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What would be the effects of the entire Earth having one time zone?

Does this increase productivity and help in syncing with each other?

Can people adjust to a mindset where the clock is just numbers? Or maybe a different format of a clock. Maybe 3-4 digit numbers. Something completely different from hh:mm:ss.

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    $\begingroup$ Just numbers. There are still lots of people (and I'm one) who pay more attention to the sun than to the clock. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 18 '17 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Other people, like me, pay attention to neither the clock nor the cycle of the sun. When tired, I sleep, when hungry I cook, when inspired I write, otherwise, I program. $\endgroup$ – user39523 Jul 18 '17 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ New time scale, global timezone... sounds like Internet Time. Still exists, and still not really used. $\endgroup$ – user39523 Jul 18 '17 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ Now, the real question: What does this have to do with "World Building"? $\endgroup$ – user39523 Jul 18 '17 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ Swatch Internet Time failed to have any impact because it tried to change the units of time measurement, while time zones could be eliminated while still using the familiar seconds, minutes, and hours that we all know (and love?). Well, that and Swatch Internet Time seemed more like a marketing gimmick than anything else. UTC, on the other hand, has a reasonably high adoption rate in technical and international usage, although few people use it to schedule their daily lives. $\endgroup$ – Dave Sherohman Jul 18 '17 at 9:23
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You asked two questions...

What if there were only one time zone?

As a historical reminder, Time Zones are a relatively recent invention, beginning basically in the 19th century, thanks in large part to the widespread use of the railroad.

As others have stated, China only has one time zone, and Spain has up to a 2.5-hour lag between sunset times at east vs. west ends of the country. Groups like the US Military, air travel, and others prefer to use a single, agreed-upon time like GMT, to reduce the possibility of time-zone confusion. Also, people are relatively used to working in non-standard (eg 9 to 5) times, given the prevalence of 24-hour operations or jobs that require frequent travel. This proves it can be done.

There would be some confusion during the transition phase between time zones and time zone. But people would adjust. [Just as they adjust twice a year to Daylight Savings Time in the US and elsewhere. Hopefully, when the Supreme Leader ends local time zones, he or she will also end DST.]

But after a few days, weeks, or at worst months, folks will have adapted and will learn that instead of setting their clocks to the local time while travelling, they just have to figure out when the local region sets their time-based events. "What time does the hotel serve breakfast?" for example. Airports and train terminals would publish signs that indicated what the local "Noon" time was, so people could track their days accordingly.

I imagine that this would result in either something like society had before time zones, where everyone set their "day" against the local noon, or people would set their "day" against the old time zones out of habit. After a generation or two, no one would really remember why their work day started at time X, just that "we've always done it this way," outside of Google searches and social studies books, at least.

What if we didn't use hh:mm:ss to measure time?

For that, I refer you to this list of alternate time measurement systems. It then links out to decimal time, which references French Revolutionary Time, and China time, among others. So there are historical precedents for not using hours, minutes, and seconds.

It would be a non-trivial task to convert to such a format, given how much of our world operates on the h:m:s principle. Phones, computers, clocks, etc. would all have to be updated or replaced...

Given how hard it has been to convince the US to adopt the metric system over the US Custom System, I suspect it would also be a Herculean task that would leave some nations on the new system and some still on the old, with many people confused as to how to convert between the two. (I know quite a few people that struggle with the simple task of converting between 12-hour and 24-hour times, much less a whole new system!)

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Time zones are a convention to use unified "time names". Most of the people will keep standing up after sunrise, working during day and going to bed after sunset, regardless if you call them 06.00 and 18.00 or 23.00 and 11.00.

Only hours name will be different, as the 11.00 in UK will be almost lunch time while in Australia it will be deep night.

No difference at all in productivity.

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  • $\begingroup$ not hh:mm:ss time maybe different concept of time .New way to represent it. $\endgroup$ – Amruth A Jul 18 '17 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ I cannot evaluate something you don't explain. If you say time zone I understand what I know as time zone. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 18 '17 at 7:09
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Aviation uses a 'single' timezone throughout the world. This means that all the control towers effectively run on the same clock.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. Greenwich Mean Time, I presume. This would work for aviation. More details, please. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 18 '17 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android, Actually UTC if my memory serves me right. There is a small technical difference which can be googled. All times in aviation are reported in UTC; hence the OP's synchronization. $\endgroup$ – Greg Wochlik Jul 18 '17 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Ah yes, Universal Coordination Time or Universal Time Coordination (UTC). Thanks for the information. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 18 '17 at 13:37
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People have an addiction to working 9-5, it's built into our social status. Remember your first proper 9-5? The status boost you felt you had when you moved into real grown up working hours from whatever shifts you'd done before? That's why we have so many time zones rather than larger time zones where people work 10-6 on one side and 8-4 on the other.

Consider taking that away and letting people not really care. In the UK they still work 0900-1700, in New Zealand they now work 2100-0500, it comes with a complication still. You went to work on Monday, but came home on Tuesday. Does your week start on Sunday night going into Monday or Monday night going into Tuesday?

The days will still be tied to daytime in people's heads, regardless of what's on the clock. That's going to make international coordination even more complex than it is at the moment. When I was doing shifts, the first working day of your week was called Monday, it could well have been on Wednesday but it was still Monday. (The last working day was Friday, even though we worked 4 day weeks.)

You could certainly reduce the number of time zones, but not all the way. It may be better to leave well alone as you add the complication of not just needing to know "what time it is there" but also "what time they start work there". As it is, 9-5 is a reasonable assumption and you just need to know the local time.

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Probably, slightly confused. Assume everybody is on Greenwich Mean Time. British people will start work, officer workers and many shops, at 9:00 am GMT. People living and working where I am there at starting time will be 11:30 pm GMT.

The confusion arises because every location on Earth will have to adjust its times for starting work, the hours of sunset and sunrise will vary with location. For example, if you were living in Singapore you could adapt to all the local time settings. But if went to work in the USA, all those time settings will shift according to locations.

In GMT standardized one time zone system, this would be most advantageous to the United Kingdom because everybody else will have to adjust their time settings relative to the British settings. The same thing would apply with any one timezone system. Somewhere in the world has to be the baseline location for time and everybody else has to fit in them.

There already exists Greenwich Mean Time and while this can be used to coordinate events and activities around the world it would be ineffective and silly to adopt a single time zone system.

The affect on productivity should be exactly nil. The main effect would be everybody complaining the nonsense of having a single time zone and why don't we have a sensible system of multiple time zones?

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    $\begingroup$ @AmruthA Now that's challenging. Whatever concept of time we use it will have to be countable. The time zones we use are convenient approximations. For example, time becomes more inaccurate as we move across any time zone. My time zone is based on a line to the East of the State I live in, so people to the West are living to a schedule that is more & more inaccurate for their ordinary needs further West you go. We will always need numbers and a reference longitude to tell the time. Time zones correct it for our convenience. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 18 '17 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ only current generation will be confused, kids born into new system will see it as something natural. few years of confusion are imho well worth the change $\endgroup$ – Lope Jul 18 '17 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Lope The real problem is the one time zone system won't produce any benefits. Certainly new generations always adapt better. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 18 '17 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ That is bold statement, any programmer would disagree ;) There definitely will be benefits, some of them minor, others not so much (especially when looking into the future and planetary age of our civ) but transition would be so painful that nobody wants to do it, yet. $\endgroup$ – Lope Jul 18 '17 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Lope If you think so, muster your arguments and post an answer. To me that sounds like a Stakhanovite future. But go ahead and make your case. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 18 '17 at 13:32
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"in our earth only ..new representation of time ..and all of them using the same"

In that case the only answer to your question here is:

A whacky "one time zone" world would would signal to the reader a very strong, overbearing, somewhat ridiculous centralized government...

(Note that, simply, China currently does this: it's an overbearing, "centralized government" move - a holdover from their overbearing, "centralized government" days!)

So for example, in the movie Brazil, or perhaps the classic book 1984, it would be a plot point if the nutcase world government in question, established "one time zone worldwide!" (for "planetary unity and order!")

What would be mindset of people...

As in any totalitarian system:

  1. a handful of rebels would scoff at the idea as one of the ridiculous notions instituted by the Empire;

  2. most would just go along running the concentration camps. In any totalitarian society the majority just mindlessly go along and do what they're told.

A plot point might be that the rebels use "rebel local time" just to make a point how ridiculous the Empire is.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd urge you to look at Buckminster Fuller's warning about the ramifications of non-cooperation on the international scale, but your point about totalitarianism is well taken. Top-notch idea on the use of local time as a form of rebellion! $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Jul 20 '17 at 16:52
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China has a single timezone, despite covering a wider range of longitudes than the mainland US. I don't know how they handle it, but I doubt very much that everything is synchronized across the whole country.

Spain is on Central European Time, so in summer in some parts of the country the clock is two-and-a-half hours ahead of the sun. Spaniards appear to have adjusted by moving their daily activities back a similar amount: tourists often observe that it's hard to get an evening meal before 9pm.

If clocks were synchronized around the world, within a generation or so everyone would find it perfectly natural that in the UK, say, the working day is from 10 until 18 while in New York it is from 5 until 13 and in Moscow from 13 until 21. Apart from the psychological problem of transition (similar to switching from imperial to metric units of measurement) the main practical difficulty would be handling a change of date in the middle of the working (or waking) day. I imagine the solution would be to handle everyday activities in terms of the "local date", being the date at the start of the working day: so while the time would be same everywhere, the "local date" would not.

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    $\begingroup$ Right on about the dateline problem. There's that great Isaac Asimov short story, about precisely that issue. Perhaps someone can find the title of it. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jul 18 '17 at 13:27
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For everyday use by average Jane and Joe, it won't work.
As others have stated, unified timezones already exist and are used by some specialized groups of people.
The time as we use it today in our local timezones has a meaning. This meaning is fairly easy to map to the numbers, with 0:00 for midnight, 12:00 for noon, 06:00 for morning / somewhere near wakeup and 18:00 somewhere near dinner.

If you use a unified timezone, the meaning goes away.
Today, if you ask someone "what's the time at your place" they give you a number and it automatically transports a meaning. With a unified timezone, you'd have to answer "some time between start of work and lunch time, to transport a meaning similar to "10:30".

So, what would happen would be that people either stick to the old ways of timekeeping, i.e. as we have them now, or come up with something else which still reflects time as they perceive it .

So, while programmers all over the world would celebrate, the rest of the world simply would evade your unified time, because stripping the meaning from the numbers makes them useless for most practical purposes.

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