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CASS SUNSTEIN

Q&A

We’re honoured to be welcoming Cass Sunstein to the Nudgestock stage this year.

Cass Sunstein, co-author of ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ and currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard has been fundamental in changing how we think about human behaviour.

In addition to authoring hundreds of articles and dozens of books, during the Obama administration, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and served on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

In recognition of his lifetime’s work, he received the Holberg Prize from the government of Norway in 2018, which is sometimes described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and the humanities.

To get to know him a little better, we caught up with him ahead of Nudgestock…

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What are your top tips to survive lockdown?

"Baudelaire said it best (note: this is about life, not alcohol);

One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters;

That’s our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time’s

Horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows

You own, you must get drunk without ceasing.

But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with

Virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.

And if, at some time, on the steps of a palace, in the

Green grass of a ditch, in the bleak solitude of your

Room, you are waking up when the drunkenness has already

Abated, ask the wind, the wave, a star, the clock, all that

Which flees, all that which groans, all that which rolls,

All that which sings, all that which speaks, ask them

What time it is; and the wind the wave, the star, the

Bird, the clock will reply: ‘It is time to get drunk! So that

You may not be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk;

Get drunk and never pause for rest! With wine, with

Poetry, or with virtue, as you choose!"

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What development in your field has surprised you the most this year?

"No question about it: The massive, world-wide increase in interest in behavioural science and in nudging, sparked by COVID-19."

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What is your favourite nudge?

"Default rules win Olympic Gold. Switching from opt-in to opt-out dramatically increases participation rates - whether we are speaking of green energy, health care, educational programs, antipoverty programs, or pension programs. They're the Usain Bolt of behavioural science; they work fast!"

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What is the piece of work that you are most proud of?

"I feel honoured (not proud, but honoured) to have played a role in creating a U.S. government program that gives over 10 million poor children access to free, healthy meals in school (lunch and breakfast)."

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And finally, tell us a fact we wouldn’t know about you…

"At 17, I was in a rock and roll band."

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Nudgestock Global session title: How Change Happens

For more see: Harvard Law School

Find Cass on Twitter: @CassSunstein

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