Monday, March 26, 2007

Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School as well as a member of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

His many books include: The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever, Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for America, and Infotopia How Many Minds Produce Knowledge.

I recently asked him what he has been reading. His reply:
I'm reading 2 1/2 books -- a mystery to be explained shortly.

Book 1: Scott Page, The Difference. An illuminating book about the wisdom of crowds -- about why and when crowds are wiser than individuals. Full of insights and also fun to read. A bit like James Surowiecki's excellent The Wisdom of Crowds, but less lively and more careful -- an unpop version, in a way. The downside is that it's not the simplest book; it has some math (and I'm math-challenged). Still there's a lot to be learned from it.

Book 2: The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver. A book about relationships and parallel worlds (not science fiction, though). I'm only 90 pages in, but Shriver is a wonderful writer, with insight and humor, and parallel worlds are great, aren't they? I'm completely hooked.

Book 2 1/2: Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect. Only 1/2, because it's not out yet (I write on March 18, and it won't be available for a week or so); but 1/2, because I'm so excited about it, and I'm reading some of the academic papers that lead up to the book. Zimbardo is famous for claiming (inter alia) that bad or evil conduct is a product of situations, not dispositions; so almost anyone can go really bad in the right (wrong) situation. The book will bear on the wellsprings of extremism and terrorism, among many other things. Very eager to read it!
Read the Page 69 Test:
Cass Sunstein's Infotopia
Scott E. Page's The Difference
--Marshal Zeringue