Welcome to Programmable Self

So I have decided to start blogging about “programmable self”. For that reason, I will be re-publishing the programmable self category from fredtrotter.com on programmableself.com.

Programmable self is a merger of two sets of concepts, quantified-self which is the use of technology to get accurate data about yourself, and behavioral economics/psychology which deals with motivation and behavior.

The concept is pretty simple. The same way that quantters (people who track themselves, using quantified self methods) use software to track data about themselves, you can also automate certain aspects of motivation.

This is really important, because for the most difficult life change issues, the problem is not knowledge, but motivation. Using quantified self, a motivated person can perform better. But the problem is how to become a motivated person? The really difficult things to change about ourselves come with tremendous intrinsic motivators. Overeating, anything to do with sex, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling or any combination of the above have tangible, pleasurable outcomes. Orgasms are pretty amazing experiences, and if we want to change behaviors like condom use, we need to delve deeply into changing motivations.

Before I get started blogging, I should probably acknowledge that many of the concepts that I will be discussing are either inspired by, borrowed from or criticisms of the work of several behavioral economists.

Moreover, I am not the first person to attempt to harness these ideas in software.

Stickk.com is the first major web application that enables online commitment contracts, which I believe are a fundamental tool for programmable self. Further, the book Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done , by Ian Ayers one of the founders of Stickk, is probably the best summary of the relevant work in behavioral economics that I have read. I have not yet read The $500 Diet: Weight Loss for People Who Are Committed to Change (Kindle Edition) but it probably worth reading too. I am a stickk.com user and it is effective. Most of my efforts blogging here will be centered around how to go beyond the functionality that stickk.com offers.

To start with, most of what I say here will only be consumable by quantters, programmers and hackers like myself. Eventually some of the concepts that I am dealing with here should become available to “regular” users!

-FT

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