Resolved: time zones, leap years, leap seconds, and solar timekeeping should be abolished

The title says it all really. Humanity now has the ability to track and synchronize on a universal time standard. We have the ability to forecast and publish the dates of important seasonal events (start of planting season, etc).

Yes, dates will drift. There will come a day when Christmas no longer comes in midwinter in the Northern Hemisphere. This tradition is but a few centuries old, and in a few more centuries this and other traditions will find a way to keep pace.

Yes, the universal time of day will become uncoupled from normal daily rhythms. People accustomed to the sun rising at 7AM currently adjust seasonally for it to rise at 5AM or 9AM. They will likewise acclimate to it sometimes rising at around 8PM. The drift will be slow, people will acclimate.

Yes, the concept of business & school hours will need some conscious management. Each local political can declare their own open hours to suite their own daylight habits. You might be in a county that posts business hours from 1:00AM to 9:00AM, and this is fine. People are already (or should be) in the habit of checking hours of operation before they visit an office or school, because these currently aren’t universal anyway.

The benefits are obvious, but to state them, humanity wastes a great deal of time, effort, and expense making sure our spinny dials match the sun because this is how we’ve done it for centuries. Now that we have more interactions across the globe, the actually works against us since we have to work out the time in other localities. After the initial expense of changing over, it would be nothing but gravy, and all the objections are demonstrably rooted in an unreasoned attachment to the status quo. (Either that, or “how will you make it happen”, which doesn’t speak to whether the idea is good or bad).

I guess that’s where you lose me. It’s not that much effort, at least for the great majority of us.
And I, personally, would miss leap years.

What you’re missing is all the unseen effort invested by others to keep things defined and synchronized, technological expense not being least among them. You don’t see that effort, but you pay the expense in many ways.

I did mention that most objections would be an unreasoned attachment to the status quo. What’s your attachment to leap years?

I hadn’t thought about it before but I agree with the OP. Have 1 time zone across the world and local “hours of wakefulness” to suit. It’d be one big adjustment, but a massive improvement thereafter.

And I, personally, would miss leap-seconds!

I find it interesting that GPS satellites keep accurate time on board but ignore those pesky leap seconds, so this isn’t a totally new idea.

Once you ditch that anachronistic “AM” and “PM” nonsense, I’m all for the OP’s plan. 24-hour time like all civilized countries use is just great. Let’s do that. Where do I sign up?

No wait …

Given this great plan, why are we retaining 24 “hours” made up of 60 “minutes” made up of 60 “seconds”. Talk about nutty. In an era of SI everything (except the stupid Americans and their stupid customary feet, furlongs, and hogsheads, but who cares what they think?) we should totally define our repeating time intervals using units that are powers of 10.

And of course the idea of using 12 “months” of varying length (WTF!!??!1!??) in no recognizable pattern is right out. What nutter came up with that? Onto the ashheap of History it rightly goes.

And an intermediate unit called a “week” that neither divides the “month” nor the “year”? Wacky, pure wacky. Throw that away too.

Powers of 10 for the win, baby.

Hmm. Now why do humans currently define a “second” as (and I quote):

The second […] is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the caesium frequency, Δν Cs, the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the caesium 133 atom, to be 9,192,631,770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s−1

So a “second”, the fundamental unit of time, is equal to 9 billion 192 million 631 thousand 7 hundred and 70 somethings? WRONG! Whatever the hell it’s based on, it needs to be a round sensible number of the damn things. Given how close that current definition is to 10 billion, which is also the highly auspicious looking 1010, I propose we fix this too while we have the opportunity to.

The implications of this redefinition of nearly every derived unit of every type within SI is left to the reader.

So let’s go! Who’s in with me on this crusade for logic, Pure Crystalline Logic, to rule over time and space? Who cares what the pesky Sun & Planets do. Surely not a technologically advanced society such as our own! And who cares for silly conventions dating from when people lived in mud huts and wrote on stones for gosh sakes. We must move Forward with the Times and Progress our Time.

hokay then, absent a discernable objection, I think this one goes in the column of “unreasoned attachment to the status quo”.

There actually is a valid point of discussion in there, but I won’t address it with a serious attitude until someone else does.

I sorta got on a roll there, sorry. In a way that was a threadshit, and you deserve better. I hope somebody find some entertainment in it neverhtheless.

In fact your idea of sticking with current units, warts and all, but simply shit-canning leap seconds and leap days, and letting the orbits and revolutions drift as they may versus the steadily beating human clock has a lot of advantage. As does abandoning time zones so everything everywhere runs on UTC.

In addition to closing out many traditional and contentious problems, it will open some new and entertaining worm cans, even after we deal with the one-time costs & dislocations of transition. As a trivial example, I can see a lot of different school boards coming up with different ideas of on which day they’ll adjust school start times up to adjust for the various secular drifts.

Heck, just adjusting school starts between summer and winter sunrise times, will be contentious. Now we just sweep those regional and local fights under the rug of national DST. Once that unifying element is out of the way, each county at each latitude and longitude around the world will have their own ideas of when to start school, begin work at the courthouses or City hall, etc. Some may prize following the sun, others following the clock. And some striking a “healthy balance” between them.

Which in turn will affect how local and national businesses set their hours, both for back offices with no public presence and for establishments open to the public such as bank branches, retail stores, car dealerships, etc.

Yeah, well this is where this notion, of which I am no fan, gets seriously out of shape.

Because the only acceptable standard for what constitutes 12:00 noon is GMT.
Which means that while the workers of London will start their working day at 9am GMT their equivalents in the American mid-west will start their working day at 3am.

Given the willingness seen about these parts to adapt SI and other global standards, the only way for the US will accept this is if the GMT standard was changed to being US Central time. And then that will devolve into an internecine barney over states rights between Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time and the rest of the civilised world not accepting the malarkey that the US is the self-assigned centre of the known universe.

I was with you until the weird AM/PM junk. Just use straight 24-hour time, 00:00 through 23:59.

Each school board already sets its schools’ session times. And each business likewise chooses its hours. What fraction of businesses actually use 9am-5pm hours? I’ll guess less than 10%.

What’s the advantage of everyone being on UTC? OK so I know when it’s 1100 here, it’s also 1100 in Tokyo or Tehran, but is it a good time to call them or are they in bed. At least if I look up the time there under the current system, I can guess,

I actually think changing everything would soften the resistance. No one wants to start work when the comes up at 0100. But if we have new ways to count time, days, etc. It won’t be associated with the “middle of the night.” Otherwise, I’m afraid everyone will complain endlessly about having to live our lives based on the clocks in Greenwich

You could probably come up with units that do away for the need for leap years too. And if we’re not clinging to “July” and “December” then the shift in seasons won’t matter either.

Looking at who’s the Big Cheese (or likely to be the Big Cheese) in the 21st & 22nd centuries, I’ll suggest that your “Greenwich” there is probably a typo and either “Beijing”, or maybe “New Jack City” are the correct spellings of the reference meridian for the New Universal Time Standard. :wink:

We’d still have to work out the time in other localities, only we wouldn’t have clock time to provide us any help in doing that. Not only are the office hours likely to still line up with daylight, most people are going to still be equally annoyed if they’re woken up in the middle of their sleep hours.

It’s still going to be the middle of the night when it’s the middle of the night. No amount of playing around with the clocks is going to change that.

And on that note I’m going to bed. Because it’s the middle of the night, and even my wonky built-in timekeeper is telling me I should have done so sooner.

Robespierre was, until his unfortunate encounter with the “rasoir national”.

Make the standard unit the “star date” and you’ll instantly get all SciFi fans on board! :blush:

This does raise a point, though: we will eventually need to coordinate time between different settlements in space, whether it is a colony on the moon or a city on Mars. If we are going to abolish the current system (and yes, please, get rid of the AM/PM annoyance as well!) we should design something that works beyond Earth*.

*NASA mission control engineers already schedule whacky working hours dealing with the Mars rovers, inasmuch Mars has a nearly-25-hour day (24hrs 39min).

I don’t think you’ve followed the point here. Implicit in the scenario is that everyone is aware that we’re now on universal time, so noon at my location might be midnight in your location. Nobody would be getting accidentally called during sleep hours (at least not more than normal, after some initial adjustment period).

If you think about it, for most purposes, time zones are a shorthand for understanding what percent of daylight has elapsed for that day, which is rarely an exact match for business hours at every latitude and longitude. If I want to transact business with someone, I don’t need to know whether it’s light or dark outside, all I need to know is that they are open for business.

I think it’s likely that something like time zones would emerge from this, but we would not attempt to manipulate clock hours from meridian to meridian. In places where it’s important we’d define daylight work hours (which might be from 01:00 to 09:00 in some location). It would still be daylight hours, it just would just start at whatever hour used to be 8-9AM in yourlocation.

Why is this a bad thing? Each longitude already has more or less its own working hours with some national variation. Different municipalities might choose to alter theirs, for cultural reasons or because things get weird at upper latitudes. More choice is good, and it’s unlikely that any given locality would throw any big curveballs that place them working unexpectedly at night.

But they could if local custom demanded it! I’m thinking of IT shops in India that align to American work hours. Or Spain, where they might roll in around lunchtime and stay til wee hours of the morning. Some cities might say “screw it, we’re starting business hours at night, because that’s how we work.” They’d have that flexibility, but most places would choose fairly conventional daylight hours.

I agree! Who cares that we evolved to become diurnal animals, making use of natural daylight and the Vitamin D it provides? Also that we’ve depended on closely keeping track of the seasons for several thousand years of being an agrarian society. This is the future! We must throw off the tyrannical yoke of mean old Mr. Sun!

I think we should take things a step further. We should stop using all sources of energy provided by the Sun, both direct and indirect. Also, I’m not crazy about the fact that we’re tethered to its orbit. I think our NASA scientists should look into some way of diverting Earth’s path into outer space.

Let’s be done with the Sun!

OK, seriously, I think all the so-called ‘effort’ of keeping our timekeeping devices in step with the Sun and the changing seasons has been well worth it and will continue to be so, at least as long as we are on Earth. I believe that since we’ve evolved with, and made use of the Sun and the seasons in many different ways, that untethering our timekeeping from the Sun would be a bad idea.

ETA: @HMS_Irruncible two posts up …

I’m not suggesting it’s a bad thing. I am suggesting it will add more variety and hence more frictional vexation to many interactions.

As you yourself said to @thorny_locust 2 posts ago, what matters is knowing when something is open or when somebody is at work. That need is there now under the current system and it would still be there under any proposed replacement system, including yours.

Right now I can guess that I can call somebody at work or call some customer service department whenever it’s between about 9am and 5pm in their local time zone. I might miss them at the ends of the day, and I might be leaving out some time they are open, but I have that rule of thumb to go by. But that certainly doesn’t work even now for people or businesses that operate with non-traditional hours. Such as myself and my employer.

The rule of thumb would be totally out the window in your system. The only way to know when someone or something is available for business is to ask them. Or, more logically, we’d all end up with our contact info including our contact days/hours expressed in UTC as well as our emails, phone numbers, etc. And yes, our chosen personal pronouns too.

Many US national businesses websites already publish contact info like “Telephone customer service available at 800-123-4567 on Mon-Fri from 8am Eastern to 7pm Pacific.” Wherein the hours are a) longer than just the “normal” 8 hours and b) are expressed in one or more time zones.

As you rightly suggest, it’d be trivial for that to change to read “Telephone customer service available at 800-123-4567 on Mon-Fri from 1300Z to 0300Z.”

But …

One legit issue this does raise, which we already deal with frequently in my industry, is that the UTC date and day of the week will change during the middle of the workday for many people.

e.g. In the early evening on the US east coast under the current system, when it’s 10pm on Fri Mar 16th (2023-03-16T22:00:00) local, it’s 2am on Sat Mar 17th in UTC (2023-03-17T02:00:00Z). In all the airlines’ interactions with the public, that’s late on Fri the 16th. In all our internal systems and in dealings with worldwide air traffic control, that’s early on Sat the 17th. We’re all used to making that conversion back and forth many times every single evening, but mistakes still happen.

Getting the public on board with the name of the day and the date changing at dinner time, or at lunch time, or after breakfast but while they’re still driving to work will be … challenging.

We in the airline industry have a problem right now with flights that depart shortly after midnight local time. Statistically speaking, a larger than normal number of both passengers and crew no-show these flights because they get confused that a flight departing at, say, 1am on Saturday means they need to get ready then show up on Friday evening, not get ready on Saturday evening for what they think of as their Saturday departure. Oops. Suxs to be them.

Having that day-of-week/date changeover occur in the midst of the local daylight period will greatly multiply the oopsies. Humanity may become more technologically advanced, but individual humans will remain as clueless and distracted as ever. The kid’s school day starts on Thursday, but it’ll be Friday before you get to work 90 minutes later? Recipe for confusion. And not just during the transition from traditional timekeeping. At the unluckiest longitudes It’ll be every day of every week.

And even more so if at the higher latitudes society takes advantage of the flexibility to in effect have latitude-based DST, where organized hours for schools, work, retail, etc., really follow the sun and shift several times per year as the length of daylight waxes and wanes and waxes again. We in the airline industry deal with this now, where the start time and duration of our operational workday alternately shrinks and stretches in the two hemispheres to provide product when the customers want it.

My bottom line: Flex is good. Flex adds complexity. Flex adds vexation. There is no free lunch where obstinate and clueless bulk humans are involved.