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Pavlok sends you electric shocks if you fall into bad habits

The best motivational tool for losing weight? Sheer physical pain. 


EJ Dickson


Everyone is super excited about how technology is revolutionizing the fitness market, and with good reason. But for all the clamor over the future of fitness and wearable tech, there’s also been some discussion over whether our fitness-tracking tech is getting, shall we say, a bit too judgey. It seems that many of these apps care less about getting us to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and more at shaming us fat fat fatties into putting down that turkey sandwich.

Case in point: the Pavlok fitness band, a $250 device that gives you a mild electric shock if you eat something off your cheat list, or fail to complete a fitness goal. Because fitness apps are no longer content with making us feel bad about ourselves and our bodies—they want to inflict physical pain on us as well.

Inspired by Ivan Pavlov’s famous classical conditioning experiment where he used an electric shock, among other stimuli, on his dogs to see how their responses varied when he brought them food, the Pavlok is being touted as “the first bracelet designed to actually change your habits, and not just measure what you already do,” thus differentiating it from the dozens of other fitness-tracking wearables on the market that rely solely on user-entered data, not positive or negative reinforcement, to try to change your behavior.  

Designed by Maneesh Sethi, a blogger who first gained Internet notoriety when he hired a woman to slap him whenever he was tempted to check Facebook (no surprise there; once a masochist, always a masochist), the Pavlok relies on the principles of positive and negative reinforcement to get you to change your behavior. So for instance, if you set a goal on the wristband to eat, say, 2,000 calories a day, and you cheat and eat a giant plate of fried chicken and waffles, the device will give you negative reinforcement by delivering a small electric shock and charging you money. But if you instead opt for, say, an organic kale and blood-orange smoothie, the device will reward you with money.

Sounds dangerous? That’s because it, well, kind of is: Aside from the questionable ethics of a device that regularly gives you electric shocks, it’s possible that the wristband could be used to set extreme or potentially life-threatening goals, like for instance, if a person with an eating disorder uses it to try to lose more weight. Apparently, however, Pavlok’s funders share no such reservations: The wristband has raised about $100,000 in investments, and a crowdfunding campaign is also scheduled for the wristbands before they’re scheduled to launch later this year.

H/T Tech Times | Photo by mark/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0

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