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Thomas Schelling meets weight loss

Ryan Hahn's picture

Thomas Schelling, one of the fathers of game theory, would be proud. There are now websites that allow people to place bets with themselves over whether they will achieve certain weight loss goals:

Kate Borden, 32, from Lancashire, signed up to one of the diet-betting sites,, last November. She wanted to lose a stone in six months. “I just find it tough to motivate myself,” she says. “The only other time I had lost weight was when I had a bet with friends one New Year's Eve. The thought that it was almost a competition with myself and that someone else was the judge did it for me.”

Schelling recognized that people have multiple competing interests - the trick is figuring out how to lock in the choices of your "better self." Betting with yourself might just do the trick. The question is, can we think of any better uses than helping someone get to the gym?


Schelling's breakthrough was in using this thinking to end a 30-year smoking habit. If memory serves, he had a brief relapse years later, but repeated the process and kicked it for good. For some really good global uses, it would be interesting to see big pharma--perhaps through their lobbying group--place a large chunk of money in an escrow account against a bet on lowering malaria infections.

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