The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know by Cass R. Sunstein (MIT Press, Sept. 1, 2020).
Tuesday, September 15, 2020, between noon and 1 pm, EST
Harvard Law School via Zoom, advance registration required. This event is free and is open to members of the Harvard community.
REGISTER HERE: https://harvard.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Zyc9UPWITka8GeWsfqD_PQ
About Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know
“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 prescription 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.” — MIT Press Online Access via HOLLIS
About Cass R. Sunstein
Cass R. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. He is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. In 2018, he received the Holberg Prize from the government of Norway, sometimes described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and the humanities. In 2020, the World Health Organization appointed him as Chair of its technical advisory group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and after that, he served on the President’s Review Board on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and on the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board. Mr. Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects, and he has advised officials at the United Nations, the European Commission, the World Bank, and many nations on issues of law and public policy. He serves as an adviser to the Behavioural Insights Team in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Sunstein is author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, including Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008), Simpler: The Future of Government (2013), The Ethics of Influence (2015), #Republic (2017), Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide (2017), The Cost-Benefit Revolution (2018), On Freedom (2019), Conformity (2019), How Change Happens (2019), and Too Much Information (2020). He is now working on a variety of projects involving the regulatory state, “sludge” (defined to include paperwork and similar burdens), fake news, and freedom of speech.
More About Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know
“An accessible treatise on the need to ensure that information improves citizens’ wellbeing with a narrative [that] is clear and relatable.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Sunstein writes in clear, accessible language throughout. This balanced and well-informed take illuminates an obscure but significant corner of government policy making.” –Publishers Weekly
“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 world renowned behavioral scientist — to write this important book. His must read 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
“Cass Sunstein offers a unique and incredibly valuable perspective on information and how it affects people’s choices, presented in a masterful way.” – Linda Thunstrom, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Wyoming
“Sunstein offers an endless supply of thought provoking and accessible examples to highlight the fascinating questions at the heart of information disclosure policy. This book changed how I think about what information to seek out in my own life.” – Jacob Goldin, Associate Professor of Law, Stanford Law School