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Too Much Information

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Too Much Information

Understanding What You Don't Want to Know

MIT Press,

15 min read
6 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Does knowing too much “ruin the popcorn”? That’s the information test: too much, not enough or who cares?

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Harvard Law professor and prolific author Cass R. Sunstein has the experience to address information disclosure and its impact, having helped oversee federal regulations in the Obama administration. Policy makers insist citizens are entitled to information, but Sunstein argues that a policy’s impact on human welfare can outweigh the right to know. Unpacking a stunningly complex query with few definitive answers, he explores Facebook’s value, honesty in imparting medical knowledge and other thorny issues. He provides thoughtful, measured and informed insights and observations. Sunstein presents all sides of the information disclosure issue and then leaves you to draw your own conclusions.



The debate about mandatory information disclosure laws raises complex moral and practical questions.

Information is a double-edged sword. It can improve your decision-making and improve your life with health and financial information. But information can be a source of unhappiness, too. Policy makers often believe people have a right to information, regardless of whether it benefits them. Along the same lines, advocates contend that the more information you have, the more autonomy you can achieve.

When he served in President Barack Obama’s administration, Cass R. Sunstein focused on federal regulations regarding the release of information on such subjects as workplace safety, nutrition and fuel emissions. He believed “mandatory disclosure” benefited Americans by arming them with critical facts and figures. Sunstein worked on a US Food & Drug Administration regulation that required restaurants – and movie theaters – to disclose caloric information. When he shared the news with a friend, she responded in an email, “CASS RUINED POPCORN.”

Taken aback, Sunstein realized his friend was on to something. People settling...

About the Author

Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein has written many books, including Conformity: The Power of Social Influences; How Change Happens; The World According to Star Wars and This is Not Normal: The Politics of Everyday Expectations. He co-authored Nudge with Richard Thaler. Sunstein served as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012.

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    H. C. 1 year ago
    The part about Facebook is very bad research. People who sign up for Mechanical Turk need money to begin with, their data is biased