The Future of Time

I want to place a bet.

By the time I die, everyone on earth will be referring to one universal time zone.

In fact, we’d be better off doing so right away.

International or interstate communication and organising would become significantly easier.

We would have to reframe how we thought about time, but this shouldn’t bother us.

Time is not a stable law of nature. It’s a unit of measurement designed by people. We can adapt it whenever we want, and have done many times in recent history.

The United states didn’t have consistent time from state to state until 1904.

In fact, it was impossible to accurately agree what the time was in any two places separated by enough distance until radio was invented. Before large scale train networks, there was no need for everyone’s clocks to be synchronised anyway.

200 years ago your community only included people within close enough proximity that you would share a timezone. The time was whatever everyone agreed the time was.

Obviously, this is not the case anymore. We are all part of a global community.

It’s time we reconsidered time.

I have family in both Canada and Wales, but I live in Australia and I’m not good at remembering stuff I don’t need to recall.

Doing the time calculations, or remembering which is which when trying to figure out a time to Skype is a totally avoidable exercise.

If we all adopted a universal time (let’s say we adopt GMT), or even just started to organise with an agreed upon time zone, this issue would be completely solved.

We only associate 2pm with afternoon because we have never questioned it or considered an alternative.

It only seems weird not to associate pm with afternoon because we have blurred the line between our manually adjusted clock-time and the time of day which is regulated by the Sun.

Understanding that these two things are different is important.

It’s going to take some unlearning, but that mild discomfort is far outweighed by the potential benefits to global organisation and business.

How many minutes do you think you spend calculating time differences every year?

If you don’t have family overseas, fly long distances, or do business internationally, maybe it’s as low as a minute or two? For those who travel internationally for both family and business, perhaps this figure enters the hours.

Let’s imagine an average of 10 minutes per year per person is spent calculating time zones.

If this is true, human kind wastes over 146,000 years of human time every year worrying about these unnecessary calculations.

What would you do with 146,000 years?

If that’s not worth rethinking what 12:00 means to you, I don’t know what is.

We would likely design better words for the times in between morning, afternoon, evening and night as well. And each timezone would have different times they associated with each part of the day, including a new 24 hour time for midnight.

The sun set in Greenwich at 19:30, it would set in Western Australia about 8 hours later at 07:30. I would stop thinking about 07:30 as the time I should be thinking about getting ready for work. 07:30 would be the time I would usually be eating dinner.

Nothing would collapse. Everyone would be fine. We’d never have to think about converting time again.

People who don’t like change would complain for a while… And then they’d have to catch up once people started organising to meet them for lunch at 22:00.

I can’t imagine this not happening. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

If you’re uncomfortable with this idea, please tell me why.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Time

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