Extreme eLearning: Pavlok’s Electroshocking Wristband

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Emerging technologies can make it or break it based not on their contributions to our lives but on their shock value. Let’s look at a couple of extreme examples:

  • Google 23andMe—23 is the number of pairs of chromosomes that make up DNA. According to Bloomberg, 800,000 willing participants have handed over their DNA for Google to “store” for a mere $99 apiece—that’s 80 million smackers for the math-challenged.
  • SmartTV—It would be interesting to know just how many people bought SmartTVs without knowing that conversations within earshot of the TV are uploaded, stored and sold to goodness-only-knows whom.

Pavlov Revisited

The latest shock comes from a startup named Pavlok, an all-too-obvious play on words. The company crowdsourced $268,443 on Indiegogo for its electric shock bracelet that it claims can change a habit in five days.

The two-step setup consists of selecting a habit to break and then setting the strength of the shock (from “Pinprick to Pretty Friggin’ Strong”) to receive when reverting to the old behavior.

If you want to stop biting your nails, quit smoking, eating fast food, whatever, and you don’t have the patience to wait the normal 21 days required to develop the new habit, you can shock yourself silly with a Pavlok’s bracelet.

A Gaze Into the Crystal Ball—Extreme eLearning?

While these shocks may be dandy when you’re administering them to yourself, what if an employer were to require you to wear the bracelet with pre-programmed behaviors and shock levels?

As companies look to slash costs, some future version of a shock bracelet could fill the gap between a shrinking budget and the need for more eLearning. What if your company decides to replace the engaging “niceties” of eLearning—gamification, music and social learning—with a bracelet that sends volts of electricity streaming through your body? What if you received a shock for every wrong answer on the assessments or for learning too slowly—not advancing through the module fast enough? Would the bracelet make you so nervous that you couldn’t learn?

Efficiency vs. Decency

When is enough, enough? That’s a decision for each of us to make. Each of us is going to have to decide how far into this brave new world we’re willing to venture and then reap the consequences for “going along to get along” or for not playing the game. I’ve long since made my decision.