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My theoretical charity of choice: George W. Bush

by Michael Nielsen on May 22, 2008

The last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with stickk.com. What stickk.com lets you do is pick a commitment – say, to exercise for 3 hours per week – and then sign a contract saying that if you don’t meet the commitment, a certain sum of money will be given to the anti-charity of your choice.

My anti-charity is the Bush Memorial Library. If I should miss making a commitment, I’ll be making an automatic 50 dollar donation. It’s a good choice for me personally, since even though I dislike Bush I won’t feel too bad if I strike out (it’s just a library, not a re-election fund), but find that thinking about Bush really motivates me to keep my commitments.

To keep you honest, you get to nominate an independent referee and supporters.

It works surprisingly well. When I get up in the morning, and just can’t stand the thought of going to the treadmill, I simply bring an image of Bush to mind. It gets me energized every time. So far I’m 5 from 5 – I’ve met every one of my commitments. I’m tempted to put a poster of the man up somewhere.

Psychologically, the effect is weird. In economic terms, I seem to apply a pretty steep discount factor to my future time. That is, the site exploits the fact that when I’m making my commitment, I put a much lower value on my future time than I actually do in the moment. It’s a clever trick.

One other oddity is that the effect seems to last. I’ve found that even when I take a week off, it seems to be a lot easier to keep the commitments anyway.

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2 Comments
  1. Donna Wentworth permalink

    Maybe it’s the amount of caffeine I’ve consumed this morning, but this made me laugh out loud:

    “When I get up in the morning, and just can’t stand the thought of going to the treadmill, I simply bring an image of Bush to mind. It gets me energized every time.”

    Oh, my. Thank you for this.

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