When Jeremy told us about his gold star approach to working out, that for every day/star less than 200 in 2008 he would donate $25 to the Bush Presidential Library, I thought “wow, that’s not for the faint of heart.”
I certainly could not do it, because in addition to my lack of will or discipline, I have an even greater aversion to pain of the financial kind–I can’t abide not paying rent or starving just because I didn’t work out. The discretionary lack of income I do have I would want to go to a charity I actually support. I was thinking of getting a buddy system to make myself learn how to swim, because I need accountability of the social kind–fining myself would impoverish me and make me bothering mad at myself. But the buddy system has its own perils, especially when combined with pecuniary punishment.
I love you Jeremy (wherever you are!), but dude, your approach is weaksauce compared to these guys:
Ted Frank and Ray Lehmann are taking the Stickk approach to weight loss to an extreme. For every pound less than 60 (!) that Ray fails to lose in the next 9 months he has agreed to pay Ted, $1000. Thus as much as $60,000 is on the line. Ted has made the same bet with Ray. The world has been put on notice.
Now this does raise an interesting prisoner’s dilemma problem, with Ted and Ray as the prisoners. If the prisoners can agree to “cooperate” they could both eat and lose neither weight nor money. But with $1000 per pound at stake can Ray count on Ted not to cheat on his diet by dieting (and vice-versa)? But in this context is cooperation really cooperation or is it just joint self-sabotage? A true dilemma.
Ray clarified the terms in a comment:
I owe Ted $1,000 for every pound he loses, he owes me $1,000 for every pound I lose, and the target (and thus, the cap on total liability that either of us can owe) is 60 pounds, for $60,000.
I don’t think the charity proposal would be a particularly strong motivator, at least in my case. The first problem is that, since our political and personal views are pretty similar, I can’t imagine there being too many charities Ted would support that I would dislike, or vice versa. And if we both chose the same disagreeable charity, that would offer an even stronger incentive to collude (which, while I understand the game theoretic curiousity, is not an outcome I’d consider terribly likely, anyway) if only to avoid handing over money to a third party we both dislike.
As currently constructed, the bet is not simply a negative incentive (avoiding loss) but one that also has the potential for financial gain. Having Ted give money to me is certainly a stronger motivation FOR me than would whatever hedonic value I’d derive from forcing him to give money to, well, whoever the University of Chicago’s rival is (no names come to mind.)
Dang, no gain, less pain. No loss, even bigger loss!