why is the time gap between new york and london variable?

i feel that little bit closer to the people of britain this week. one hour closer to be specific.

so the clocks in great britain have already moved back. those in new york have as yet not. so for a brief moment in time, the time difference is one hour shorter. for me, this has already led to several near-misses in terms of getting to conference call meeting on times. imagine what the economic impact could have been. ok, almost nothing. but is was at least an inconvenience.

one of the driving forces of modernisation is standardisation. it seems bizarre to me that we can’t all get together and agree to end this absurd practice. but how exactly would we ‘get together’? i assume that the UN has no ministry of international administrative detail. but maybe they should.

peace and security - check. human rights - check. ministry of clocks and time zones - nope.

CORRECTION – their IS a UN body responsible for the standardization of measures, processes and protocols. They need to pull their fingers out (and improve their web presence…) http://www.unece.org/cefact/

ok, so i don’t think everything should be internationally standardised. the defiant (and ironic) defence of the imperial system of measurement in america seems to be somewhat noble. the realignment of the side of the road on which people drive would have so many implications in physical rebuilding that i can accept that getting everyone to drive on the left hand side of the road is probably not practical. but some degree of further standardisation would seem to be in order.

like phone chargers for example. don’t even get me started on phone chargers. or indeed power points generally. grr.

a handy object that really should not exist

and this is just the international problem.what about some of the little things. today, i had to fill in my personal details in two different formats. within one office. why is there not an internationally recognised layout for forms, in which the basic details are listed in the same order. or, again even better, a single ‘personal detail’ sheet that can be taken to any new doctor’s office, or tax office, or HR department, meaning that all these different office need to do is produce a form for the supplementary information required.

(or, even better, allow me to email or submit an online form. that would really work well).

but how are we ever going to get to that point when we can’t even agree what order to list day/month/year. and agree that it’s definitely NOT month first.

a visual representation of obvious nonsense

to rescue myself from the pedantic whine into which i seem to be descending, there is a serious point here. whether on a national or an international basis, all societies are constantly stretching themselves to innovate: commercially, militarily, ethically. but who is taking care of innovating the boring stuff? to use our time more efficiently, with less stress and trauma, to allow us to focus our creative juices on the big stuff?

for a perspective on this in business, see the excellent rory sutherland (via dave ibsen’s rather good blog. but is anyone covering this for government? and what about on an international level?


btw – i now have some handy social media buttons below. if you like it, ‘like’ it. if you don’t, then leave me a comment as to why…



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5 responses to “why is the time gap between new york and london variable?

  1. Ahh now yes. New York and London had the same switch to “daylight savings” until a couple of years ago. A bright spark noticed that the day of the switch had been set purely arbitrarily and that things could be improved by moving it. I recall the argument was something about saving energy or boosting economic activity.

    In Japan they don’t change the clocks at all.

    France a few years ago decreed that it was going to stop changing the clocks so that half the year it would be on the same time zone as the UK and the other half Germany. I don’t think they went through with it.

    I seem to know more about this than I think is strictly necessary.

    You will be pleased to hear that very soon every mobile phone sold in the EU will have to have a standard charger fitting. This is truly a great leap forward.

    • well we have the EU to do all that boring standardisation nonsense for us in Europe, and it turns out its often not that boring apparently, as its exactly that sort of thing that tends to upset the tabloids so much!

      (oh, and Britain used to change clocks a few weeks apart from mainland Europe, leaving us briefly in sync with them – I believe the EU managed to change that).

      and what’s noble about keeping a system of measurements that makes no sense, is hard to learn, and and is completely inconsistent? i’d call it bloody minded

      • “Britain used to change clocks a few weeks apart from mainland Europe, leaving us briefly in sync with them”

        Ooh, I either didn’t know that or had forgotten. One of the factbank!! Cheers!

  2. Marcus

    Interesting post, and raises a good point. My perspective on such stupidities is that they are down to the human instinct to organise into clans which assume superiority over the rest, whether it’s a nation, clique or religion.

    We don’t want to standardise, as it suggests we were “GETTING IT WRONG” before, and that someone else’s system might be better.

    I find this instinct profoundly frustrating, and it’s not one I share, as I find it hard to identify with a group culture. But if everyone in the world was like me we probably wouldn’t have created functioning societies, and I recognise that it’s probably done more good than harm in the past.

    So, at the end of that ramble, the reason for the daft timezones, plugs, and other regional variations are symptomatic of what has made us successful as a species. And let’s not forget that this plethora of different approaches is why we can identify the good ones. If everyone was doing things the same way, it might not be the best… (okay, so not so relevant to timezones, but relevant to the seemingly maddening variation)

  3. The Aussies and Kiwis move a few weeks apart which doens’t make a lot of sense either.

    BE makes a good point about the EU. They have done a lot of work on boring standardisation. They don’t always get a lot of thanks for it though!

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