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I am particularly interested in the case of feasibility to have all countries and all regions of our planet, the Earth, to have a unified Single Time Zone (say UTC). Suppose all countries and all governments agree to fix their time zone to UTC, so they just need to adjust their schedule.

Questions are:

  1. How can it be set up?

  2. Should it be more efficient for the computer to synchronize and the internet to all run in the same time zone (same clock, same time, same number)?

  3. Do we encounter any hidden obstacles?

My question is more specific about our world (more specific than What would be mindset of people if the entire Earth had one time zone? -- I only just now notice this question when I am posting my first question). Let us try this thought experiments see how it goes.

  1. In general, I ask a Single Time Zone on a 3D spatial spherical planet with a single Sun away from us like the Earth. One can ask if we have multiple suns or bright stars around the planet. In that case, the Single Time Zone really makes more sense, don't you agree?
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    $\begingroup$ "Should it be more efficient for the computer to synchronize and the internet to all run in the same time zone (same clock, same time, same number)?": Computers already do it; they (almost) all use UTC internally. TImezones are stricly for human consumption; computers don't care about them. They only convert from local time to UTC and from UTC to local time when they need to get input or show data to humans. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 18 '20 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ I asked another more challenging questions worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/188474/80091 $\endgroup$ – annie marie heart Oct 18 '20 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ In your scenario, would all countries wake at the same time and go to work at the same time (even if it is dark there)? Or would people follow the daylight cycle for their location and just have a different number on the clock at lunch time? $\endgroup$ – JamesFaix Oct 18 '20 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ This actually happens in a number of fields. Aviation is the one I'm most familiar with. Times are usually quoted in UTC - AKA "Zulu" in aviation parlance - based on a need to coordinate things when aircraft may be crossing multiple time zones. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 19 '20 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ Sam Hughes has a good essay on this - qntm.org/abolish $\endgroup$ – 10762409 says Reinstate Monica Oct 19 '20 at 5:26
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How can it be set up?

By the governments agreeing to it, as you mentioned.

Should it be more efficient for the computer to synchronize and the internet to all run in the same time zone (same clock, same time, same number)?

Not really. For the computer it's just a matter of keeping the UTC time and then adding/substracting the local offset before showing it. This is the case for many systems nowaday, the difference is that initially computers would be configured in local time, and keeping to support that.

Do we encounter any hidden obstacles?

People would need to adapt to the new hours, of course, but that's just a matter of getting used to it. On Elbonia people wake up at 11 pm, as that's the time the sun rises. So, fine.

The obstacle might be when communicating between different countries. All of them would use the same timezone (which is easier for setting up meetings), but if you wanted to know if it's ok to call your colleagues in $OTHERCOUNTRY, you would need to check something like a list of opening hours there to see if it's a sensible time to call or everyone might be in bed there.

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  • $\begingroup$ plus 1, thanks I voted up. very useful comments - I asked another question $\endgroup$ – annie marie heart Oct 18 '20 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how it'd be any easier or harder to figure out a good hour to talk to someone else. Currently, you have to know how many hours ahead/behind they are. You add/subtract that to/from the current time where you are, and if the result seems unreasonable then you don't call. If everyone was on UTC, you'd do the exact same thing. $\endgroup$ – benrg Oct 18 '20 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ @benrg very true $\endgroup$ – fartgeek Oct 18 '20 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ Going on a tangent here: "For the computer it's just a matter of keeping the UTC time and then adding/substracting the local offset before showing it" -- if only it was that simple. See Tom Scotts Timezone Rant for the problems arising there. $\endgroup$ – orithena Oct 19 '20 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ @orithena: Indeed, between regions changing timezone as time passes to nasty DST, it's currently quite a nightmare :( $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Oct 19 '20 at 10:17
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How can it be set up?

Governments pass laws (probably on a national or regional basis) to mandate clocks be set a different way, and when the time to change rolls around, people update things. Not too difficult to set up legally, but probably hard to enforce — see, for example, people in western China, who sometimes run their own clocks differently from official China time.

Should it be more efficient for the computer to synchronize and the internet to all run in the same time zone (same clock, same time, same number)?

No. If anything, it gets very slightly more complicated, since computer time registries have to keep track of past time zones and when the change was made in which places in order to properly list the times of past events. This already happens every time a country changes its time zone, so it's not a huge deal, but it doesn't reduce the amount of work computers working with time info have to do. (As Angel explained, computer hardware itself is synchronized to UTC anyway, so it wouldn't change anything internally.)

Do we encounter any hidden obstacles?

People are going to be pretty frustrated for a few generations as language has to adapt to change the meanings of "days", and for a while it'll be really infuriating to have everyone get used to the weekday changing while, for example, the sun is up and people are at work — where knowing the weekday might be important.

Also, again note how difficult this will be to enforce locally. People generally dislike arbitrary change that occurs only for the sake of whatever organizations lobbied for it.

In general, I ask a Single Time Zone on a 3D spatial spherical planet with a single Sun away from us like the Earth. One can ask if we have multiple suns or bright stars around the planet. In that case, the Single Time Zone really makes more sense, don't you agree?

There are two main configurations for planets in a binary star system: either the two stars are pretty close together and the planet goes around the pair (so using conventional solar time would still be pretty reasonable), or the planet goes around one and the other is far away (in which case star #2 changes its relative position in the sky over the course of months or years, which isn't something that a single time zone would really help people get used to; solar time using the closer, brighter star would work just fine). Triple or higher-order star systems are mostly just more complicated instances of these two cases.

However, a global time zone might be a good choice on a tidally locked planet where one side is locked into facing the sun, and thus the sun never appears to rise or set from anywhere on the planet. Since the day/night cycle happens at the same time everywhere (which is to say, it doesn't happen at all), the idea of staggering your time zones would be meaningless there.

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  • $\begingroup$ plus 1, thanks I voted up. very useful comments $\endgroup$ – annie marie heart Oct 18 '20 at 21:44
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Moving between timezones would become a big hassle.

Today, when moving between timezones, all that people have to do is to adjust their clocks (done automatically on smartphones). If time difference is just 1-2 hours, even biological clock adjustment is not noticeable. Why this is so easy? Because people have preconceived knowledge about times at which things are normally happen. For example, a family wakes up a 7 AM, sends kids to school by 8, adults arrive at work at 9, have lunch at 12, finish work at 6 PM, run errands at shops before they close by 9 PM, or go straight home to have dinner at 7 PM, and go to bed by 11 PM.

Now, if a person moves away by 1 hour, all times would shift and have to be relearned. If a person is traveling for a living and frequently moves between timezones, he or she would be completely lost. Their smartphone would have to give continuous advice on what is currently open and what is not at the location, and even if it's still open, maybe it's not a good idea to visit, because the place would be closed soon for the day.

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  1. Implementation is a matter of strong-arming legislation, and possibly some war. This is much easier to do on a freshly-colonized planet than an established one.
  2. Yes, avoiding timezones is easier to work with in code. Programmers basically already do this today: just use UTC to store everything and then convert it to the user's timezone only upon presentation.
  3. Obstacles are primarily social, but they're significant obstacles. Most notably: it's confusing to the the average person if the date changes while the sun is out.
    • Anyone can get used to any numbering of their schedule, but going to work and coming home on different calendar days is going to be very strange and confusing. Night owls like myself don't really think of it as the next day until we've gone to sleep and woken up, so imagine the weirdness if this happens to a large segment of the planet's population every day, in daylight, no less.
    • People will live according to solar time unless you give them a good reason not to. You simply aren't going to have half of the world living most of their life in darkness.
      • In China, where there is currently one timezone spanning a landmass that would otherwise have 4 or 5, many of the western rural Chinese completely ignore the national timezone and go by solar time.
  4. I suppose if you had eternal daylight, then timezones wouldn't make sense. This would make the planet pretty hot though. Not sure if that would be livable. This also raises some serious astronomical questions because you can't have one celestial body orbit two. Additionally, stars are so massive that they simply don't orbit planets and the probability of a planet living exactly in the center of a binary star system is basically impossible and would be destabilized by any outer planets or a moon and subsequently sucked into one of the stars. Gravity always wins.
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