I’m a creature of habits, most of them bad.
I used to be in the habit of trying to be a better person, but I finally managed to break that. Now I can fully enjoy my many vices for however many years (months? weeks?) of life they afford me. The fools among you still striving for the “best you you can be,” though, might want to try the Pavlok wearable…
Then, after you try the device, you might want to try taking them up on their 30-day money back guarantee, though the wristband claims to show results within five days. Because it doesn’t do anything you can’t pull off with a tongue and a 9-volt battery, and it’s about 170 times more expensive (than a 9-volt battery, that is – I have no idea what a human tongue costs these days).
Aversion Therapy for Startup investors
Here’s how Pavlok works: they come up with a flashy Fitbit-looking device, use a loose connection to some shaky science that promises life-changing results, get investors to fund them, and then tank miserably a few years later, associating bad investments with bad feelings and training investors to be that much better at what they do.
At least, that’s what I imagine the genius inventors of Pavlok are up to.
If you ask them though, Pavlok is a wristband that delivers a mild electric shock to the wearer anytime they engage in a bad habit. After five days, according to the company, the habit will already be severely crippled and life will be full of unicorn farts and dolphin sex (both of which are supposed to be awesome).
The name is an obvious reference to Pavlov, who rang a bell and fed some dogs, and made the dogs realize that the bell meant getting fed. In the same vein, this application is known as aversion therapy: associate an unwanted habit with an unpleasant feeling, and the unwanted habit goes away.
It’s great in theory. It’s questionable in practice. It’s absolute gobshite in Pavlok.
Here’s why: not only is aversion therapy’s effectiveness uncertain in the best of circumstances, but with Pavlok you have to be the one to administer the electric shock. That is, you have to be disciplined enough to cause yourself “pain” each time you’re about to have that cigarette, eat that gas station taquito, punch that bunny in the face, etc.
Or, if you are that disciplined, you can get the same effect by putting a rubber band around your wrist and giving it a snap.
Or putting a 9-volt battery on your tongue.
You don’t need Pavlok.
Yet guess which one of these options costs $169 and isn’t currently hiding under your couch cushions?
To be fair, there’s a bit more to Pavlok than what I’ve described. If your bad habits are web-based, the Pavlok app and/or Chrome extension will activate your wristband when you open too many tabs or visit a site on your “bad” list. So you can get an automated shock each time you get naughty online, and it comes in both blue and black (maybe they have a product here after all).
Also, the wristband doesn’t have to “shock” (at a measly 340 max volts though – to put it in perspective, if you run a Tough Mudder, one of the common obstacles is a 10,000-volt shock gauntlet); it can vibrate, “tap,” and beep too… so…there’s that…
Like I said, I’m waiting for the brains behind Pavlok’s technology to reveal their secret plot of investor education via long-term aversion therapy. If it works, the experience will teach this startup’s backers that product viability matters, and that “fund everything” is a bad strategy for both profitability and innovation.
Once they’ve sold a sort-of-break-even number of bracelets at $169 a piece, Pavlok’s creators will no doubt move on to something even more groundbreaking…like pinching.
I can only hope I’m around long enough to pan that too.
Daniel A. Guttenberg is an Atlanta-based writer who fell into the startup world by accident and has been gleefully treading water ever since. He will be survived by his beard and his legacy of procrastination.
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