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A future without time zones

Isaac Lyman on August 23, 2018

You're a software engineer living in Idaho. You wake up with the sun at 2PM, Greenwich Mean Time, which everyone just calls "UN Time" since the Uni...
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Sergio Daniel Xalambrí

I always thought timezones are unnecessary in a globally connected world and are more like a waste of time and energy, it would be amazing to just have a global timezone so you don't need to think about that.

Remove the AM/PM and use 24 hours clock and is even greater, AM/PM are tied to the concept of noon, if that is removed and we all use a clock not tied to the moment of the day you are, you wake up at the 15:00 hours and go to bed at 7:00 so you sleep 8 hours.

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Jitendra Adhikari

global timezone is GMT or UTC, isn't it?

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Evaldas

UTC, GMT has daylight savings.

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David J Eddy

UTC FTW! :D

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Isaac Lyman Author

Baby steps, Sergio, the world isn't ready for a visionary like yourself yet 😉

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Ben Sinclair

The terms "noon" and "midnight" have become misnomers, but nobody minds

But everyone still uses AM and PM suffixes? I don't like this reality! If we're going to change it to one time system, let's use the 24-hour clock (if we have to stick to 24-hour days anyway)

11A7P becomes 11Q191. Suddenly we don't have to think about duplicates. Did Fred say 10PM or 10AM? I brought the merchandise, but did I miss the exchange? How will I get my kidnapped dog back now?


  1. Why Q? Why not. 

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Sebastian G. Vinci

My eyes almost filled with tears imagining how easier my life could get with such a subtle change.

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Casey Hendley • Edited

I work in globally distributed teams, and there is even confusion with those of us in the US because we're spread across Pacific, Central, and Eastern time zones.

However, this solves a problem that does not exist for the vast majority of people on the Earth. Most people don't work in globally distributed teams, most people are not software engineers (and I'm the Ops in DevOps for a consultancy). It would make our jobs somewhat easier, but I don't find it difficult to track multiple time zones.

We have GMT complications for mechanical watches, smart watches do it even more easily. We have an array of websites to use. This is too disruptive for anyone who isn't working in a distributed team, i.e. most of the people on this planet.

I think it's an interesting thought, but since everyone already speaks English if they work "globally" ... do we need to change that, too? ;)

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Isaac Lyman Author

Hmm...do you think the future holds more distributed teams and global relationships, or less?

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Casey Hendley

It's a complex question, for sure. I earn a living by automating processes, so obviously I'm not against that. But is it not just as easy to use UTC to coordinate meeting times? That takes one calculation, no matter where you are on Earth.

Non-technical jobs aren't going away any time soon, and yes, we could argue that "so what does it matter what time it is for them anyway?" The average person isn't going to go for that argument, though.

While I don't consider time zones to be "cultural," language most certainly is. We already lose too many native languages spoken by small groups of indigenous people all over the globe. While I completely agree with your analysis of English as "a complete mess," it's the global standard already with 1.121 billion speakers (according to Wikipedia). By that chart, there would be solid arguments for all of us learning Hindi or Mandarin Chinese instead.

So, I will reiterate my stance that, while this is an interesting thought and it's fun to discuss ... I doubt it's ever going to happen (at least not in our lifetimes).

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Chad Windham

Well... I'm fine with change and I guess it makes sense. (As a developer no time zones is great of course). But the reality is you're just shifting one abstraction for another. As in, time zones help the world share a standard schedule already. Breakfast time, dinner time for example are relatively the same everywhere. So while there is some maths in figuring out hours lost or gained flying to another locale, it's nice to know those numbers on the clock kinda mean the same thing for everyone. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why not universal time for business and computer logic and local time for local, real world humans living life. (oh wait... it's already like that.)

P.S.- I can easily imagine a world that adopted the change you believe in. And after 100+ years, a country or nation re-implements local time zones and somebody writes a passionate article explaining why local time zones should be brought back as a standard for the rest of the world...

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Isaac Lyman Author

What it would do, in my mind, is trade two questions for one.

With time zones:

  1. It's 3:00 for me. What time is it for you?
  2. Okay, it's 5:00 for you. What times are you available?

Without time zones:

  1. It's 3:00 for me and for you. What times are you available?

As far as reimplementing time zones, I doubt that would happen. In a globally connected world it doesn't make sense to have people on 37 different schedules. That system evolved in a world where people were mostly isolated based on geographical location; communication and travel took multiple days. Now, you can fly across three time zones in as many hours, and communicate with an opposing time zone instantaneously. Without the precedent of time zones I don't believe they would occur to anyone.

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Chad Windham

What it would do, in my mind, is trade two questions for one.
With time zones:

It's 3:00 for me. What time is it for you?
Okay, it's 5:00 for you. What times are you available?

Without time zones:

It's 3:00 for me and for you. What times are you available?

Yes, your article already stated that.

My main point

Why does it have to be one or the other? Why not universal time for business and computer logic and local time for local, real world humans living life. (oh wait... it's already like that.)

I just don't feel like it has to be one OR the other.

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Vinícius Hoyer • Edited

The thing that pisses me off the most is that, whenever you are going to use Timestemp, the damn language/env/donno defaults it to freaking culture time! Goddamm, default it to UTC! I will change the time zone if I want!!!!

Anyway, since we are taking down this path, I'd prefer double-digit notations and 24hour setting. You know, that way it defaults the way you parse it.

And actualy I really like @moopet to put a letter between, though I'd prefer al so that it translates to to (in from ... TO) in esperanto (you know, universal language and stuff).

So in the end we'd have something like: 09al15 for time ranges.
yeah, I'm happy with this now ahah

ALSO, almost forgot it, WE ALL COULD USE THE HOLOCENE CALENDAR PROPOSED BY THIS AWESOME GUY Cesare Emiliani

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David J Eddy

Dude, Isaac! Not two months ago I was talking with a friend about a global universal time; where you listening in?

To take the idea a bit further: Metric time.
1 second * 10 = 1 deca-second *10 = ....= 1 metric hour.
10 metric hours = 1 metric day
and do on.

Currently the second is based off an atomic clock, so the clock would have to change. Calendar changing is not unheard of; thought now we would have nearly 70 years of software systems to phase out. Not a small feet.

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Lea de Groot

... theres nothing stopping us telling people what our working hours are using UTC now.
Add to your email sig: Working hours 1030Z530 (thats me, 7:30am - 3:30pm Brisbane time...) and you are done :) No need to bother the mundanes!

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Lea de Groot

(The Z is for Zulu - old military name for the 0:00 timezone)

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Michael Kohl

I'll just leave this here, people who read this post my find it interesting too:

UTC is enough for everyone...right?

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Isaac Lyman Author

Wow, what a great read.

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Chris Howard

As a dev, I like the idea.

But you still have time "zones" and many don't neatly align with hours. e.g. in Australia, the eastern states are 30 mins ahead of the central states and 2 hours ahead of the west.

So, if I went from Melbourne to Adelaide, I'd need to know that everything is 1/2 hour out of sync to what I'm used to. So, although my watch would say the same time, the onus is on me to remember the 30 min difference and its affects.

The idea obviously makes it much easier us devs, but for travellers I'm not so sure.

And at least in the daytime we'd have the sun to give us a sense of what period in the day it is. But at night... landing at 13:00/1PM in Melbourne, without researching, would you know if it's time to go to bed, or nearly time to get up?

Why make every single traveller research that when the current system, knowing that it's 10PM, makes that immediately clear?

So, in the end, I think people would baulk at this idea as it puts the onus on them to research about local times when travelling, instead of the current universal time system where 22:00/10PM is night time where ever you are, and 12:00 is lunch time.

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Isaac Lyman Author

I think the half-hour and quarter-hour time zones ideally would die out.

Yes, it would make traveling a little more difficult. Airports and train stations, and maybe even "Welcome to Quebec" signs, would post business hour short codes to help travelers get oriented.

Still, travel is harder. And communication is easier. Personally I do more of the latter.

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Jacob

Fuck it. Let’s just all use UNIX time stamps 😂😂. Jokes aside, great read!

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David J Eddy

How about Unix hours / days? :)

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Craig McIlwrath

Drop off am/pm since they don't make sense in most of the world now. It wouldn't really throw anyone off because the already radical adjustment of time will overshadow the confusion.

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Avalander

Oh, and everyone speaks Spanish now. Once we got time zones figured out, a universal language wasn't far behind.

lol, why Spanish?

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Ben Sinclair

¿Por qué no?

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Avalander

Because it isn't widely used as a common language among people whose native languages are different (although it is a native language for a lot of people), as far as I know.

Even though I assume that the author's intent in suggesting Spanish as a universal language was more comical than anything else, I'm curious to know why he chose Spanish instead of any of the other 6499 currently spoken languages, that's it. I'd be fine with a it was a random pick, or I happen to like Spanish, but maybe he has some other reasoning.

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Isaac Lyman Author

I happen to like Spanish. 😄 Esperanto would also be pretty acceptable. The main language I'm against is English, although I know that's already the lingua franca of most of the world.

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Dian Fay

Happy 7 Fructidor CCXXVI, everybody!

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Peteng Dedet

But.... but.. the earth is flat 😂

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Nate

It would be nice. And if you start using UTC now you can be in the future now! Haha. Great article. ¡Qué bueno!

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Kate Beard (she/her)

Brought this up in a meeting today and got some weird looks but a few people thought it made sense. I for one am a fan! Will keep trying 😅

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Evaldas

Yeah. I actually meant that. Thank you!

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Andrew Bone

Why... Why'd they pick Spanish?

Using Greenwich for time why not for language too? 😉

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Isaac Lyman Author

I mean, no sensible ruling body would choose English as the world's common language. It's kind of a mess.

Spanish has standardized pronunciation and half a billion native speakers. And I already speak it, so it's a convenient choice for me. :)

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Ben Halpern

Can you imagine a world without timezones?

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Derek Rosenzweig

I would 100% approve such a change.

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Chad Smith

Anytime I've ran into a timezone bug at work I always said "WHO INVENTED TIME ZONES!? NO MORE TIME ZONES!"

So, I fully support this. Lol.

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Isaac Lyman Author

Of course, now it occurs to me that the simplest solution is to build an artificial solar environment in the exosphere so everyone on Earth can experience day and night at the same time.