Small steps toward a much better world

Via Henry Farrell, the probabilistic alarm clock:

Lifehacker links to
an invention that I’ve thought for years would be a good idea (I’m sure
that plenty of other people have had the same thought).   Many people
have their clocks running a few minutes fast, to encourage them to
leave earlier for appointments to get there on time etc.  The
problem with this is that if you’re half-way rational, you’ll correct
for the error, making it useless.  So the solution is to have a
probabilistic clock, where the clock is fast, but you aren’t sure how
fast it is within a given and relatively short time range.  Thus, you’re
more likely to depart early for your appointments and get there on time
(or a few minutes ahead, most probably, in many situations).  This is
exactly what some bloke has programmed, although it doesn’t appear that it has an alarm feature yet.

Tim Harford covered a similar topic last week.

Comments

We also covered it here, along with some interesting reader comments.

I've been doing this for a few years, and I'm a bit saddened to find out I was the only one. I generally keep mine seventeen minutes fast, for when I'm half conscious it's far too difficult to subtract seventeen, as opposed to fifteen or twenty.

The problem with this is that if you’re half-way rational, you’ll correct for the error...

Um... if you're half-way rational, you wouldn't have the problem in the first place!

I've always considered the habit of setting one's clock ahead in this fashion to be a negative mark on a person's record, so to speak. Personally, I just make a habit of being on time.

However, a clock that didn't allow a person to know exactly what time it was would be beneficial for the hopelessly tardy, though without an alarm, it's utility is greatly diminished.

Also, if one knows that it is always fast - and never slow, it would still produce the same results of the semi-rational person trying to guesstimate how far they can push it without being late.

I've long thought that an alarm clock that uses incentives would be a good idea. In it's crude form, the alarm clock would communicate wirelessly with a paper shredder located in another room. Before going to bed, you put a $20 bill in the shredder. When the alarm goes off, you'd have 5 minutes to get to it and grab your bill before the shredder activates.

The idea came from realizing that my problem getting up in the morning is that I have far too high a discount rate when I've just awakened than I do normally. The rational me who sets the alarm at night knows he'd be better off getting up at that time, but the morning me values staying in bed much more than whatever future benefits getting up and being productive would generate. Putting money in immediate peril would give the morning me an urgent benefit to consider.

After I turn the light out I move the alarm clock ahead a little. It might be 3 or 4 minutes, it might be 10 or 12. I don't know.

I set my girlfriend's alarm clock, and she won't let me tell her how fast I've set it. I think it is a tool for getting to bed on time, rather than for getting up, because a) she knows I've calibrated the alarm so that it goes off at a known exact time, b) her trigger to get up is my being ready to make breakfast, not her alarm, and c) getting up has never been a problem for her.

It is easier to program oneself to be out the door at Oh Eight Hundred than at 7:55. If 7:55 is the departure time which results in arriving at work at the 8:30 starting time, then setting the clock ahead five minutes is a rational and effective technique.

At least it has worked for us.

If you are late you either did not want to be there in the first place or you are dead -- Ernst Hemingway

I set the downstairs clocks forward, but I dont tell my wife or kids that I have done it. I then let my wife and kids fret at the fact that we are running late, pushing each other and me out the door. If I dont mention that the clock is fast everything goes like clockwork :)

The pastime of playing mindgames with the alarm clock is one of life's simple and underrated pleasures. Why spoil your morning with efficiency-enhancing tricks that *actually* work?

Murphy: Would that be Ernst Stavro Hemmingway?

資金を増やそうとするのに不動産投資をするのが手っ取り早い。日本で不動産で東京 賃貸をさがすのはきわめて難しくシステム開発は日本の会社が良い。

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