Eliminate the World’s Time Zones

Time Zones are unnecessary. The primary reason for these different zones is so everyone around the globe can wake up in the ante meridiem (a.m.) and retire in the post meridiem (p.m.). This is an obstacle that shouldn’t be too difficult for intelligent people to overcome.

The world used to be a very big place and time zones weren’t necessary. The early nineteenth century brought us the railroad and telegraph which resulted in the shrinking of the planet. Aircraft today crisscross the globe in hours while contacting someone halfway around the world is instantaneous. The world we live in today is a very small place.

When researching this post I discovered that the few people who seem to care enough about eliminating time zones to be vocal are computer nerds. I think there are two reasons for this. First, they’re smarter. Second, they have to constantly deal with calculating local time from an offset of UTC.

The problem with time zones today is simply that the confusion cost is greater than the benefit of having everyone wake up around the world at a similar local time.  There’s a better way of doing it. A lot of confusion would be avoided if everyone around the world would set their clocks to the same time. There is exactly one longitude where it is mid-day and one longitude on the opposite side of the Earth where it is mid-night at any instant. Does mid-night have to be 12:00am? Can the middle of the night just as well be 04:00 or 21:00? Time is set by a standards body. In the United States the official time is measured at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.  They measure time and give us something to synchronize our watches to.

I call our customers all over the planet as part of my “real” job. It is important that I’m sensitive to their local time so I don’t wake them from their sleep or disturb their evening meal. Eliminating time zones wouldn’t solve this problem. But it would allow my customer to say something like, “call me tomorrow at 10:00” and I’d know exactly when to call them without having to wonder if they meant my time or theirs.

Does this all sound rather geeky and unnecessary. Consider that the aviation industry, the world’s militaries, and computer programmers all use universal time. I’ll admit that getting the world to abandon its time zones would be even more difficult than getting the United States to move to the metric system but wouldn’t it be nice if we did? A grassroots effort wouldn’t work.  It would certainly be simpler without having to calculate local time or having to always declare the zone.

I’ll save the daylight savings mess, twelve hour clocks, and the date format used in the United States for later.

Let me know what you think.

10 Comment

  1. Margaret O'Connor says: Reply

    I have been arguing with my friends about his for several months now. They just do not get it. They all went to top notch colleges, I just went to an average college. They think I am crazy. Your article explained very well the need for no times zones. I have e mailed your article. Thanks , I really know I am sane.

    1. Michael Ember says: Reply

      Hello, Ms. O’Connor;
      I didn’t go to ANY college in any notch, and even I can see the merit in the idea. Maybe there is such a thing as too much education. Or too many notches.
      – M I K E Ember

  2. Michael Ember says: Reply

    This is an EXCELLENT idea. I read an article promoting it in a magazine long ago. Maybe the answer would be for people to just adopt the system on their own instead of trying to get government to enact it. The US tried to initiate the Metric System and met a lot of resistance. Much from the auto industry. Today we still don’t use the Metric system, but all autos use Metric size fasteners. Maybe if people could be convinced to use a Univeral Time System, the same type of change would occour.

    Except in Arizona, and western Indiana, of course.

    M I K E

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike. At LEAST can we switch to 24-hour time? How annoying is AM/PM! The metric system… sheesh! That, my friend, is a no-brainer. The ONLY reasonable argument is the construction industry, who likes to divide twelve evenly in multiple ways.

  3. You are shifting the time problems from one to another, not eliminating it.

    People in western China for example, where they don’t have time zones, get up at 10AM and go to sleep at 1MA. It’s normal for them. But you will have to tell others that they guys don’t get up for 9AM like the rest of the country.

    Now imagine this on a bigger scale. You tell your friend from around the globe to meet tomorrow, he’ll say “man that’s when I sleep”. So instead of needing to know what time it is at his place you will need to know what time he sleeps. You will still need to ask that, instead of assuming “it’s 10AM over there, he’ll probably be at work now” like we do for international communication now. Instead of “night” you need to remember “sleep time” so we are back in the same boat.

    1. Dude, there are two problems: the Earth spins and clocks display different times. My solution eliminates the clock display problem. If Earth was flat there wouldn’t be a problem. As long as Earth is spherical, spins and orbits a single star we will always have to figure the sleep/wake times of distant people. Time zones do not fix this problem.

  4. I’ve been thinking of this for a few months now and you’re the first person I found who’s also talking about it.

    I’m currently living in Saipan, which is 17 hours ahead of my friends and family in California. It’s much easier for me to tell them “I work from 3pm – midnight CA time” than for them to figure out what time it is here at any given time there.

    Remembering a region’s sleeping pattern is much easier than remembering an equation and doing math every time you want to contact someone.

  5. If I remember right, there was an effort by Swatch back in the 90s for something called “beat time.” It was not only universal, it was also metric. Obviously it did not take hold. Doesn’t mean it didn’t have some merit to it.

  6. I’m all for eliminating the time zone differences and adapting the metric system

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