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First off, assume faster-than-light communication exists and has enough bandwidth to do video conferencing. This question wouldn't even be relevant without faster-than-light communication since it takes 3-22 minutes for a message to transmit at the speed of light between Earth and Mars and you can't have a coherent meeting with that kind of latency.

The problem here is that the Martian Sol is 37 minutes longer than it is on Earth. While they could simply go by Earth time*, and probably would keep an Earth clock if they needed to coordinate with Earthlings, many of the people prefer local time since it better matches natural sleep cycles and have adopted local time because the majority of people there don't interact much with Earth. As a result, Martian time essentially behaves like a timezone which shifts in and out of sync with Earth time.

This makes coordinating meetings across planets troublesome, to say the least. A meeting held during reasonable business hours on a weekday one week (assuming both operate on 7-day weeks) might be during breakfast for the Martians next week. After roughly 4 weeks on Earth, Mars is a whole day behind Earth, so Earth is trying to hold a Monday meeting while Mars is enjoying a lazy Sunday.

How do I, the CEO of Megacorp Industries, hold meetings with my Martian executives?

*Obviously, the problem is pretty much irrelevant if people go by Earth time, which would be reasonable to expect if they lived in controlled environments. The "Just use Earth time" also isn't necessarily going to make sense if this concept were to be generalized to some distant planet that is naturally habitable.

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    $\begingroup$ This is basically a duplicate of this question that I asked but that people hated. However, the answer given by Ash is excellent. The difference is that you're permitting FTL comms, which basically makes the question moot since person A simply says, "set the meeting for my time X" and everybody looks at their "time at A's place" clock on the wall (which is kept in sync via FTL coms, like your laptop's clock) and work out the difference in their own local time. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 9 '20 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ Meetings with people who have a non constant time zone offset are a solved problem - people travel for work. I may be in France today and new York next week, but we can still schedule a meeting based on a common calendar. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 9 '20 at 6:01
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    $\begingroup$ If you're the CEO of Megacorp, your executives are probably on call 24:37/7 anyway and don't have lazy sundays. $\endgroup$ – Bergi Oct 9 '20 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Why are you assuming that Mars does not simply use an Earth clock? Any people living on Mars are going to be confined to Habs with artificial lighting and heating. They will likely have a local clock so they can plan for external excursions to take place at a time when Sun placement is optimal, but standard schedules will likely just follow Earth time. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Oct 9 '20 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Most of those meetings should have just been an email anyway. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton Oct 10 '20 at 19:26
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The same way we do now.

I work for a multinational company, with colleagues distributed across a dozen time zones. When I need to schedule a meeting with many people, I simply open Outlook, and look at their calendar to find a free time that is within normal working hours for everyone. I don't need to do any mental calculation of what time it is where, the program already shows me free/busy/nonworking hours for everyone, and I can even have it pick the next available time automatically. This will really be no different - you may need to wait several days or weeks for the Earth/Mars day cycles to line up, but you can simply have the scheduling program find a time that works for everyone.

Recurring meetings will be a bit trickier, as a recurrence cycle that kept the meeting at the same time/day in both places would be prohibitively long (nearly 9 months), but there's no reason a scheduling program couldn't handle that as well - simply pick the next amenable time that's close to your target recurring cycle. Recurring cycles of 39 days may be convenient in some cases, since that will offset the Mars schedule by one day each cycle, while keeping the meeting at nearly the same local time on both Earth and Mars.

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    $\begingroup$ This will be even easier than on Earth, because on Earth it's enough to have one person on Hawaii and one in central Europe for them to never work at the same time - with people on Mars you might have to wait a week or two but then their working hours will have shifted to make a meeting possible. $\endgroup$ – Sumyrda - remember Monica Oct 9 '20 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you want to include two people on the opposite sides of Mars as well... :) $\endgroup$ – Jason Goemaat Oct 9 '20 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ Real time meetings will not be viable, with the time delay of 5-20 minutes. 20 minutes is a short meeting by itself, and waiting 5 minutes in a conference room for a response is not conducive to good meetings, especially at the executive level. The best bet is to have email or chatroom 'conferences', where people on either planet respond as soon as they can. $\endgroup$ – Adam Miller Oct 9 '20 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @AdamMiller The question indicates that FTL communication exists in this setting, so lag is not an issue. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 9 '20 at 14:42
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Don't. At least, not more than you strictly have to.

For day to day operations, your input should not be necessary. If it is, fire the person at the head of the Martian org chart and get someone more reliable. If you're a large enough company to consider opening a satellite office on another planet you're large enough to find someone competent to put in charge of it.

Of course, you can and should demand accountability from your Martian subsidiary, in the form of automatically-generated data points leavened with written or recorded reports. Only if those reports are wildly out of line with your expectations would you need to get on the space-phone with your trusted Martian lieutenants, and being woken up by an angry phone call from your boss is simply an occupational hazard of being an (underperforming) executive.

The key is to run your Earth and Mars offices less as branches of the same company, that might have any number of reasons to talk all the time, and more like what they are: two subsidiaries of the same conglomerate, whose operations are physically separated (by a vast margin) and don't need such careful coordination.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes and ignoring any idea of fair trade, weren't two of the most successful organisations ever Britain's East India Company and the empire built on its back, both of which got on wonderfully well with never a real-time communication for their first 250-odd years. $\endgroup$ – Robbie Goodwin Oct 11 '20 at 12:02
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The same way meetings are scheduled now: whenever the boss wants to have it. Doesn't matter if you're a night owl and work until after midnight, if the boss isn't, s/he will still schedule breakfast meetings. (Don't ask me how I know this, as I will be unable to resist the temptation to use impolite language.)

Things can get even worse when you're running on Pacific time, and most of the team is based in Europe.

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    $\begingroup$ Yup. This is especially true in multinationals where there is no one good time, or a few big offices which get preference of business hours and the satellite offices just have to make do. I've had 11pm and 6am video conferences before. I have a 7am one next week. I'm a night owl. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 9 '20 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ While I find the "hire competent people to manage at a local level" answer to be refreshingly hopeful for humanity, I have a feeling this answer is the more realistic. $\endgroup$ – user3067860 Oct 9 '20 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ point of reference: both Czech and Slovak prime ministers organized cabinet session at 6AM (used to be regular in the Cech Republic, it made the headlines recently in Slovakia as something newsworthy). The ministers just had to come. And journalists had to be there earlier, of course - at about half past four. $\endgroup$ – Radovan Garabík Oct 10 '20 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ I'd prefer to be at least a little bit considerate, but point taken. $\endgroup$ – Beefster Oct 15 '20 at 21:17
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The problem here is that the Martian Sol is 37 minutes longer than it is on Earth.

It's extremely commonplace in sci-fi stories/worlds that, humans just ignore the local "rotation time of the body they are living on" and adopt usual Earth time.**

I would point out to you that IF you have the Martian dwellers for some reason decide to suffer through a different length-day ... that would be so strange you'd have to explain why that is the case.

(A completely random idea for example - they are highly agricultural "in tune with nature" types so, no matter how hard on their bodies, they use a weird local time.)

BTW, Google have this completely sorted out in their pre-search linguistics. Just ask ...

enter image description here


*(Often some specific city - actually for example in Star Trek doesn't everyone run on SF time?)

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    $\begingroup$ I think your assumption here is fundamentally flawed. Do you see me running on UTC just because it's some international standard? No, because it doesn't match daily cycles of my longitude. I suspect this problem is ignored in most sci-fi works either because it would be narratively inconvenient to acknowledge or because the author simply never thought about it. It's much easier for writers if the Star Trek crew meets planetary leaders in the daytime with no jet lag whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – Beefster Oct 9 '20 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ hi @Beefster - hmm; I may not follow you. It is INCREDIBLY difficult for humans to operate on a non-24-hour day. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Oct 9 '20 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ That's simply not true. Humans primarily respond to whatever stimulus is given. As long as it's 24-ish hours in the cycle, humans have no issues with adapting to whatever the sun says. The Mars Sol is well within that range $\endgroup$ – Beefster Oct 9 '20 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ In fact right now NASA Mars rover operators live on Martian time here on Earth to match their work times to the rover's day times. $\endgroup$ – tylisirn Oct 10 '20 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie Actually, according to the results of the Bunker experiment, humans will — without the stimulus of clocks or sunlight — default to a 25 hour cycle, not 24 hours. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Oct 10 '20 at 15:46
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First off, assume faster-than-light communication exists

If FTL communication exists, then backwards-in-time communication can be achieved. Dedicate your effort to that. When you're finished, ask the Martians when the meeting would have been convenient, and schedule it for then.

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  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted for cheek. $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Oct 13 '20 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ As funny and scientifically accurate as this quip is, it does not answer my question. I did not ask a reality-check question. $\endgroup$ – Beefster Oct 13 '20 at 22:50

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