When professional cyclists were told they were racing against their own best times, they tended to match those times, even when the times were faster than they had ever raced. I wonder how useful that sort of influence would be if we applied it to other areas.
In a few years it will be feasible to create a CGI version of yourself – an avatar – that lives a better lifestyle in the digital world than you do in the real world. The avatar would have a healthier diet, exercises more, be less shy in social settings, more assertive at work, and perhaps have a more perfect golf game. If you spent a few minutes every day observing your avatar doing what you wished you could do, would the peer pressure motivate you to higher achievement? I think it might. In a way, this would be the high tech version of writing down your goals every day and visualizing success. The avatar would simply make the visualization easier.
Perhaps calling this effect peer pressure is not doing it justice. It might be more of a case of unlocking your potential in the same way that the first runner to break the four-minute mile unlocked the potential of those who followed. For any given task, we all seem to have a mental switch that is stuck in the “yes you can” or “no you can’t” position. Sometimes you need to use mental tricks to flip the switch from no to yes. I wonder if your avatar could help.
I’ve written before on the topic of how often successful people seem to have had meaningful interactions with other successful people prior to making it big themselves. That could be a case of coincidence or selective reporting, but I suspect causation. When you get to know a famous person, your mind says, “If that idiot can succeed, how hard can it be?” That flips the switch in your mind to “yes I can.”
I also wonder if programming your avatar to smile or laugh would immediately put you in a good mood. I think it would. I think your avatar could also improve your table manners, help your posture, and move you in the right direction a hundred different ways.
At some point in the future of humanity our avatars will be so well-programmed with our preferences and memories that they will live on after our deaths and have no idea they are not the real us. And since that future will last forever for the avatar, perhaps in a continuous loop, while your mortal life is limited in years, the statistical reality suggests it already happened and you are an avatar of someone who went before. (Yes, you knew I was going there.)