Giving the other, the perception that you hold a secret grants you power. The validity of the secret – its existence, factuality, or relevance – is unimportant. It’s the idea that ‘I have something which you don’t, and can’t have’, gives the owner their power. This particular situation, in its most sober sense, creates ‘curiosity’ within the other.
The owner of the secret controls the information pipeline to maintain the power equation, and literally clamps the other at a distance. Rather than information, fact, or knowledge, it is the maintenance of this curiosity that lends its gravitas to the power equation established between the two. Rather than misinformation, bluffs or deception, it is not the satiation of curiosity, but the management of this curiosity that lends it power. If the information or misinformation is disseminated, the ‘secret’ is out, and in effect, affects the outcome. The information doled out by the controller, is merely a tool to maintain the clamp.
According to Loewenstein, curiosity is rather simple: It comes when we feel a gap “between what we know and what we want to know”. This gap has emotional consequences: it feels like a mental itch, a mosquito bite on the brain. We seek out new knowledge because we that’s how we scratch the itch.
In this equation, it is this space that is most interesting to me; the one that I call the ‘curios-clamp’. The curious-clamp is everywhere. From workplaces, among friends, family, media, news, negotiation. I can postulate that this is an integral part of basic communication theory, and the bifurcations following that theory as well.
What can you do?
The ‘power of ignorance’ is an idea which advises a person in any position within this power equation of the curious-clamp, to act on the assumption, that whatever information the other has, is information not worth having or knowing. This is to advice, that the person must change the relationship to a state of independence; apathy. To put it in simple terms – ‘change the rules of the game, then learning the game’.
To not propagate any misunderstanding, remember, your goal is to remove the curious-clamp, not to be ignorant. You thirst for knowledge must continue, while being sceptic. To put it simply, never be 100% sure of anything. Maybe at 90.8%…
Curiosity is the distance between ‘ what you know’, and ‘what you want to know’. If you don’t want to know anything from the person holding the power, then you are dissolving the clamp immediately. The power of ignorance is to take the position, that ‘what you know’ is nothing -, and ‘what you want to know’, is not from the person keeping the secret. You’d rather be ignorant, solely to maintain that power
P.S. After I wrote this article – with all bells and whistles (Title), I came to know about a play by the name – The Power of Ignorance: The Play, by T.J. Dawe, Chris Gibbs. Just to clarify, this article has nothing to do with the same.