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.