the difference between arrogance and confidence is a fine line: it's arrogant to presume you are always right but confidence when you actually are right. If someone walks in and says "Your airplane design is ok, but let's take off the wings," it's not arrogance to argue that your design is good because you are correct. If someone says, "I think if we make [minor change] we can improve the design a bit," dismissing the comment without looking into it would be arrogance.

So what is my point with all this? It's not the arrogance, it's the social skills that matter. Nerd-types often lack in this department because they spend much of their time dealing with machines and ideas--and when they do interact with other people, it's often people of the same type. The passion nerds often see as a positive is detrimental to their interaction with people who are not as hardcore. For example, if someone says, "I just got these Bose speakers and they're awesome!" an audiophile-nerd type might instantly respond with "Pfft. Bose is crap!" and chide that person for the purchase he is enjoying. Social skills enter here: it's perfectly fine to think that buying Bose is stupid. But there's no reason to ruin someone else's enjoyment. It does you no good, and it does him no good: he's not going to replace his new speakers because you said so. Let that person live in ignorance. If he asks you for an opinion or suggests that you should replace your B&W's with Bose, THEN you can rail on Bose (but take it easy).

That's the difference: nerds sometimes lack the social skills to deal with their arrogance. They carry it into settings where it is unwelcome, like in my Bose example. It's a perfectly appropriate argument to have in a sound studio with other people who are obsessed with speakers. It's inappropriate to have it at your uncle's Christmas party. In classroom settings, the line is a bit more blurred: nerd-types think that everyone in there lives and dies for the course material like they do, but some of those people are just there to pick up a trick or two, or because the degree requirements make them be there, and they're really more interested in another field (e.g., an engineer who has to take intro programming but wants to do radio communication work).

It is this that causes problems, not the arrogance itself. To the very OP, I'd say that merely acknowledging your problem is an enormous first step. Social skills are not terribly hard to acquire. Just think a bit before you act or speak and that will go a long way.

Re:I think that's all college students (5, Interesting)

Gorobei (127755) | about a year ago | (#41766367)

The problem isn't the major, the problem is the combination of youth and a little knowledge. Most 21-year-olds are just knowledgeable enough to be cocky, but not knowledgeable enough to appreciate the fact that they really don't know shit.

The major has a lot to do with it. CS (and IT) give rapid feedback on being right or wrong: those who tend to be right all the time often get cocky. This is fine until they think that because they are right about CS/IT, they are right about everything. Being in the top 1% of tech wizards doesn't make you an expert in politics or telling jokes, etc: this is where people get a reputation for arrogance or cringe-worthy ineptness.

Wall Street used to joke about "dentists from New Jersey:" a class of intelligent technical people who would confuse their specialist knowledge and track records of accruing money with general expertise in investing. They were the dumping ground for the worst financial toxic waste that banks needed to get off their books.

That's just perfectly normal paranoia. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765835)

Everyone in the universe gets that. Nerd arrogance comes from the basic insecurities that all “not normal” people have. The more you love math and science the further you'll be from people who live for the next episode of Jersey Shore.

The insecurity is addressed by the assumption that being great at computers/math/science means you don't have to be good at all those other “human” skills. But as Admrial Akbar will remind you: “It's a Trap!” If you're an amazing nerd, people will put up with your crappy attitude at work, but if your kind, decent, patient nerd, people will beg their bosses to have you on their team.

I have 50 square feet of window, can see a full third of the skyline, take long lunches and get to design super computing clusters, and this job is more due to my people skills than nerdy ones. I design AI algorithms on the weekend when I need extra-nerd time.

To your worry about being corrupted by nerdfluence, “It all comes down to choice.” I recommend:

Read XKCD to be reminded that you're not alone, and you don't have to be a jerk to be nerd.

Keep in mind that we were all beginners once. You may not have been a beginner since you were 11, but there was a time when it was all new and intimidating. Whether someone is 11 or 55 doesn't change much, and at 11 your job didn't depend on you getting it right the first time.

The people who had a date for prom, and fix cars, and cook well were no different from you when you were a computer beginner. Dateless people who have to cook for themselves, and fix their own cars may get to call themselves Independent, but they have missed the fundamental advantage of living in a society. Being a decent human, you don't have to have every existing skill, and can instead focus on being a more proficient nerd. It's a trap worth avoiding.


Re:That's just perfectly normal paranoia. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765973)

Don't forget also: nerds have had to exist their ENTIRE LIVES in an educational system designed to move at the pace of the slowest fucking retard.

When they were finished with the 2nd grade reading material, most of their peers were barely 1/4 through.
While their peers were struggling with multiplication, they were chafing at the bit to move through long division or onto something really fun like geometry.

Not only that, the "insecurities" are founded further by a society that, while they were excelling academically, were busy worshiping the sub-par IQ thugs from the football and assketball teams who will mostly grow up to be in and out of jail. So for doing the things society told them (verbally) to do, they were then derided while those who acted in opposite manner were rewarded.

"If you're an amazing nerd, people will put up with your crappy attitude at work, but if your kind, decent, patient nerd, people will beg their bosses to have you on their team."

Hint: if nerds had been treated decently and given the ability to operate on their own pace during the screwal system, we'd probably have a lot more kind, decent, patient nerds. The school system trains them to be defensive and constantly beats them over the head not just with the fact that others move on a slower pace, but that they will be held back to that pace.

To quote Quicksilver (from Marvel Comics): "It's like standing in the slowest line in the world, ALL THE TIME."

Re:That's just perfectly normal paranoia. (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#41766257)

There's no trap here, but rather a balancing of traits, everybody has all traits in some form, people differ on one level by their dominant traits, a lot of people who aren't good at math & science may be good at art, or working with their hands. As a "nerd" in the real world you're just another skilled worker, it may seem like all the same, but something like project management takes a different type of skilled worker than a network engineer (typically). The key is to learn to respect others even if their strong points aren't as obvious / with the computer.

Proper /. nerd response (5, Funny)

boristdog (133725) | about a year ago | (#41765869)

Shut up, N00b.

Typical /. logic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765935)

M$ sux. Linux Rocks. Long live GNU-LINUX!!

I don't need no GUI, I can accomplish anything by re-compiling my kernel via command line interface.

Re:Proper /. nerd response (1, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a year ago | (#41766087)

Bro, do you even code.

nerd life (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765883)

It's tough being the smartest person in the room.

MIT School of Charm (4, Funny)

drwho (4190) | about a year ago | (#41765885)

After living for many years in Cambridge, I have become accustomed to this attitude. I want to make a T-shirt "I act like I am smarter than you because I am. I go to MIT".

Don't worry, you'll grow out of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765913)

Who didn't think they were king shit of fuck mountain when they were in college?

Eventually you learn that either 1) you aren't and get over it, or 2) you are and learn to hide it so as not be be though of as an ass.

Easy. (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#41765925)

The key is to realise that even if you *are* smarter than everyone else, they'll be more cooperative if you let them maintain their delusion of equality.

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766349)

Or to learn that there's a 99% chance that you *aren't* and only think you are because you tend to hang out inside a social sphere of other people who have all specialized in the same thing you have that some people are very inept at.

It's easier for arrogant people to write off other people's specialized knowledge as something they just never took an interest in, but God forbid someone would point out that being a 50th Degree Comp-Sci black belt is the last thing most people in the world want to do.

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766365)

That's, uh, a pretty arrogant and self-deluded position if you think that those suffering under the "delusion of equality" are incapable of discerning that you are being a condescending asshole. It may be simplistic, but just doing your best to treat others like you would want to be treated seems to work wonders for getting along with people.

If it ain't broke don't fix it (3, Insightful)

AvailableNickname (2627169) | about a year ago | (#41765943)

I too noticed nerd arrogance in myself and my peers when I started at university. It bothered me a little bit. When I was done with university I went for a graduate somewhere else, and brought my nerd arrogance with me. But here, it was justified. The people around me were actual computer illiterates, despite being in technology-oriented environment and courses. It only got worse when I took a job as an IT gnome, and I REALLY started to see all the shenanigans the stupidity of some people can cause. Arrogance comes from thinking that you're better than people around you. Sometimes it's actually true.

Re:If it ain't broke don't fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766321)

I'd rather be humble.

Re:If it ain't broke don't fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766323)

And the arrogance keeps you workin on that thing very few, maybe not even you, are good enough (yet) to do. Ignorance of ones own limits is the most important part of that age.

Re:If it ain't broke don't fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766335)

By equating technical proficiency with being "better" than other people you've demonstrated that you're not. Shame. This is the exact point OP is making.

Re:If it ain't broke don't fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766387)

I guess without empirical evidence you will never know if you are smart or just arrogant.

time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765947)

You don't realize it now, but you, like most freshman, are very silly naive creatures

After a year or two you will collectively learn a log more about the world and calm down a lot. You'll notice the entering freshman are
PerletuLly like this (eternal September), but your peers as a whole will collectively mature. You do not .need to go out of your way to do anything about it

Humility (5, Insightful)

Joehonkie (665142) | about a year ago | (#41765949)

Having the humility to admit you have a problem like that is the first step, so you've probably got a good head start right there. Just think to yourself when you want to say something smart, "Will I sound like a prick if I say this (this way)?" I usually forget that part...

The influence of power on the human ego (5, Interesting)

concealment (2447304) | about a year ago | (#41765967)

I have noticed that many of them are extremely arrogant...I have noticed similar personality characteristics on Slashdot. Where does this nerd arrogance come from?

In literature, this type of arrogance is attributed to bureaucrats and technicians.

The reason is that they are masters of the machine, whether a political/paperwork machine or the literal machine.

This gives a lot of power to someone, but it's all negative power. They have the power to say no, or to wreck things, but don't yet (or perhaps never will) have the power to create.

I think you will find that, on Slashdot and in the world, those who have actual power (more than negation) tend to be confident, proud and perhaps "arrogant," but not in the way a lot of internet users are.

The people who are most arrogant in the way you describe are the frustrated ones who have a lack of options, and to compensate, create an inflated sense of self-importance which they refresh by imposing their will on others.

It's no different than any other kind of power abuse. Some fields (law enforcement, computing, bureaucracy) tend to attract more of these people than other fields do.

Easy (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#41765969)

Has anybody run into problems in life with the arrogance that seems to be so prevalent with nerds? If so, how did you handle the situation?

Easy, I just stopped hanging out with so many people who were wrong all the time.

Magic the Gathering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765971)

People try to show off how smart they are by buying more expensive cards. If you want to make a nerd less arrogant, burn his magic cards.

Self reflection (5, Insightful)

The Evil Atheist (2484676) | about a year ago | (#41765979)

I think you've stumbled upon the answer: you are being self-reflecting. I find a lot of nerds aren't self-reflecting. They question everything but themselves and it's up to everyone else to prove them wrong, otherwise they must be right.

Mind you, anyone who is arrogant probably has not done any self-reflecting either, or believe they don't need to do any self-reflecting.

We call arrogance inability to work with others (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765985)

Professional arrogance has no place in the professional world, so get over it. Always do things like code reviews and ask for constructive feedback, from people from other disciplines and also people with less experience.

Anyone who can't do this has no place working on teams... at least to me. I am a software engineer, but I do not know everything - nobody does, and nobody should be free from constructive criticism. Get over it.

Re:We call arrogance inability to work with others (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766351)

Professional arrogance has no place in the professional world...

Of course it does. They zoom up the management track and make twice your salary.

Types of intelligents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765995)

What you are observing is natural human egos. People tend to place unreasonable value in the things they know/are good at. So athletes over emphasize physical prowess, singers/actors claim a unique grasp of 'creativity', cs/math folks value their type of intellect. Everybody does it. Don't beat yourself up, this is just you maturing as an adult. Dependency -> independence -> inter-dependency. Appreciate the value of those that think differently than you, together you can move mountains.

Re:Types of intelligents (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#41766093)

I disagree, moving a mountain sounds bloody hard. Seriously, I live in colorado; have you seen those things? Eff that noise.

Arrogant nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41765997)

I was once an arrogant nerd, now I am a stately sage! Over time I have come to accept that most people have less CPU and RAM than me and require things explained in English rather than showing them dumps of logs and config files, shouting "LOOK, THERE'S YOUR PROOF".

Why should it be rectified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766005)

I serve Saturn with pride, I run its machines for the destruction of human health, freedom and happiness.
What are you? You are nothing!

A good start (5, Funny)

hort_wort (1401963) | about a year ago | (#41766019)

Step 1: Use smaller, more popular words when speaking. Be happy that you can communicate with the largest number of people that way instead of just an elite group. I'm just too lazy to look up "cognizant". :P

Step 2: Don't give advice to people in a slightly insulting way.

Step 3: .... oops.

A little arrogance can help (2)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#41766021)

In our industry a bit of arrogance isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it can come across to people as you are confident, either in your ability or your knowledge of a certain thing, even if you have little knowledge of it, if you act like you do and are confident (or slightly arrogant) it can help you through.

Heres the recipe (1)

popsensation (1405041) | about a year ago | (#41766033)

College students are often pretty unadapted to begin with. First isolate them with their computers most of the time. Add to that a complete lack of accountability for most of the (digital) interaction they do have. Top it off with entitlement and verification of their peers and you get nerds with personality issues.

Define arrogance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766041)

It's important to define arrogance when having these conversations. If I have to go out of my way not to make another person feel inferior, I am willing to do so up to a point. But there's nothing wrong with being assertive while being willing to consider new and different ideas. In addition, another person may actually be inferior when discussing a particular field, in which case you try not to make them feel bad (it's not their fault they don't know) and to helpfully explore any questions they might have. But I don't consider it arrogant to talk about stuff you know, and knowledge is hardly the province of age alone, for example.

We have a tendency to say anything which distorts the notion of equality is bad. But the tendency is often over-applied, IMHO.

Incidentally, my favorite definition of arrogance measures it as a ratio to ability. :)

Dunning-Kruger effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766053)

"the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others" - Kruger, Justin; David Dunning (1999). "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121–34.

Universal arrogance... (5, Insightful)

bkr1_2k (237627) | about a year ago | (#41766055)

Arrogance is universal. Jocks are arrogant because they're jocks. Nerds are arrogant because they think they're smarter than everyone else. (A couple of them even are smarter than everyone else, but not that many of us are as smart as we think.)

Recognizing your arrogance is the first step, as they say. Pay attention to the things you say and people's reactions to them. The only way to fix it is to recognize the specific instances where you come off as arrogant and change the behavior then and there. Apologize for it when you realize your arrogance has offended someone.

Also, spend time around people from all different backgrounds and majors. Don't just hang out with people like you. It will help a lot.

How did you handle the problem? (0)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#41766061)

By being better than everyone else. Duh.

Applicable Dilbert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766075)

One of my favorites:

drugs can help (4, Insightful)

bmacs27 (1314285) | about a year ago | (#41766077)

But the good kind of drugs like LSD and Mushrooms. Coke will make it worse (although it can help with the complementary problem "nice guy syndrome").

listen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766091)

listen to what other people have to say, pay attention, dont interrupt, even if you think theyre wrong. ask questions and show interest in things other than nerd stuff. volunteer at an animal shelter or womens shelter or soup kitchen or suicide hotline. dont be a dick.

Why is this even a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766103)

I know that the stereotypical nerd is socially awkward, but is actually worrying about it going to make it any better?

There is arrogance between golfers on the price of clubs you use.
There is arrogance between bikers if you use clips or not.
There is arrogance between classic car owners on whether you use original parts or not.
Hell, I even experienced arrogance when I "fixed" my RC Plane to fly itself because it "was cheating."

In short, go out and find something else to worry about, or better yet DON'T be that arrogant nerd and go make lots of money through people who actually want to work with you.

Obligatory XKCD (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about a year ago | (#41766111)

Dreams []

Simple: respect (1)

jimbodude (2445520) | about a year ago | (#41766113)

Respect people. Having or not having lots of specific knowledge (read: being a nerd) is not a sufficient condition for respect. Try to see where others are coming from. Maybe they've never been put in the situation you are in, such that nerdiness is so important. You will find that other people who are worth being around will respect you. Your problems with arrogance will be no more. Maybe some of your arrogant friends will act this way too. At least you care already.

P.S. Your post has a high level of vocabulary. That could be off-putting to a lot of people. Your first goal in speaking should be to communicate. That doesn't always mean using the most specific words. Good luck!

Re:Simple: respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766179)

" Your first goal in speaking should be to communicate. That doesn't always mean using the most specific words."


Have you tried prayer? (1)

Serif (87265) | about a year ago | (#41766117)

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way...

Frustration and lack of patience (1)

jerpyro (926071) | about a year ago | (#41766133)

A lot of the nerd arrogance that I've seen comes from two categories:
1) Nerds tend to figure out/understand how things work and get easily frustrated by those who don't.
2) Nerds who act like that because that's how their nerd friends act.

Much of the time #1 can be rectified by people getting older, learning patience, understanding people better, etc. That takes time, practice, patience, and a willingness to explain things a few different ways when you're speaking to someone who doesn't understand you. Also, understanding that people don't all think the same is a big revelation to a lot of nerds (and most of the time comes in their late twenties)

Most of the time #2 is solved by hanging out with different people, growing up, and having a little more self confidence.

Chuck Norris was a nerd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766137)

so he became a karate nerd.

It seems to me the simple adage is correct, that they're trying to overcompensate for self-perceived shortcomings in other areas, like social life or happiness, x.

That's why people try to one-up each other in life, in the office, everywhere - because they fear it themselves.

Try being less cognizant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766145)

...and start using muggle-speak. Try cheap stuff like "I've noticed" or "I realized", it might just work.

Humility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766149)

Just think about how other people feel.

I've known people like you describe. They think it's unbelievable and hilarious when somebody doesn't understand technology, they think all professors are stupid and challenge them in class (wasting time), they talk shit about people they perceive as being less intelligent.

Well if you were on the receiving end of that kind of talk, you'd feel like shit. Nobody wants to feel bad.

If you are worried about becoming that kind of person, think about how what you'd say would affect others first. And avoid the groupthink/hivemind you get when a lot of CS students hang out together.

Coping Strategy (1)

symes (835608) | about a year ago | (#41766151)

I'm going to get burned for this - but I'd say arrogance in students is mostly a coping strategy of particularly bright students (not just CS) that emerges with a lack of confidence or belief that they will fail. I've worked with some quite brilliant students and struggled to channel that arrogance you speak of in a positive direction. There is nothing worse in a group to have someone who is arrogant and, at the end of the day, while the brightest do well one has to think of team dynamics. So I encourage social engagement to try and break down barriers and help people see that others can make a contribution.

Generalizing success (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766153)

I think most nerds are successful in at least one specific area of life - whether it's mathematics, Python signal-processing libraries, building LEGO drones or understanding a larger part of quantum physics than others. I also think that we are generally prone to generalize our success - now that we're superior in one area of their life we really are superior (fullstop). One other area where this often happens is money - rich people tend to think that they are "successful" people, despite just having success in earning money :)

There are however many areas where a smart nerd can fail - relationships? Being useful to the community? Financial success? Parenting?

Advice? Humility takes a change of character and cannot be easily learned by reading a Slashdot comment thread :)

really? (1)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | about a year ago | (#41766159)

Like the preps/jocks/etc. when I grew up didn't affect how arrogant I became after post-grad?

It's life. The dumb-asses who poorly treated the geeks and nerds (not just computer geeks and nerds) get to become the whips of arrogant intelligent people when they graduate.

The problem is how long it takes those to grow out of that phase of life. Hell it took many years to reduce my own arrogance in my field. I still struggle with it from time to time.

Watch The Big Bang Theory, it's a really good analogue.

Not just nerds (1)

nine-times (778537) | about a year ago | (#41766167)

Really, it's not just nerds. If you stop and pay attention to people, you'll find that they're generally pretty arrogant and proud. We tend to believe that our way of seeing things is the only correct way. We're dismissive of people who disagree. We think that other people are inferior, and we tend to praise people who share similar strengths and virtues. That is, if I'm smart and unathletic, then I'm likely to believe that being smart is much more important than being athletic. If I'm athletic but not very bright, my opinion would be reversed. People tend to be smug and too sure of themselves.

Youth (1)

erik.erikson (1821660) | about a year ago | (#41766175)

Nerds are commonly arrogant in their youth. We pay attention to how things actually work and drive towards accuracy and truth/fact. In a sense it is the expression of dominance as a counter to the manners in which we are not dominant and this has been rubbed in our faces through a lack of mates, popularity, et cetera. However, it is an artifact of youth as a true nerd will quickly identify the limitations of his or her knowledge and thereby gain humility, will also gather a peer group in which they are not always the brightest and thereby gain the insight of having been a big fish in a small pond only en route to the ocean amongst the whales, and will experience the failures and manifested risks of arrogance learning to function in a world of people where our interests are joined and others have decisions.

Our strengths are long term in nature and, of course, not all of us successfully develop. We fail to continue growing and developing at our own peril. At the same time, the majority of our world's leaders and powerful people were once considered nerds.

Jock arrogance is just as bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766183)

Many assume that because they're stronger than you, that their opinions are also more "correct" than yours.

I guess might = right?

How can it be rectified? (2)

Megane (129182) | about a year ago | (#41766187)

A Schottky diode will probably be a good start.

Don't worry . . . . (3, Informative)

bogidu (300637) | about a year ago | (#41766191)

ego often fades with age when you realize the pitiful skills you have are no better than those of a banker, lawyer, doctor, or anyone else that truly knows their shit. On the other hand, you could just be a raging asshole, those exist in any field of study.

Delta House !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766195)

I recommend you start drinking heavily....... Dr. Bluto.... remember he's PRE-MED !!!

Confusing Arrogance and Confidence. (4, Informative)

geekmux (1040042) | about a year ago | (#41766203)

I really don't mean to sound arrogant here, but let's not confuse arrogance with confidence.

And to prove my point, go stand around a water cooler. Any water cooler.

What do you think lawyers talk about around the water cooler? They talk about those "idiots" who try and represent themselves.

What do you think CPAs talk about around the water cooler? They talk about those "idiots" who think they're bean counters.

What do you think engineers talk about around the water cooler? They talk about those "idiots" who think they're MSEEs.

And finally, what do you think nerds talk about around the water cooler? They talk about those "idiots" who think they're IT experts.

Yes, perhaps some of the time it can be construed as pure arrogance and attitude. But most of the time, it's simply confidence among experts in their respective fields.

Hey Smelly Shelley (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766205)

Sheldon Cooper, is that you??

Is it really arrogance? (1)

BigZee (769371) | about a year ago | (#41766209)

I realize that you may be in a good position to comment but I question both if it's arrogance and, if it is, is that a problem? Is it possible it's just the fact that they know more?

Bingo - no women (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766221)

Timothy, as a woman in this field, you have done a great job summarizing why so few women join this field. The arrogance of most IT personnel is astonishing and quite frankly, silly. The best way to start altering your own attitude is to step outside of yourself and ask yourself why you believe that having knowledge about xyz makes you smarter or better than someone else. Once you realize that it doesn't, and that each person has value to add in the world regardless of what they know about IT, you will begin to adjust your mindset.

I went to college... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766223)

After being accused of being a know-it-all because he went to college, a friend replied, "I went to college and learn how much I didn't know!" That's a really good answer. It's probably a quote from Oscar Wilde or someone very profound. However, if you really believe that answer, your attitude won't get you ahead. As someone else wrote earlier, anyone with advanced education/knowledge about a subject is bound to sound arrogant (if not actually be arrogant). But I've known my share of jerks who didn't know squat and were arrogant. They still got ahead.

While nerds may be eloquent when it comes to tech, ask about fiction or girls (but not fictional girls) and they'll sound like anyone else.

In summary, if you know your stuff, go ahead and sound and act arrogant. If you don't know your stuff, go ahead and sound arrogant. Humility only worked for Sister Teresa, and even then, some people said she was arrogant.

Arrogance (1)

LeonSeie (2677027) | about a year ago | (#41766235)

I have noticed this as well in myself during some of my classes, I think the best way to combat it, at least for me is to not focus on it or other people, like how they act or however stupid their answers are, and try to keep an open mind. It may not work for everyone, but i feel it works for me. Another thing is to just keep quiet, you learn more from listening than talking, and you can't sound stuck up if you don't talk, just do your work, as you are there to learn, not goof off, get in trouble, make friends or be socially popular. But to combat arrogance, just find how you get to that point and combat it from there. Basic step though, is to be nice to everyone, even those you hate, it helps a lot later on, as teachers, co-worker, and bosses will be more likely to write you recommendations, and i think it helps to be a better person.

nothing to see here (1)

motorsabbath (243336) | about a year ago | (#41766243)

" I am concerned that, if I do not abolish these annoying tendencies, I may have trouble later on in life"

No reason to worry. Life will abolish them for you.

Why change it? (1)

zugedneb (601299) | about a year ago | (#41766251)

The sole existential purpose of every thinking individual is to make the emotional, "mature", selfrespecting fellow human feel superior.

Doomed (1)

Dingo.Neal (1904264) | about a year ago | (#41766261)

Sorry, but I'm pretty sure this is a permanent situation. Perhaps some worldwide catastrophe, were it to eliminate 99% of the population and allow for a "do over", might rectify the situation (at least for the first 75-100 years) - but, generally we're stuck with it. A better solution might be to make the rest of the populous smarter, and therefore not as obviously idiotic to the nerdy masses. Similarly, another possibility is that the entire population become nerds (been moving that way, slowly, for years). A skill to cultivate until such a time as we're able to execute the above: Biting your tongue.

Be Honest (1)

h4x0t (1245872) | about a year ago | (#41766271)

If you haven't yet figured out that you know absolutely nothing, you really haven't learned very much at all.

A good ass-whipping usually works well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766287)

If you are an asshole, sooner or later you will get what you deserve.

Do Something You're Not Good At (4, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#41766291)

It is easy to hold other people in contempt when you only play to your own natural talents. If you have an aptitude for math, for example, that others do not it can be easy to think they're lazy, stupid, or not worthy of respect when you see them struggle. If, having this aptitude, most activities in your life revolve around math it is all too easy to become deluded and arrogant.

Find something you're bad at and struggle. Find something for which you have no natural talent and learn what it means to learn from others. I'm not saying switch your major or career choices. On these you should naturally play toward your strengths because that's why you have them. But if you're not good with, say, physical activities, or visual and creative arts, or music, or language, then take on one of these as a hobby. Take your two left feet dancing, pick up a martial art, play tennis, take a course in poetry, learn a language, try an instrument, take up woodworking. Most importantly, stick with it weekly, especially when it gets hard. It will make you a better person, help you to understand (and indeed to teach) others when they struggle and, almost as importantly, it will teach you how to be confident at what you're good at without being filled with pride and arrogance.

What a smartie you are! (1)

RumorControl (82735) | about a year ago | (#41766297)

Seriously, good on you!

IMHO, it comes from years of being right. nerds are problem solvers. it's a thing they do, and they have years of experience in finding answers and having many moments where they can experience the feeling of not knowing something, thinking about it and then at some point finding out they were right. I am simplifying of course but the constant feeling of "being right" leads them to believe they will always be "right". Thus they become arrogant.

The problem is learning how to cope with people who will need your "brains" and not alienate them with your" arrogance" . try not talking. it's best to listen instead.

Just remember, you need the others too. No one will pull you from the wreckage if they don't like you. And you make a lot of mistakes being arrogant but you don't see them. so you are not really that smart.

good luck smart ass!

cut the pseudo-intellectualism (0, Offtopic)

yagu (721525) | about a year ago | (#41766299)

"Like some Slashdot users, I began attending university last month for computer science. The experience represents my first time away from home and I'm almost constantly with my peers, many of whom are also computer science students. Recently, I have become cognizant of the many negative opinions associated with a 'normal' person's perspective of what a nerd is like. Conversing with my college computer science peers (many of whom are quite nerdy), I have noticed that many of them are extremely arrogant. Upon introspection, I have come to the realization that I am also very similar to them and am very curious, but worried. I have noticed similar personality characteristics on Slashdot. Where does this nerd arrogance come from? How can it be rectified? I am concerned that, if I do not abolish these annoying tendencies, I may have trouble later on in life with my career and relationships. Has anybody run into problems in life with the arrogance that seems to be so prevalent with nerds? If so, how did you handle the situation?"

You might start by dialing back the flowery and mostly unnecessary vocab. Eschew obfuscation!

You can start by not using words like "rectifying" (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#41766305)

Because it's been my experience that "normal" people don't talk like that. I know it's a perfectly legitimate English word, but I've met no end of people who find that people who use longer words when a shorter one would do (eg: "fix") are being snobbish, or trying to talk down to people who might not be as familiar with the term.

Halfway There (4, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | about a year ago | (#41766333)

Congratulations! You're in the process of joining the human race by displaying a sense of self-awareness and an awareness of other's feelings! You've already solved half the problem simply by noticing that you're acting like an arrogant jerk. Next step: When you notice you're about to say or do something arrogant or jerk-like just invoke Wheaton's Law [] .

Where does it come from: As for where it comes from it is pretty easy to see. Most hardcore nerds spent their youth getting picked and teased for being hardcore nerds. Get them into a field in which most people still regard as Voodoo/High Wizardry (Come on, you have to admit that even though people in general are more familiar with tech now most of them are fairly ignorant of how anything tech-related actually works. This is not a dig against anyone, it is simply a statement that most individuals don't know or care how a given piece of tech works, just that it does.) and it is easy to see how a level of arrogance might develop.

Rectifying it (Issue status - Won't Fix): Luckily this is a self-rectifying problem. Once said arrogant jerks get out into the real world most of them will go through the post-grad school of hard knocks. No one wants to work with an arrogant jerk. A lot of them will either self-correct their behavior and try to play nice with their co-workers, family, friends, etc. The rest won't have enough self-awareness to see what is causing the problem in the first place and will quickly either be out of a job, spouse, friends, etc. Problem solved either way. I've seen both scenarios play out.

Airline mechanics can get nasty too (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#41766355)

You should hear what they thought of the pilots.. They really know how to wreck a perfectly good airplane. Sometimes they come back with more damage [] than a B-17 coming home from a mission.

A tiny bit of Logic (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#41766373)

Nerds tend to have more logic and less social understanding. So a nerd might be running a company and say "fire the bottom 10%" this is logical and in theory the correct idea; but they forget that it will freak out the other 90% into thinking they are next and probably be worse than just keeping the useless 10% or at least shedding them in a less efficient but more tactful way.

Another good example of this is how so many IT departments make rules that treat the employees like children. It is a fact that most employees, at say an insurance company, would cause many disasters given unlimited access to the various company systems. But they often take this fact way too far; extending it to issuing Blackberries that are horribly crippled (no internet access even through wifi) or not letting managers deploy systems for their department. Again this often backfires and results in their employes referring to IT as the department of NO; so the managers and whatnot end run the IT department and outsource things like a sales management system or a new time management system. I experienced this first hand a while back when I was giving a presentation of a system for a company. Early in the presentation the network connection went very weird. The IT head had a shit eating grin on his face. I then switched over to a cellular connection(very rare at the time) and the presentation went smoothly while the IT guy frantically pounded on his keyboard trying to figure out where my internet connection was coming from. It was clearly his goal to keep the work in house. The people who did hire us showed us all kinds of tricks they had to get around IT. This was a major company and these were top guys. The problem was simple they couldn't out logic the IT people; but they could outsmart them.

The last place that this logic really gets companies in trouble is that IT people become religious about their favorite technology. I have met Windows zelots, linuz zelots, Novell zelots (the worst), Sun zelots, even adabas zelots. Often these people have mastered some technology, been certified up the wazoo, and now have final say in decision making. So some little snot nosed kid comes along and says "Hello you are still using Novell? Time to move on." And poof it is the snot nose who moves on. Can you imagine arguing with someone with 20 years Novell experience under their belt? Even now in 2012 I see companies deploying Novell into new departments.

BTW Novell gives administrators stunning abilities to control the user experience. There are few better systems for treating the users like infants.

Too much Slashdot (1)

MikeMo (521697) | about a year ago | (#41766375)

Hanging around here makes it obvious that nerds know everything, that everyone else is an @sshole, and nothing matters except technology.

Why... (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#41766377)

Do you realize where you are? Why in the FSM's name would you ask how to be more humble on this website?

Told the others to educate themselves (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about a year ago | (#41766383)

"Where does this nerd arrogance come from?"

Knowing better than others.

"How can it be rectified?"

Educate the others to know as much as you do.

"Has anybody run into problems in life with the arrogance that seems to be so prevalent with nerds?"


"If so, how did you handle the situation?"

Told the others to educate themselves better but in the end I learned to keep my better understandings to myself, unless seriously warranted. So, it has been a life-long learning for me, and others.

We build worlds in our head (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | about a year ago | (#41766391)

We think for a living. We build worlds in our head -- like a novelist, except software instead of novels.

Is it any wonder that we are jealous of our genius? We build worlds in our head!

It's OK C: (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about a year ago | (#41766393)

Conversing with my college computer science peers (many of whom are quite nerdy), I have noticed that many of them are extremely arrogant. Upon introspection, I have come to the realization that I am also very similar to them and am very curious, but worried. I have noticed similar personality characteristics on Slashdot. Where does this nerd arrogance come from? How can it be rectified?

If you're maybe accidentally observing arrogance and social dysfunction in general, and just happen to be surrounded by "nerds" and CS majors due to that being your own major, I'd suggest don't worry about it, because that's just part of growing up.

If you've genuinely noticed that "nerds" are effectively more pissy than the other social sects that you've hopefully also interacted with (for your own sanity, but also simply for the sake of a control in this experiment), then I posit the following:

It's basically just an acquired/adaptive defense mechanism that some people develop, based on an entire lifetime (middle school and HS for you guys, but basically a lifetime) of being judged for no apparent reason (yes high school is harsh), while being told by those with authority (teachers, parents, administrative staff, etc.) that you are doing a good (and better than your "peers", relatively) job.

The worldview eventually evolves into one that comes to expect two things:
1. People will judge and mock me for no reason
2. I'm actually better than them

This leads to the logical conclusion that since a good defense is a strong offense: "I will judge them first, and based on metrics I know are more important, such as computer skills, grades, worldviews, etc." and everyone else will just look and think "lol what an angsty nerd".

Ultimately though, I still think don't worry about it. If you think "nerds" are bad, try sitting in a room next to third and fourth year English majors desperate to justify the tens of thousands of dollars they've spent to be very very unemployed, and I think you'll see that nerds are relatively well adjusted.

And finally, best way to fix yourself if there really is an issue? Learn to dance, gain some confidence, get laid. Your past is erased in college if you choose so (hell, some people can look desperate if they choose the opposite). Social constructs disappear, and you'll have a much better chance of people liking you for who you are, rather than judging you for what they see at first glance. But that's only if you give them the chance and don't come off too much like a dickish nerd right off the bat!

On Superiority (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41766399)

Intelligence makes you better at some things, but it doesn't make you a better person. Looking down on someone just because they aren't as smart as you are is no better than looking down on someone because they are weaker, or shorter. View your intelligence as a gift, and use it to help people. Try to have some perspective and humility, and reserve the arrogance for people that deserve it.

It's painfully common... (2)

lpfarris (774295) | about a year ago | (#41766403)

Some of this is the effect of youth, as it is pretty common for an 18 yr old to think they already have all the answers, and their parents are stupid and don't understand the way things are now. But high tech nerds especially seem to hang on to this arrogance for a long time. Part of it is problematic socialization abilities. The standard borderline Asperger's that nerds are often so proud of. Part of it is that they only interact with non-techies in the context of their area of expertise, and so they tend not to see that other people are very good at other things, even if they aren't so good at computers. Even if you are great at everything you put your mind or your hand to, if you are arrogant, there is one thing you suck at, and that is dealing with people.

Males want to be Alpha Males. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#41766405)

For most Nerds they had a hard time in school with the popular crowd. They may not have been good at sports, or had the best friends, or had the best style of clothing. However they knew more about a particular topic much more than anyone else. In that area of topic such as Computer Science you get recognition of being an Alpha in that area. Right now in history Computer Science is very Male heavy, so all the CS Nerds having gone through High School with their main source of being recognized as Alpha was in their computer skills, they will do so in college.

Now instead of being humbled with working with a class if rather skilled people the CS students will then specialize more in particular areas, Linux, Windows, GUI, AI, Java... Whatever they feel they can be better then someone else is and excel at it, just so they can still be Alpha in that area.

Now for non-nerds males will often be Alpha in other areas, but being that they weren't in the bottom class in the social hierarchy in school they are less sensitive to it and do not try as hard to be an Alpha, especially in their academic areas. Also other academic areas have a closer to a 50/50 gender split where the Woman are less apt to show their Alpha qualities, and creating a culture where the proverbial chest thumping is less common.

In college I minored in Music, I did some focus on Jazz. Now the Jazz Majors were predominantly male too. However, due to the nature of Jazz where the band works as a team, there is less arrogance, however their culture has them competing to be the Jazziest including a lot of Smooth Jive talk (independant of race).

But Comp-Sci in school is a lot of independent work so there is more of I am better than you. They feel the need to Prove that they are smarter. Now they may not be smarter but they will take that one area where they have more knowledge and but a lot of weight on it.

To Rectify it? I would say some things we would need to do in the class is more teamwork projects, also have them work on cross department projects with other students who have different areas of interests. A statistical grading software for the education majors so they learn how to track grades, the CS-Developer learns skills of creating analytical programs. Work with Art Majors they do the art, you do the code behind it... Work with foreign languages majors to try to come up with better translation algorithms. That way they are forced to work with people with their own skills, and if you put them in areas where they have no idea about it, they are forced to work with the other students and ask questions, and not just be the one with the answers.

Smaller world (1)

KC1P (907742) | about a year ago | (#41766409)

This has always baffled me too, especially among programmers, because programming involves endless iterations of writing code and then having the computer laugh in your face. How can you think you're such a genius when a zillion times a day, a machine tells you you're not?

With college students it makes sense though. Because they don't really notice things which haven't happened to catch their interest, they live in a tiny subset of the real world, and they've largely mastered that subset, so as far as they know they ARE geniuses. It takes them an annoyingly long time to realize that the 95% of the universe that they don't care about matters too.

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