Quirks & Quarks

Too much information: a new book explores the paradox of the information age

Legal scholar and behavioural economist Cass Sunstein explores the glut of information in our modern age, and how sometimes more information can make our decision making worse.

Cass Sunstein looks at how ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power

Legal scholar and behavioural economics researcher Cass Sunstein. (MIT Press)

The world seems to have much more small print in it these days: information leaflets and legal disclosures in everything from over-the-counter painkillers, to car manuals, to financial documents; endless scrolling computer "terms of use" agreements and "privacy policies;"  labels on food products that seem to fill the back of the average cereal box with what looks like an excerpt from a chemistry textbook.

We're living in the "information age" and the "information economy."  But as valuable as some of that information is, we're also drowning in it. 
Too Much Information by Cass Sunstein (MIT Press)

That's part of the argument of a new book by legal scholar and behavioural economics expert Cass Sunstein, founder and director of the Program on Behavioural Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, and former advisor in the Obama administration.

Sunstein thinks we've got an information problem. In this era of "full disclosure", a lot of the time we're getting information we don't want or need, and can't properly use.  

It's making us unhappy and anxious. And paradoxically he says this wealth of information can lead to worse decision making — about everything from our eating habits to health care to the environment and our planet's future.

The book is called Too Much Information: Understanding what you Don't Want to Know, published by the MIT press.

Click the play button above to hear Bob McDonald's conversation with Cass Sunstein.

Produced and written by Jim Lebans


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