Virtual Event: Cass R. Sunstein
Too Much Information:
Understanding What You Don't Want to Know
October 2, 2020
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Free - $3 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes renowned legal scholar CASS R. SUNSTEIN—the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School and author of The Cost-Benefit Revolution—for a discussion of his latest book, Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don't Want to Know.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $3 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Too Much Information on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About Too Much Information
How much information is too much? Do we need to know how many calories are in the giant vat of popcorn that we bought on our way into the movie theater? Do we want to know if we are genetically predisposed to a certain disease? Can we do anything useful with next week's weather forecast for Paris if we are not in Paris? In Too Much Information, Cass Sunstein examines the effects of information on our lives. Policymakers emphasize “the right to know,” but Sunstein takes a different perspective, arguing that the focus should be on human well-being and what information contributes to it. Government should require companies, employers, hospitals, and others to disclose information not because of a general “right to know” but when the information in question would significantly improve people's lives.
Sunstein argues that the information on warnings and mandatory labels is often confusing or irrelevant, yielding no benefit. He finds that people avoid information if they think it will make them sad (and seek information they think will make them happy). Our information avoidance and information seeking is notably heterogeneous—some of us do want to know the popcorn calorie count, others do not. Of course, says Sunstein, we are better off with stop signs, warnings on prescriptions drugs, and reminders about payment due dates. But sometimes less is more. What we need is more clarity about what information is actually doing or achieving.
Praise for Too Much Information
"Classic Cass Sunstein: Keen insights and bracingly clear prose fill every page. The chapter on Facebook alone is a compelling reason to read Too Much Information." —Robert H. Frank, H. J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics, Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management; author of Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work
"Once again Cass Sunstein shows that evaluating policy questions with evidence and rigor not only leads to better governance but can be intellectually exhilarating." —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of Enlightenment Now
"Years at the White House uniquely prepared Cass—a worldrenowned behavioral scientist—to write this important book. His mustread arguments about when governments should and should not require companies to disclose information draw on entertaining anecdotes supported by rigorous research." —Katy Milkman, Professor, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; host of the Choiceology podcast
Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars.
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