Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Expensive Commitment at Low Prices

The good folks at Lifehacker put together a nice list of apps that provide voluntary coercion.

A sample:
Gym-Pact is pretty straightforward: attach your bank account to Gym-Pact, and when you don't go to the gym (and check in), Gym-Pact takes money out of your account. The money it collects is then redistributed to other users who actually went to the gym
My favorite of the bunch is this one:
Aherk doesn't have a mobile app, but it's easily one of the more sadistic ways to reach your goals. Aherk is designed to help you blackmail yourself. You provide Aherk with embarrassing pictures of yourself, and then a goal (say lose 10 pounds) you want to meet. If you don't meet it by the deadline, that embarrassing photo is released onto your social networks. Self-blackmail is a little tough, but once you set Aherk up, you can't back out, so you'd better accomplish those goals.
Part of the problem with any self-imposed commitment mechanism is credibility. You can always take the $100 bill out of the money-shredding alarm clock. With this Aherk thing, once you're in, that's it. You have bound your future self.

Note that this feature is wholly lacking in any pronouncement you'll ever hear from Congress, the Oval Office, or the FRB.

Note to self: draft a model of political kayfabe using this idea mixed with repeated BoS game and a dash of rational hypocrisy.

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