Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Voluntary Coercion: Fear the Mechanical Mother

There are several me's. There's the me today who eats six jelly donuts, and the me tomorrow who looks at the scale and say, "I HATE yesterday me!"

Some people have trouble getting out of bed when their alarm goes off. I've never had that trouble, but I know people who do. (We have talked about the problem before, here at EE).

For them, the current "me" is the rational one, who wants to constrain the future "me" who is going to act badly.

So, while in the case of the jelly donuts, future me cannot travel back in time and berate the past me who ate the high calorie snack. But in the case of the alarm clock, all rational me has to do is figure out a way to force future me to act in the way that current me wants. In effect, current rational me gets to write a contract, knowing that future me will be trying really hard to cheat on that contract.

And future me is just as smart as current me. So you need a commitment device. And here it is! As the designer, Paul Sammut, puts it:

"I wanted to make something that would essentially force me to get out of bed when I wanted to get out of bed the night before," said Sammut. "And I was thinking about ways of doing it and I thought about how in high school I had the perfect solution to this, which was my mother, and how she would, if it was time for me to wake up, she would force me out of bed."

He built the prototype in his spare time and uses it every day.

"Now I wake up before it goes off," said Sammut. "I subconsciously fear it and know I have to get up."

Now, I guess I need a mechanical mother to keep me away from those jelly donuts....

1 comment:

  1. "Now I wake up before it goes off," said Sammut. "I subconsciously fear it and know I have to get up."

    My idea was to have the off switch triggered by the shower.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?