My tweet was kidding; I did not procrastinate on reading the New Yorker article on procrastination (which is dated 11 October so you probably already saw it, I just clicked on it now while procrastinating on reading Susan Orlean on social networking):
A two-stage experiment provides a classic illustration: In the first stage, people are offered the choice between a hundred dollars today or a hundred and ten dollars tomorrow; in the second stage, they choose between a hundred dollars a month from now or a hundred and ten dollars a month and a day from now. In substance, the two choices are identical: wait an extra day, get an extra ten bucks.
No, that’s not identical. In the first option, you are waiting twice as long as you would otherwise; in the second option, you are waiting an extra 3% as long. 3% is a marginal tax to pay in return for $10; $10 is not much to give up to cut your waiting time in half, or by even more than half. This sounds like a book written by economists; surely they know something about how money and time interrelate.
(I translate everything into percentages and sales. 10% is not much of a discount, but 25%? that’s a good sale, makes me consider buying something. 50% is a “buy-it-now” or “stock up” discount. Helps me figure out what’s worth being upset about.)
In other words, hyperbolic discounters are able to make the rational choice when they’re thinking about the future, but, as the present gets closer, short-term considerations overwhelm their long-term goals.
I don’t know. Taking the relative value of time into account sounds pretty rational to me, but I’m a procrastinator.
(And if it was a choice between getting $100 right then and sending in a form or having to make a trip or cash a check to get the $110 a month later—fuck, $10 ain’t worth paperwork or errands and I know that’s a rational choice.)