Sunday, January 01, 2012

Universal Calendar/Universal Time

Imagine the simplicity of a world where every day of every month falls on the same weekday every year in perpetuity.   Imagine the simplicity of a world where everyone is on the same time clock.

Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry have come up with just such a plan.

With regard to the need for regular time adjustments in the calendar that currently necessitate the need for an extra day in February every 4 years -- the "leap" year?  Well, Hanke and Henry account for that as well, adding an extra week to December every 5 or 6 years.

They conclude their article thusly:

Our proposed temporal and calendrical changes would eliminate the sources of an untold number of errors and generate immense benefits. Conference calls would be unambiguously scheduled. At present, a conference call is, say, scheduled for 3 PM Central Daylight Time, and conferees across the U.S. have to figure out when to pick up the phone. All that would be history — no more time zones, no more daylight savings time. One time throughout the world, one date throughout the world. Refill dates for prescription drugs would be the same day of the month, every month, every year. Business meetings, sports schedules and school calendars would be identical every year. Today's cacophony of time zones, daylight savings times, and calendar fluctuations, yearafter- year would be over. The economy — that's all of us — would receive a permanent "harmonization dividend."
Ingenious, if you ask me.  I can't see a downside to this other than the temporary confusion that might occur initially in making the shift; but we humans are very adaptable creatures and I'd bet we'd be just fine after a few months or so.

I'm 100% on board!

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

5 comments:

Eric said...

At face value, I like the idea of ending calendar fluctuations, but am resistant to the idea of dropping time zones and adjusting for seasonal daylight.

Trying to schedule intra/international events without Time Zones would still be just as troublesome, perhaps even more-so, because you'd still have to deal w/ the fact the people are getting up, going to work, taking breaks, eating meals, having peaks and lulls in activity, and sleeping all based on the sun's relation to their geographical position. Time zones actually make this a fairly simple calculation because you don't have to account for position. You'd have to consult a map, some sort of 'sunlight chart', and account for seasonal fluctuations every time you schedule a call, instead of just adding or subtracting a few hours and comparing that to what you already experience at that time in your locale.

As for Daylight Savings, I'm not a fan of the current method, but would actually prefer a system where we change time settings in the winter so that it is dark until around 9AM but we have daylight until 8PM or so. That's admittedly just a personal preference though, since I always seem to have a lot of things to do in the evening and get size of running around outside with a flashlight.

Huck said...

I think your resistance to dropping time zones and adjusting for seasonal daylight is simply due to having become accustomed to the way things work now.

Think about it. A universal time clock doesn't mean that we can't have time zones or adjustments for seasonal daylight. It just means that we change our behaviors according to the shifts in seasonal daylight and the earth's rotation, not the clock.

That we associate 6-7am to 6-7pm as daylight hours and 6-7pm to 6-7am as darkness hours is just habit.

We can still have the same time zones demarcated on a map, but use the same clock to figure out what that means. Let's use military time as a universal standard and lets just say that 0600 correlates more or less to daybreak in Australia. For us, then, 0600 would correlate more or less to sunset in New York. Which would mean that 1800 would correlate to daybreak in New York. And if we still wanted to use the same time zone structure, 1900 would correlate to daybreak in our time zone, and 2000 would correlate to daybreak in California.

People in the different time zones could still organize their days around the seasonal daylight patterns, but they'd just use the same clock anyone else would use.

So if someone from California wanted to call me at his daybreak
time, we'd set an agreed upon time of 2000. Even if I started my day at 1800 hours, I'd simply mark on my calendar to expect a call at 2000 hours. Much easier than someone from California telling me that he'll call me at 7:00am, and then we have to go back and forth figuring out whether he meant 7am his time zone or my time zone or whether I understood it to be 7am his time zone or my time zone.

As for daylight savings, as the days get shorter, instead of communities pushing clocks foward or backwards, we just agree to do things an hour earlier or later. So during daylight savings, we don't set our alarms to get up at 1900 hours, we just set them to get up at 1800 hours.

It's just inculcating a new set of habits around a less confusing, univeralized system.

Eric said...

"Much easier than someone from California telling me that he'll call me at 7:00am, and then we have to go back and forth figuring out whether he meant 7am his time zone or my time zone or whether I understood it to be 7am his time zone or my time zone."

Asking what time zone a person is in is actually easier than looking up their location on map to figure out where the sun is going to be when I want to talk to them. I realize it is a different system and would take some adjusting to, but it seems like you'd end up having to come up with all kinds of systems to account for sunlight and rotation, and they'd all involve some level of mildly confusing adding and subtracting and fact-checking. We already have a pretty useful system for doing that. I think you're just trading off one confusing system for another.

"...instead of communities pushing clocks foward or backwards, we just agree to do things an hour earlier or later."

I am more ambivalent on this one than the time zone issue, but I do see advantages, for instance, of keeping the 'standard' lunch hour from noon to one throughout the year. If I'm using a scheduler, I can look ahead at the whole year and plan things for that time. Under the new system, if I was scheduling events for 6 months from now during my lunch time, I'd have to account for the fact that we'd be doing things an hour earlier or later, and that could get as confusing as the current system.


The other problem I could see is that, right now, we just deal with the effects of waxing and waning daylight twice a year, all at once. Doing away w/ DST could lead to a system where it gets dealt with more incrementally, with people changing operating hours and schedules every season. Once you open it up for change, people may want to continue tweaking the system. That would actually be a bigger hassle to deal with than just resetting the clock twice a year.

Huck said...

"Asking what time zone a person is in is actually easier than looking up their location on map to figure out where the sun is going to be when I want to talk to them."

Not really. Much easier is would be to ask someone what hours are you available to chat/skype/etc., on the universal time schedule for a half hour. Example: A friend from Australia whose daylight hours begin at about 0700 responds with three timeframe options: 0700-1200, 1300-1600, and 1800-2130. I know that my available hours are 2030-2400, 0100-0500, and 0800-1000. I don't need to look at time zones and I don't need to concern myself with whether it's daylight or not. I just look and see that our availabilities coincide from 2030-2130 and 0800-1000. So I write back with a recommendation that we chat from 0830-0900. My Australian friend notes this on his calendar and we are set.

Now, what does 0830-0900 mean in our current system? That would be 8:30-9:00am for my Australian friend, and 8:30-9:00pm for me. I know that it's evening for me and my friend knows that it's morning for him; but I don't need to know that it's morning for him and he doesn't need to know that it's evening for me.

Now let's do it the current way. My friend responds to my query initially with the following three options: 7am-12pm, 1-4pm, and 6-9:30pm. I know that I'm available from 8:30am-12:00pm, 1-5pm, and 8-10pm. But this means nothing. Without knowing timezone differences off the top of my head, I can't just look at our two schedules and know when our availabilities coincide.

Your thinking presumes that we have to concern ourselves with daylight hours and knowing when people are taking the lunch break, etc. But we don't. Likewise with businesses. If a business in Los Angeles says they are closed for lunch from 12-1pm, I need to do some calculations about when that is my time, which happens to be 2-3pm. But if the business said we're closed for lunch from 1400-1500, I'd know exactly what that would mean on my calendar. And the fact that I take my lunch from 1200-1300 is ultimately irrelevant.

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