Saturday, October 20, 2012

Procrastination, Romnesia, and other ills of our information-saturated age

Now and then, I read blog posts about procrastination, written by bloggers who suffer from this, ahem, terrible scourge of our information-saturated age. Well, if you suffer from this affliction, there is now hope: You can hire somebody to slap you whenever you procrastinate! Talk about tough love... This is exactly what blogger Maneesh Sethi has done: He recently went on Craigslist and hired a woman to be his "slapper". For $8 an hour, the woman will sit beside him at a designated place (in this case, a cafe) and slap him whenever she notices him looking at things on his computer that is not related to his work (for more details, see this article). Here's a video of the slapper in action:

Intense, huh? Well, personally, I'm not sure if hiring a slapper would work so well for me. Here's why: 

(1) Although I do procrastinate quite a bit, I actually have something to show for my procrastination. Last year, I actually wrote a philosophical paper on procrastination and presented it at a few philosophy conferences around the country. In the paper, I compare procrastination to standard accounts of weakness of will (or akrasia, if you prefer the Greek term). My view is that procrastination is different from weakness of will, because while weakness of will assumes that what one is being weak-willed over (say, having more ice-cream than you should be having, or sleeping with somebody you shouldn't be sleeping with) is a bad thing, procrastination can actually be a good thing and lead to good outcomes in some cases, such as writing an academic paper on procrastination! 

I have since submitted the paper to a philosophy journal, where it is now under review. Hopefully, it will get published, and then I will be able to join the illustrious ranks of published philosophers :-) Oh, and if you want to read the paper, email me and I'll send you a copy. 

(2) I can say that at least half of the posts on this blog were written when I was procrastinating and not doing my "real" work. So at least half this blog owes its existence to procrastination! I don't know if this is a good thing. You decide. 

(3) Having said all this, if you need a slapper, please consider hiring me. Well, then again, maybe not: I have developed a fair amount of upper-body strength from my Ashtanga practice, and you might end up getting more than what you paid for. Talk about value for money... Never mind. 


Speaking of afflictions of our age, President Obama recently identified another such affliction: Romnesia! Check out his recent speech in Fairfax, Virginia, in which he describes the symptoms of this painful condition and what you can do if you find yourself thus afflicted: 

Well, now you know what my political views are. I've never said I'm apolitical, anyway. In any case, not being a citizen of these United States, I can't vote in the upcoming elections. But still, what needs to be said, needs to be said.

Alright... I've procrastinated enough. I need to get back to my "real" work now. More later.


  1. Hahaha, like a good academic, you've found a way to incorporate aspects of your personal life into work! I hope your paper gets published :) Seth Godin also has similar views on procrastination, viz:

    I can't vote in this election either, but the debates are highly entertaining....especially the day-after critiques of Romney's gaffes.

    1. Very interesting. I'll read that Seth Godin article soon. Actually, people in various fields (academia, business etc.) have increasingly come to see that things like procrastination and "goofing off" can actually improve creativity and performance in many cases. The trick, I guess, is to try to separate the "good" kind of procrastination or goofing off from "bad" kind.

      Yes, the back-and-forth between Obama and the sufferer-of-Romnesia is getting highly entertaining; kind of like a political Roman gladiatorial match :-)

  2. Mmmm... paying someone to slap me out of my procrastination? I think I'll just stick with my procrastination! Sounds a little extreme!

    1. Yeah, I think I'll stick with procrastination too, come to think of it... besides, I (and a few others) have been arguing that procrastination isn't always a bad thing... ;-)

  3. I don't trust that video, it has only few seconds. What if she gets her procrastination attact in 10th second? And whats even more important - there is nobody who can verify her competences :-)
    Perhapse he slaps her too, but that can't be shown for countless reasons...

    1. I think there is a good reason why he hires a woman to slap him (rather than a woman hiring a man to slap him...)

      Besides, I think that he now has more than procrastination to distract him from his work :-)

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