Thursday, April 14, 2011


A couple of days ago, I was listening to the podcast "Philosophy Talk", about procrastination. As probably anybody that has ever blogged in their life knows, it is so easy to leave a post for "later on", when you have more time to "concentrate" on the blog post, when you can "really write" what you want.
Most of the time, this means..., well, no post.
Some of the concepts in the podcast that tickled my fancy were "short term mood repair" and "unfairness to your future self". Let me explain a little bit.
The first one, short term mood repair, has to do with one of the possible reasons of why we procrastinate. And it has to do with our natural tendency to favor things that will make us feel better, in the short run. It may be by eating, having sex, sleeping, etc, but the important thing is that we give undue importance to these short term advantages, even when you are completely conscious that you will pay the consequences afterwards (obesity, divorce, being late).
 This is very important, as it is an underlying concept not only of procrastination, but of multiple other concepts. For example, you could define maturity simply as a transition from caring only for the short term mood repair to realizing the importance of long term goals.
Also this could be one of the main factors affecting our current economy troubles, as most large publicly traded corporations need to have their quarterly earnings showing improvement, even at the cost of long term investments (unless you have other checks and balances, which are very weak in this day and age.
The second concept, unfairness to your future self, has to do with the morality (or lack of it) of procrastination. Most people consider procrastination as an issue dealing with the question of free will and/or how the different decision modules of our brain coordinate a final decision.
But rarely I've heard the morality of procrastination being discussed. I don't mean that people don't consider this factor, but I have the impression (not based in data at this time) that most people intrinsically consider procrastination as a "bad" moral action, without thinking "why" is it bad. Here is where the concept of unfairness to your future self comes in. Because by not doing something you actually ARE doing something, that is you are affect the time distribution of your own self in the future, restricting its freedom, just because of your procrastination. And it's even worse, as you are doing it on purpose!. This argument really made my day, as I had never hear it before.
I do think this argument is not completely airtight, because the you in the future is completely dependent on your actual self, and you can't avoid going to the future, so even if the side effect of procrastinating is in the future, taking the decision in the present is appropriate. Negating this would imply that you don't have much rights over your own self, and things like private property, the right of suicide/abortion/healthcare decisions should not be left to us,
Anyways, I have to go do something else. Or play this nice video game here....

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