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Earth Technology

Ask Slashdot: Could We Deal With the End of Time Zones? 990

Posted by timothy
from the gedankenexperiment dept.
First time accepted submitter hairyfish writes "Do we still need time zones? Time zones are a relic of the past, when different parts of the world were isolated, and 12 p.m. was whenever the sun was directly above your specific location. Now, in the Internet age, time is just an arbitrary number, and time zones are just unnecessary complexity. Why can't we scrap time zones altogether, and all just use UTC across the board? So here on the eastern seaboard of Australia, lunchtime will now be at 2 a.m., In New York it will be 4 p.m., and in Moscow it will be 8 a.m. There'll be some pain with the initial changeover, but from then on it's all good. Got a meeting with colleagues on the other side of the world? 4 a.m. means 4 a.m. for everyone. Got a flight landing at 3 p.m.? 3 p.m. now means 3 p.m. for everyone. For DST, you simply change your schedule rather than the clock (i.e. work and school starts an hour earlier during DST months). No confusion ever again. For someone whose work involves travel or communication across time zones, this is the best idea I've ever heard. So why aren't we doing it?"
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Ask Slashdot: Could We Deal With the End of Time Zones?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the U.S. it is because the Federal Government oversteps its bounds on everything, including telling us what the clock shall say. [youtube.com]
    • This story doesn't refer to an article? So Timothy just pulled this out of his ass because he's too dumb to figure out time zones? What an idiot.
      • Re:Slow news day? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:53PM (#37229958) Homepage Journal
        Lacking a link is typical of "Ask Slashdot" stories. I'd offer you coffee, but it's a bit late in the day in ${TIMEZONE} to be using the "just woke up" excuse, even for Slashdotters.
      • Re:Slow news day? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @07:50PM (#37231376)

        What I'm curious about is how precisely this is any simpler than our current system. You do get the advantage of specifying a time that's globally valid, but for things that matter you still have to worry about what times are appropriate to expect a response from somebody in Georgia and depending upon which one the answer is likely to be different.

        The real problem is that when you're traveling you'd then have to learn what times everything is done or convert those times to ones your familiar with, rather than the current system where most of those times are the same, just happen earlier or later with respect to your home.

        The current system we have works in the instances where one needs that sort of coordination we've got GMT and UTC available.

        • Re:Slow news day? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @04:40PM (#37236570)

          Exactly. Suppose you're sitting in your New York office, and you want to call a colleague in an office in California, and you have to determine if now is a good time to call or not.

          The way it is now, you look at your clock, see it's 10AM, and then mentally calculate the timezone difference: EDT is 3 hours offset from PDT. So it's 7AM in California, and now is probably too early to call your colleague, as he's probably still at home or on the way to work (or maybe still sleeping, depending on when he gets in).

          Under a timezone-less scheme, you'd have a harder time, because there's no time zones to help you quickly calculate offsets. Instead, you'll think to yourself, "well, back when we had time zones, California was 3 hours apart from us, so it's like it's 7AM over there, so this is too early." But what happens in 20+ years when a younger generation comes along that doesn't remember the old time zone system? How exactly are they supposed to know that California is (roughly) three hours behind the east coast, and that it's now customary in California to start work at 5AM and leave at 2PM (unless they frequently communicate with people from there and remember this fact)? Do they have to start up some web application to tell them this? I suppose this would be one solution, but it seems pretty ridiculous when we already have a system now that doesn't require a constant internet connection or a nearby computer to tell us such a simple bit of information.

          With time zones, all I have to remember is the GMT offsets of every place I'm interested in, and it's trivial for me to calculate local times for those places, which means I know what time most places start business and close business. Without time zones, I'll have to do a lookup for everything. Maybe if we get to the point where we all have constant internet connections wired into our brains, then they'll truly be obsolete, but not before then.

    • by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:29PM (#37229092)
      Yes, the time should be available on the free market. The companies that make the best time metrics will prevail and all others will fail.

      telling us what the clock shall say

      I, too, find it completely ridiculous that they actually TOLD people what their clock shall say. I heard about this one guy who didn't listen, they killed him, last I heard. Fucking fascist with their standards. I am interested to here what great insights the good roman_mir has to say on the subject.

      Also,Qba'g guvax V qvqa'g frr jung lbh qvq gurer.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:38PM (#37229192) Homepage Journal

      In the U.S. it is because the Federal Government oversteps its bounds on everything, including telling us what the clock shall say.

      Think about this: People this stupid have the right to vote.

      The US is doomed.

      • by jdpars (1480913) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:26PM (#37229724)
        If the US is doomed, then let it die. The entire point of our founders was that even "people this stupid" have the right to govern themselves. If you really don't believe that, then let the system kill itself off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I think you've confused your fantasy ideologues with our founders. Jefferson thought that only the elite were smart enough to vote and initially suggested excluding the rif-raf (that and the non-white and non-male folk). If your idea of democracy is "Let's reduce to the least common denominator, and if you don't like that, then let's fail", well then, indeed, the system will kill itself off. Oh, and on no time-zones: It seems a little self important to suggest that if I want a 3pm meeting then everybody
          • It seems a little self important to suggest that if I want a 3pm meeting then everybody can attend because it's 3pm everywhere. One time-zone means that *some* of us will need to be sleeping at 3pm.

            It's more than that. We've had UTC for a long time, and before that, we have had GMT for over a century. People decided not to adopt GMT as their local time, because of the psychological impact... how would you feel if you had to get up and go to work at 2am every day?

            In time, sure, people would adjust... but if would still screw you over if you moved to a different part of the world... your mind is used to the sun rising at 1am, and now it suddenly has to adjust to the sun rising at 7pm?

            What boggles the mi

            • by Thangodin (177516) <elentar@symp a t ico.ca> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @08:11PM (#37231464) Homepage

              Bingo. When you go to a different place, you don't want to be somewhere where the sun rises at 11 PM and sets at 12 AM. You want a normal day, and the timezone tells you what the range of that day is. Timezones don't interfere with travel, they facilitate travel.

              Look, can we just start ignoring libertarians? I mean, when someone is wrong once, you shrug. When they're wrong ten times, you raise an eyebrow. But when they're wrong hundreds of times, they need to be added to the twit filter. These people are the new bolsheviks, who also promised that the state would vanish under their leadership. Never trusted the communists, don't trust the libertarians. Same shit, different bucket.

    • ... 12:07 in Springfield, 12:08 in Arlington, 12:09 in Marystown, 12:10 in Winchester, 12:11 in Martinsburg, 12:12 Union City, 12:13 in St. Lawrence, ...
    • by kbolino (920292) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:51PM (#37229934)

      Actually, the Federal government has every right to regulate its own agencies, which is all the time-keeping regulations do. They have no authority to tell you how to set your own clocks, nor do they even have any such laws. You have CHOSEN to use the same time convention, for reasons of convenience. Go ahead, set your clocks to whatever time you want, hell you can even invent your own clocks. I guarantee you they will not levy any fines, charge you with any crimes, nor make any other attempt to coerce you into adopting their system of keeping time.

      Don't be an idiot.

      • by FrankSchwab (675585) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @06:07PM (#37230864) Journal

        Exactly so.

        Living in the great state of Arizona, we've chosen to ignore the Federal Government's pronouncements on time, and their constant meddling with when time should change.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        In general yes, however the Bureau of Weights and Measures will come down on you hard if you try to use any of those invented measures in commerce. I saw a picture in the paper a few months back for 80 or so years ago where the agents had piled all the scales they had confiscated for failing to meet the accepted definition of weight in use in the US at the time.

        But, in general you're correct about that, they're not going to arrest you for using GMT or refusing to acknowledge DST if you don't want to.

    • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @05:45PM (#37230720) Homepage Journal

      We're not doing it because it's retarded. Somehow the submitter thinks this will help people who travel for business. Excuse me?

      When you land, you've got to say to yourself: "Ok...at home, I started work at 3AM, which was after the sun came up, so here, I have to get to work at....wait....what time does the sun rise here? 5PM? WTF?"

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:21PM (#37228974)

    Is this the type of crap we can come to expect now that CmdrTaco is gone?

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Unification is actually a very good idea generally. It will happen to language eventually, and it would be a good thing to happen to time, and if you despise the idea because of the low likelihood of actually being accepted worldwide, then you're just not thinking into the future far enough.

      For now, both time systems would be a great thing, and I don't even travel much yet.

      • by myurr (468709) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:42PM (#37229864)

        The problem with the unification of time systems is that 4am may be 4am everywhere, but now you'd need to know if that was the middle of the day in New York or the middle of the night. You still need to know all the time differences to have any meaningful interaction with other people, so the problem is no simpler. If you go on holiday you still need to learn to get up at 4pm instead of 6am, and it won't be as simple as just changing your watch and trying to adjust to the normal localised times you'd do those things.

        So it's a whole load of pain changing the system for no gain, or even a step backwards. Woo.

        • by Kreigaffe (765218)

          Thank you. Now there's a logical reason that this is a bullshit idea.

          Abolish time zones, and you still need to know what the time zones are. Sure sounds like a simplified process to me!

        • The problem with the unification of time systems is that 4am may be 4am everywhere, but now you'd need to know if that was the middle of the day in New York or the middle of the night. You still need to know all the time differences to have any meaningful interaction with other people, so the problem is no simpler. If you go on holiday you still need to learn to get up at 4pm instead of 6am, and it won't be as simple as just changing your watch and trying to adjust to the normal localised times you'd do those things.

          So it's a whole load of pain changing the system for no gain, or even a step backwards. Woo.

          Yeah, only an internet nerd wouldn't see the need to know when the sun would be up in the sky.

        • by BitterOak (537666)

          The problem with the unification of time systems is that 4am may be 4am everywhere, but now you'd need to know if that was the middle of the day in New York or the middle of the night. You still need to know all the time differences to have any meaningful interaction with other people, so the problem is no simpler. If you go on holiday you still need to learn to get up at 4pm instead of 6am, and it won't be as simple as just changing your watch and trying to adjust to the normal localised times you'd do those things.

          So it's a whole load of pain changing the system for no gain, or even a step backwards. Woo.

          Exactly right! Time zones give us clues as to when to do things such as eat dinner or go to sleep when we travel. Also, it makes it easier to know when it's okay to phone someone. If you know it's 3AM where Grandma lives, you know it's probably not a good time to call her. If all you know is that it's 14:00 UTC where she lives, and where you live, you need to calculate how many hours it is between sunset and sunrise where she is living and is she therefore likely to be in bed. Time zones make that much

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      When the best argument you can come up with is an insult, it's time to reconsider your position.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Quiet Sound (586239)
        Not all ideas deserve a long-winded, high brow response.
  • DST is a beast. Worse, the rules change over time!

    • by peragrin (659227)

      Only if we switch to DST completely. My summers would be completely ruined on the east coast if the Sun started setting at 6:30 in the afternoon in August.

      People don't realize just how much they use DST's. especially in the northern latitudes.

      • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:34PM (#37229144)

        Uh, the clock is just a number, if you believe the day should start earlier, talk to your management. Your colleagues would most likely disagree, but if they don't, you might convince them. It makes most sense if 12:00 is exactly at noon and the time matches the sun, not your work preferences.

      • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:45PM (#37229294) Homepage Journal

        If you want to get up an hour early in the summer, get your ass out of bed!

        Why should the rest of us screw up our sleep rhythms because you don't want to reset your alarm clock?

      • I live in North Germany, 54 20 North, 10 8 East which is more to the north than Winnipeg and a little south of Calgary. So we have long days in summer and short days in winter. And DST has never helped by anything. It just costs a lot and people need weeks to adjust. If you have kids, you will observe that one day before the switch, they are awake before the "time" in the morning and the next day they are almost an hour late.

        In short DST sucks. Why should anyone have jet lag every 6 month? It is just ridicu

    • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:31PM (#37229114)

      With time zones you can simply look up the time at a given location to know which part of the day it is, time corresponding to a part of the day is extremely useful, especially when you're moving through different countries or working with foreign people. It's much easier to change the time zone of your clock than to adjust to a day that starts at 16 o'clock. The different time zones give you more information, and given that most electronic devices can convert between them easily and display multiple at the same time, it's not really harmful.

      DST is the beast that needs to die, because it makes it hard to represent the exact time me with the local time plus a simple offset. After DST dies, we should try to deal with unusual time zones that do not match the local solar mean time that you have in countries like Russia or offsets that have half an hour in them like you have in Iran.

      If time zones make it difficult for you, work on the better integration of the tools dealing with them.

  • by crow (16139) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:23PM (#37228986) Homepage Journal

    Do we really want the date to change in the middle of the day? No, that is not practical. Most of the world still runs based on sleeping when the sun is down, so the time zone system still works.

    • by exploder (196936)

      This single reason is more than enough to dismiss the idea.

      • Yup, the whole notion of abandoning time zones pretty much defies our biology. We're built for day-night cycles, so it's only rational that our timekeeping system reflect those cycles.

    • by DragonHawk (21256) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:58PM (#37229450) Homepage Journal

      Submitter gets it wrong anyway. From TFS: "Time zones are a relic of the past, when different parts of the world were isolated, and 12 p.m. was whenever the sun was directly above your specific location."

      Um, no. Time zones were *created* to deal with the problem of local noon being whenever the sun was directly above your specific location. That's what the world used for thousands of years, until rapid transit and communications made that impractical. With the coming of railroads, for the first time, people were frequently outrunning the sun. Time zones became a necessity. You can't have a rail time table if everybody's clock is different.

      Also, I think the proposal is just moving the problem around. Currently we have to think, "Okay, they're 3 hours ahead of me, so 9 AM here is 12 PM there." With this proposal, we'd have to think, "Okay, they're 3 hours ahead of me, so when I'm starting work they're going to lunch".

      And nobody's stopping anyone from doing everything on UTC. I know at least one person who sets his schedule that way.

      DST -- as others have said -- that we can do without.

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        DST -- as others have said -- that we can do without.

        It would not have been so bad if they did not change the fucking rules.

        It's so damn complex now that I have software settings that allow me to specify the exact date and time that DST starts and ends.

        That's the real problem. Consistency. How much hardware is out there with firmware not able to handle the change? I'm not shocked that legislators could not figure out that they were screwing everybody over that had hardware and software that did not allow you to change the DST start and end date.

  • Alright then, who gets the prime hours? Where 12pm means noon and 12am means midnight?

    • Zero longitude gets noon at noon, date line gets new day at noon. He said UTC which would make it thus.

  • AM & PM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:23PM (#37228992)

    Scrap AM & PM - most people can figure out a 24 hour clock. Time zones, on the other hand, make perfect sense.

    • Re:AM & PM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by doctormetal (62102) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:06PM (#37229554)

      AM and PM is stupid and can be confusing. People often mention the time and assume you know whether they mean AM or PM. Most countries use a 24 hour clock so ditch the 2*12 one. And also ditch the imperial system.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        AM & PM aren't typically that big of a deal in most cases. Just use a bit of common sense and if you really need to make sure that somebody shows up at 3:00 AM, then specify. Normally there's really only a 12 hour or so period of time where people are scheduling for, in cases where you're needing more than that, chances are you're using UTC or GMT

  • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@@@morpheussoftware...net> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:23PM (#37228994) Homepage

    So why aren't we doing it? Because it's a stupid idea. We still want noon to be when the sun is overhead, and midnight to be the middle of the night. Internet be damned, it's arbitrarily more convenient for most people, because most people don't travel all that often, and spend most of their time in their local time zone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lattyware (934246)
      But noon and midnight can still mean those things - they just don't have to mean 12am and 12pm any more.
    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:42PM (#37229240)

      Yep. If you need to communicate a certain time to someone around the globe, you just list the time in UTC (basically what this idea is anyways). Or they could just, you know, look up the time difference, this being the Internet and all.

  • It worked so well with the Metric system conversion.
  • We couldn't get the country to adopt metric measurements fer chrissakes. No way we could convince bubba that 2 AM is lunch break.

  • Agreed. (Score:2, Informative)

    by lattyware (934246)

    I fully agree - and have been saying this for some time.

    The reality is though, it's very hard to get people to give up an old thing and move onto the new - look at the metric system in the UK, it's been mandated as the official thing for some time, and it's still not completely overtaken the imperial (even if only for road signs - another thing I argue, why are we not using both metric and imperial units on signs we are putting up now? It's insane to expect it to happen all at once, so why not start using d

    • by lattyware (934246)
      On a note I forgot, I'm sure the only time this will happen is when we start colonising other planets on a large scale, and universal time becomes necesary as converting local time becomes awkward - although then we'll probably see a metric time too.
  • by Arlet (29997) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:25PM (#37229014)

    Got a meeting with colleagues on the other side of the world?

    99.9% of the people never have a meeting with people on the other side of the world. Changing time zones would bring them only confusion.

    • by Macrat (638047)

      Got a meeting with colleagues on the other side of the world?

      99.9% of the people never have a meeting with people on the other side of the world. Changing time zones would bring them only confusion.

      They're confused all the time anyway. Changing the time won't make a difference.

  • by Sfing_ter (99478)

    No. That is all. Now go back to playing with yourself.

  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:27PM (#37229050)

    Our computer clocks are all using UTC already

    The displayed time is adjusted to local time for the benefit of us humans

    We can say "the best time to feed the animals is at 4 PM" and that applies to everyone on the planet. With your scheme we would have to give a much longer-winded explanation.

  • Sounds good but we (the US) couldn't even successfully switch over to the metric system. Yes it will be easier in the future but most people don't seem to care about long term goals when it means in the short term they'll have to remember that work is from 2-10 not 9-5. Also while we're at it we might as well switch to the 24 hour clock.

  • Everyone is free to express time in terms of GMT: You, your business contacts, your boss, etc. If you find it useful, do it! Many people already do. The vast majority of people have never been inside an airplane and have no need for such silliness.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:31PM (#37229110)

    The function of time zones is that humans generally operate on Diurnal schedule. So wherever we are, we are going to wake in the morning and sleep at night. As such it makes sense to calibrate time to that. 08:00 is "morning", 20:00 is "evening". Change that, and it gets confusing any time someone travels. Even just across the US and you'd find everything gets thrown off.

    What we have right now works well. Local time is always similar in terms of what is day and night. In the event you are communicating across time boundaries there's a simple answer: Specify the time zone. UTC is a good choice, or depending on what you are doing something else might be convenient. In online games it is usually "server time". The game server maintains time in the timezone it is physically located and will tell the player what it is. So you just reference to that.

    Eliminating time zones wouldn't work mostly because people just wouldn't listen. They'd still use their time zone. If you desire universal time, just use it, use UTC. I do when I'm posting something to people from multiple time zones. However if you walk around and try to use it in daily life, people will just ignore you.

  • by John3 (85454) <john3@cornells. c o m> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:35PM (#37229162) Homepage Journal

    Wasn't time based on the rotation of the earth and the relative position of the sun in the sky? The hours of the day were tracked long before people started setting up multiple time zones...look at a sundial and there are numbers and those numbers were pretty much same. Time zones only date to the mid-1800's so they certainly aren't a "relic of the past".

    Don't get me wrong, there certainly are advantages to using a standard time (and plenty of scientific, military, and technical applications use either UTC or GMT), but the average person will want to track time in relationship to their day as they experience it. And face it, the average person does very little traveling, very little interaction with people outside their time zone, and probably never interacts with someone in a significantly different time zone (i.e. on the other side of the world).

  • by matunos (1587263) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:43PM (#37229266)

    But why keep the antiquated 24-hour day at all? Why not decimalize all of our time units? 10 hours per day, I say, 1000 days per year. Who cares if none of it lines up what we observe in our daily lives? That's what we all have smartphones for!

    BTW, the premise of the question is wrong: time zones were not introduced for when different parts of the world were isolated. When locations are isolated, they don't need to agree on a time. Time zones were introduced for when different parts of the world were getting connected... specifically by railroads.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @02:51PM (#37229372)

    Ugh, this is one of those silly ideas that lead to all those jokes about computer people having no social skills, living in the basement, etc.

    The only people that think about this are a small minority of computer geeks - a teeny, tiny fragment of the population. For the vast, VAST majority of humans... this will never even be something they'll spend more than a few seconds thinking about; and those few seconds will be when they're talking to a computer geek. There's no real benefit to the average human in switching to UTC - instead, it would probably be more trouble for them.

    Those supposed "benefits" to frequent travellers... right now, lunchtime is around noon most places. So you fly some random distance, and someone wants to have a lunch meeting or a working dinner - unless they tell you what time that is, you're not going to have a clue. You say "of course they'd tell you what time the meeting is"... well, that's the same thing that happens right now, so there's no real UTC advantage there. If you need to schedule things in advance (say you're arranging a conference that's significantly far away from you), you'll need to figure out what the time-zone-equivalent time shift is to that location so you can schedule meals, select reasonable conference room reservation times, and the like.

    Bottom line is - time zones aren't an arbitrary creation. They exist because they match how we tend to function. For most people they're actually advantageous.

  • by rrossman2 (844318) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:11PM (#37229604)

    Either way, you have to know where you are to determine when stuff happens.

    For example, I'm on the east coast. I travel to California, set my clock back 3 hours (or for a cell phone it adjusts its self possibly.. some phones do some don't). I still know stores open at 8 or 10 am.. lunch is at 12, done working at 5.. stores close at 9.. etc.

    Now with the op's idea.. I have to constantly remember the stores open at 5am or 7am, lunch is at 9am, done working at 2pm, stores close at 6pm.. how is that *any easier*? Instead of changing one factor and the rest fall in place, you're now keep that one the "the same" and having to remember to adjust *all* of the rest that are typically a given constant.
    And if you can't figure out UTC +/- then you have other issues.

  • by evanspw (872471) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @08:28PM (#37260538)

    Ask yourself this. If tomorrow we (meaning "humanity") were to go colonize another earth-like planet someplace, and set up a bunch of settlements dotted all around the planet according to the local resource availability etc, do you think we'd also have a universal time reference that we'd all use all over this new planet? We'd probably align it to some natural cycle - for instance, the day as defined by an axial revolution determining sunlight/night-time distribution. Would this just be an initial convenience or would it persist past the colonization period for the rest of the time the planet is occupied?

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