Summary: the way people choose smaller-sooner rewards or larger-later rewards is well modelled with hyperbolic discounting, as opposed to exponential discounting known from the world of finance. I am wondering if there's a technology we could use to make people choose larger-later rewards more consistently.
I did some reading on self-control recently, and so I found out about hyperbolic discounting through the book The Science of Self-Control. It shows an approach to self-control, along with its consequences for addiction.
If you like video, here's 3 short videos discussing temporal discounting (in order of appearance: no discounting, exponential discounting, hyperbolic discounting).
The key concept here is preference reversal. Apparently, humans (and some animals) tend to prefer larger-later (LL) rewards to sooner-smaller (SS) rewards if both are available in the sufficiently far future. But as time goes by, SS reward becomes disproportionately more valuable and at some point becomes the preferred choice - just because both are now much closer in time.
For example: in the evening we plan to get up at 7 am rather than 9 am, but in the morning that preference seems absurd and we prefer to sleep until 9 am.
Put another way: instant gratification (smaller-sooner, SS) pleases the present self while delayed reward (larger-later, LL) benefits the future self.
The book presents the idea and lots of related research, along with how this relates to the development of addiction.
For those really interested: Hyperbolic discounting model contains a constant, the discount factor. The lower the constant, the more likely we're to choose larger-later rewards. Research on humans and various animals (e.g. pigeons) indicates that the more developed the animal, the lower the discount factor, i.e. the longer the perspective when making choices. Also, for humans, the older a person is the lower that factor is (i.e. experience makes humans do better choices over time).
I'm haunted by vision of a technology that would help people make better decisions. We usually know which option is the best in the long term, but we act against that judgement anyway. If there was something that would reverse the trend...
Now some tricks mentioned in the book include broadening time horizon when making decisions, or including commitment mechanisms (e.g. setting our environment up so that the SS choice would be more painful should we choose it in the future). However, they are all "soft" mechanisms, i.e. prone to manipulation by ourselves and in my experience simply don't work.
I'm wondering what would work, e.g. what technology or training.