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Poll ResultsPoll 224: If you could buy one extra hour per day on demand, what would be the most you would be willing to pay to do so?
Total votes: 3458
I thought this was a fairly simple question. I wasn't prepared for the torrent of e-mails and other feedback from readers, who wanted to know more about this "deal" before picking an answer.
By far the most common question was, "Who's getting the money?" People figured someone would be getting rich from this scheme, and wanted to know who before deciding how much an extra hour of time was worth to them. I'm conjecturing here, but I think if it was Bill Gates selling time, people would have been less likely to buy, whereas had it been a worthy charity or something they would have been happy to take advantage. But of course my question had no such conditions attached to it. It wasn't supposed to be important where the money went; all you were supposed to worry about was that you would no longer have it.
Some people expressed the opinion that this sounded like some sort of contractual agreement, involving a commitment to buy a certain minimum number of hours or something. This made them wary of the whole deal. Some people extended this concept and expected there would probably be peak demand periods and therefore shortages of time when you most needed it, and there'd probably be extra charges, plus government taxes and all sorts of other stuff. This was enough to make them, even though they liked the idea of getting extra time, decide that it probably wouldn't be worth the trouble.
Others said that the price would probably be set by market forces, which would mean that the expected price would tend to fluctuate with demand, thus making it unpalatable to many buyers.
Some people wondered how the extra time would physically be granted. Someone suggested that you'd have to slow the rotation of the Earth to once every 25 hours, rather than 24*. And what would be the point of that? You'd be paying for an extra hour and everyone would get it! Therefore, this offer is a rip-off, and not worth paying anything.
* Yes, I know this is not strictly correct. My degree is in astrophysics after all. For anyone baffled by this footnote, I'll explain it another day.
Some people wanted to know, "where's the catch?" They figured this sounded like a wish granted by a capricious genie, and were extremely reluctant to agree without knowing that nothing bad would happen.
A lot of people wanted to know more of the mechanics of how this extra time would be granted. Would it be an extra hour of life? Or would it be subtracted from the end of your lifespan? What sort of things could you actually do in the extra time? What happened to everyone else? Were they frozen in time for an hour, meaning you could commit all sorts of amazing crimes willy-nilly?
Then there were the ones who analysed it from an economic point of view. They figured that they got paid a certain amount of money per hour of work, so that was what an hour of time was worth to them. Someone said that he hoped the price of these extra hours wasn't too cheap, because he figured that if you could get cheap extra time, his boss would give him extra work to do!
Now, the way I saw this question was that sometimes you just need some extra time. Like you're studying for an exam, or trying to finish a homework assignment. Or you're running late for a wedding and really want to make sure you make it on time. Or you want an extra hour with your sweetheart before they leave on the plane to Hong Kong for a year. Or maybe you're racing to save someone's life and you get there just too late - unless you can somehow get some extra time. In those sort of situations, what would be the most money you would be willing to give up in order to get the time you need? I can think of a lot of cases where an extra hour would be virtually priceless. I figured nearly everyone would be willing to give up a lot of money to have this option when they most need it.
Clearly though, given that 56.7% of you would be willing to pay only US$20 or less to get an extra hour of time when you most need it, there were a lot of other considerations coming into your answers.
I think this is the most interesting poll I've run in some time.