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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Sep 10, 2020

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? Not necessarily, argues behavioral scientist Cass Sunstein.

Drawing from findings shared in his book Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know, Sunstein joined us via livestream to investigate how information can make us happy or miserable, and why we sometimes avoid it and sometimes seek it out. He posited, that rather than focusing on a “right to know,” our focus should be on human well-being and what information contributes to it. He invites us to consider whether what we need is more information, or more clarity about what that information is achieving.

Cass Sunstein is a professor at Harvard Law School, and the author of several books, including The Cost-Benefit Revolution and How Change Happens. In 2020, the World Health Organization appointed him as Chair of its technical advisory group on Behavioral Insights and Sciences for Health. He was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during the Obama administration, and the recipient of the 2018 Holberg Prize.

Buy the Book: Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know

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