Time to Dump Time Zones – The New York Times

We will awaken Sunday to yet another disturbance in the chronosphere — our twice-yearly jolt from resetting the clocks, mechanical and biological. Thanks to daylight saving time, we get a dose of jet lag without going anywhere.

Most people would be happy to dispense with this oddity of timekeeping, first imposed in Germany 100 years ago. But we can do better. We need to deep-six not just daylight saving time, but the whole jerry-rigged scheme of time zones that has ruled the world’s clocks for the last century and a half.

The time-zone map is a hodgepodge — a jigsaw puzzle by Dalí. Logically you might assume there are 24, one per hour. You would be wrong. There are 39, crossing and overlapping, defying the sun, some offset by 30 minutes or even 45, and fluctuating on the whims of local satraps.

Let us all — wherever and whenever — live on what the world’s timekeepers call Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C. (though ‘earth time’ might be less presumptuous). When it’s noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere. No more resetting the clocks. No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk. Our biological clocks can stay with the sun, as they have from the dawn of history. Only the numerals will change, and they have always been arbitrary.

Part of me agrees with this, especially because I work with clients and colleagues in several countries. It makes a lot of sense. But I really don’t see this happening; people want their noon and midnight, and there are good reasons to keep them.

I wonder, however, if the United States could be convinced to move to a single time zone. China had size time zones, and now only uses one. If the US did the same thing, I would imagine that the economic gain would not be negligible, because of time lost by people getting the time zone conversion wrong. Same for the European Union; they could make the switch and save time. But the entire world? Who decides that? Each individual country?

And if it were on the table, I can imagine the slogan for the anachronics: Make America Late Again.

Source: Time to Dump Time Zones – The New York Times

10 thoughts on “Time to Dump Time Zones – The New York Times

    • Right before reading this, I watched an episode of “Car 54, Where Are You?” in which Toody tries to convince Schauzer (Al Lewis) that it’s actually Friday (rather than Thursday) because Schnauzer and his wife always fight on Thursday. If they don’t fight on Thursday, the “curse” will be broken.

      Time zones were introduced to get rid of the grotesque confusion created by every train stop having its own local time. “No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk.” Yes, the time on the clock would be the same, but you’d still have to know >> what time of day the residents perceived it as<<. "Midnight in Moscow" would be noon halfway around the world, and the time wouldn't necessarily start with the number 12.

    • Right before reading this, I watched an episode of “Car 54, Where Are You?” in which Toody tries to convince Schauzer (Al Lewis) that it’s actually Friday (rather than Thursday) because Schnauzer and his wife always fight on Thursday. If they don’t fight on Thursday, the “curse” will be broken.

      Time zones were introduced to get rid of the grotesque confusion created by every train stop having its own local time. “No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk.” Yes, the time on the clock would be the same, but you’d still have to know >> what time of day the residents perceived it as<<. "Midnight in Moscow" would be noon halfway around the world, and the time wouldn't necessarily start with the number 12.

  1. And that would solve exactly what? Let us assume you and I work together on some project. While you are currently enjoying lunch, or thinking about a post-lunch nap (~12:40PM in the UK at time of writing), I’m settling down with some nice whisky and some good music after a long day of work (UTC -9). So you’ll still have to account for that difference into your planning, because having the same time displaying on the clock on our respective computers won’t change anything to that physical distance.

    But you earned a cookie for your last sentence. I might borrow it…

  2. And that would solve exactly what? Let us assume you and I work together on some project. While you are currently enjoying lunch, or thinking about a post-lunch nap (~12:40PM in the UK at time of writing), I’m settling down with some nice whisky and some good music after a long day of work (UTC -9). So you’ll still have to account for that difference into your planning, because having the same time displaying on the clock on our respective computers won’t change anything to that physical distance.

    But you earned a cookie for your last sentence. I might borrow it…

  3. Just came back from vacation in China, (and listened to one episode of the Next Track in Qingdao and another in Beijing, btw). On my 12-13 hrs flight each direction, I periodically checked the World Clock app on my phone showing the local time of a few of the major cities en route. Beijing and Boston has 12-hr difference, just the opposite of each other. How would I know what time of day it is in the UK if it’s the same time everywhere? I used to have a remote boss in Scotland.

  4. Just came back from vacation in China, (and listened to one episode of the Next Track in Qingdao and another in Beijing, btw). On my 12-13 hrs flight each direction, I periodically checked the World Clock app on my phone showing the local time of a few of the major cities en route. Beijing and Boston has 12-hr difference, just the opposite of each other. How would I know what time of day it is in the UK if it’s the same time everywhere? I used to have a remote boss in Scotland.

  5. It’s amazing the things that people can get themselves upset about, and get the NY Times to print. The author does not explain a single supposed advantage for a single time zone, although he claims, offering no support for the assertion, that it would be a worldwide economic boon/boom. As conceptual support of the idea of a single worldwide time zone, he points out that the creation of time zones is fairly recent. Anyone with greater critical thinking skills than he demonstrates will notice that these earlier times, rather than being similar to his proposed single time standard identical the world over, was comprised of a unique and idiosyncratic time standard in every individual location. This worked when travel was slow and infrequent, but caused problems as soon as travel and communication speeds quickened.

    Perhaps we should move toward his solution in stages. If we first reintroduce the Flat Earth, as the author seems to have already done in his own mind, then the single time zone may be a more acceptable as a later step.

    More kudos for Kirk’s last line.

  6. It’s amazing the things that people can get themselves upset about, and get the NY Times to print. The author does not explain a single supposed advantage for a single time zone, although he claims, offering no support for the assertion, that it would be a worldwide economic boon/boom. As conceptual support of the idea of a single worldwide time zone, he points out that the creation of time zones is fairly recent. Anyone with greater critical thinking skills than he demonstrates will notice that these earlier times, rather than being similar to his proposed single time standard identical the world over, was comprised of a unique and idiosyncratic time standard in every individual location. This worked when travel was slow and infrequent, but caused problems as soon as travel and communication speeds quickened.

    Perhaps we should move toward his solution in stages. If we first reintroduce the Flat Earth, as the author seems to have already done in his own mind, then the single time zone may be a more acceptable as a later step.

    More kudos for Kirk’s last line.

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