28
Nov
09

alarm clocks

Alarm clocks are philosophically interesting. Sometimes they function in a purely informational role; they help you know what time it is so that you can do something. You’re preparing food and you need to add the tomatoes in 10 minutes, so you set an alarm for 10 minutes and then go watch TV. The clock merely tells you what time it is and you respond immediately to that information with what you wanted to do all along: add the tomatoes.

However, in other cases, alarms can serve as a commitment device. In these cases, alarms don’t just give you information so that you can follow through on an action you decided on earlier, but rather, they can help you abide by intentions you formed earlier. Let’s pretend you want to wake up at 7 am. This is an intention that you suspect might be hard to follow through on when the time comes. The alarm, when it goes off at 7 am the next morning, isn’t just informing you that it’s 7 am so that you can carry out your desire to wake up. Rather, it wakes you up!

This is why it’s important to have varying strengths of alarm clocks. Some clocks just go off and you can easily shut them off and go back to sleep (maybe they are right next to you), but then there are alarm clocks that move around and make really loud noises so that you have to get up and track them down to turn them off.

What I really need is an extremely committing alarm clock. I’m thinking a computer alarm clock that you have to input a code into it every two minutes for thirty minutes, otherwise it will start going off again. Then, I would have to be next to my computer for at least 30 minutes, at which point I would be fully awake. Of course, the program would have to prevent me from muting my speakers or from closing the program down.

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