Thursday, 6 March 2014

Our screens are our commitment posts

Before the Internet, before wearable computing and before any sort of personal computers at all, the only way to create a commitment post for yourself was to write yourself a note, tell a friend of your plan or in extreme cases, place an ad in the newspaper. Laudable ideas, but not easy to influence your behavior at the very moment that the commitment is required.

A commitment post is a decision we make in advance that binds us to a behavior we want in the future

With apps and now wearable computing, its easier to create a commitment post. When you decide to diet, any number of apps will tell you of the number of calories you have consumed and prompt you not to eat that donut.

For exercise-phobes, wearable devices like the Fitbit record your activity and link it to other apps like  They provide a commitment post by buzzing you to reward you for achievement, and send messages to your friends to advise that you have or have not reached your goals.

For drunk-texters, there are a host of apps that allow you to prevent you from texting an ex, a boss, or someone you simply shouldn't text at 1am after a night out.  These apps work.

Wearable devices are the next frontier for behavioural commitment 

Rather than relying on another person, or a buzzing phone, the newest phase in technology is wearable, and will be with us all the time.  Like an extension of the Fitbit, concepts like Google Glass have the potential to read signals from our bodies and then it's a short jump to a commitment post.

If the device can tell that our sugar level has risen - for diabetics for example - it could easily send an electric shock if we look at a sugary beverage of food item. Sure, that might be a little way off, but the concept and the technology are rapidly converging.

The ideas are only limited to our imagination, but the behavioral economics applications are clear. Small nudges, delivered directly to the person (voluntarily), that can make important changes to behavior.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

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