A case for just switching to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

We just changed back our clocks here in the USA from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time, and frankly I'm sick of this dance. Invariably it means having to find all of the clocks in the house (though fortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer non-internet connected clocks). We have four devices in our kitchen that have clocks on them and frankly only a few of them really need to have clocks. There's only one clock in the kitchen that really matters and it uses the WWVB signal to set itself.

Thing is there's no good reason why anyone should have to reset a clock twice a year. Outside of power outages and drift these things should be a set-and-forget. But we've clearly decided that navigating Byzantine interfaces (which is a whole other topic) to reset something as simple as a clock is something that we're required, nay, expected to do.

I talked with a few friends about this and those conversations sparked an idea that I'm sure others have proposed before. But I think it has some merit, so I will propose it here in the hopes of generating not only discussion but the catalyst for radically rethinking our relationships to our clocks.

Astronomers, Ham radio folks, and the like all use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for marking when events occur. This provides an unambiguous reference point for when things are occurring that transcends time zones and other complications of determining when something either happened or should happen. Smart computer folks set the clocks on their servers to UTC, providing a continuous stream in their log files of sequential timestamps (the alternative is having an event that happens at 1:59 a.m. and then finishes at 1:03 a.m.).

By adopting UTC across the board we eliminate the confusion of time zones and provide ourselves with a standardized, unambiguous way of measuring time. No more to we have to concern ourselves with when Europe decides that DST is over, or have to remember which of the 50 states of the USA observes or doesn't observe DST. Heck, we can even thumb our noses at the tinpot dictators that want to have their timezone be :45 or :15 minutes off. That's all fine and good, but the grownups can agree to simply ignore these childish ploys and just move on.

And this gets to the heart of the matter. We've had decades of folks saying that switching to and from DST doesn't really do anything other than cause people problems, from sleep deprivation to interruptions to our circadian rhythms, and the like. We've had many attempts to fix this but somehow other priorities come up and we never get anything done.

Here's the radical suggestion: fuck the politicians and just adopt UTC as a convention anyway.

Sure, it might be painful at first. Having to teach folks that our meeting starts at 19:00 instead of 2 p.m. ET can be confusing, but is it any more confusing than folks who haven't changed their clocks over? And is it less confusing than trying to figure out what time folks should meet if they're in the Pacific, Central, Eastern, Mountain, and Arizona time zones? Heck, many computer folks will add the UTC time to help give folks a clue on what time a meeting should start. What's the difference between saying that you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time and instead say you're working from 14:00 to 22:00? Sure it looks weird but if you've ever learned hexadecimal you've broken your brain far more with that than what I'm suggesting here.

The beauty is that we can do this now. Normalize using UTC in your daily life. Set your clocks to UTC. Eventually it will seem weird to not use UTC.

I feel this is the way forward instead of waiting for politics to catch up. We've got the tools to make this happen. Why not implement them?

If you're looking for a good tool to help with this I can recommend Every Time Zone. You can also add UTC to most calendar applications and clocks.

Stop waiting for the world to catch up. Let's fix this once and fix it right.