Posts Tagged ‘Time Change’

Government’s Foolish Contempt of Nature: Daylight Savings Time

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

What Do We Gain?

I don’t think much of the time-shifts associated with Daylight Savings Time.  I think they cause too many people to have too many problems in adjusting, and I’m not talking about resetting their alarm clocks. Humans are like most other animals on the planet, in that our bodies adjust slowly to new schedules, and it’s simply no good for people to be compelled to wake up an hour earlier just on the whim of some government’s say-so.  It wreaks havoc with shift schedules in the workplace, and it causes all sorts of computer troubles as systems flip over, particularly where systems must remain synchronized.  I have no problem with the idea that we want more useful daylight working hours in the evening, as that’s helpful to me on the farm in some instances, but then let us just leave it there, permanently.  One way or the other, let us adjust our clocks as many as one more time, but then let us leave it alone.

As most of you will have already known, Daylight Savings Time grew out of an era of war.  It was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, but it wasn’t implemented in the US until the First World War.  The idea was simple: By shifting the clock one hour in Spring, one could lengthen the hours of daylight available in the evening, the idea being to save energy and permit longer work hours in a lengthened period of evening daylight.  That might have made sense at the time, and under the necessities of war, but no longer.  In the 1970s, the Federal Government looked at the energy savings of the procedure and found them to be negligible.

At the same time, let us consider the huge expense imposed. I would argue that if we want the day with longer periods of light at the end, that we should simply do this current switch to DST and simply leave it there indefinitely, because the costs imposed by flipping back and forth is too great in human terms.  The incidence of heart attacks and suicides increases after the spring change, and in addition, as a computing professional, I know well the costs of systems changing their time.  Each year, in my own organization, the changing of the time results in a number of unavoidable failures among systems that must remain within twenty seconds of synchronization at all times to function.  There are manufacturing systems in which the time-sync is even more critical, but in any event, the organization in which I work requires one of we technical folks to be standing-by, ready to intervene if some system doesn’t make the shift in a timely manner.

Our systems experience a real jolt in the Fall, because whereas in Spring, we just lose an hour in our records, in Autumn, as the clocks jump back one hour, we gain those records but we have two sets of records tagged with timestamps from 01:00 to 01:59.  This creates significant confusion despite the appending of other markers, using sequential fields on records, because when we query the system for review of various events, we get multiple returns by time that make it difficult to sort out what’s gone on. Of course, this difficulty exists in Spring too, as an event that begins at 01:59 and ends at 03:05 will be recorded as having taken one hour and six minutes when it actually took just six minutes.  All of these things are repairable but it’s a good deal of work that my organization incurs twice yearly, and it’s really unproductive, lost, wasted work that gains nothing for the organization but headaches.  Frankly, I’m waiting for the Obama administration to propose bi-weekly time changes as a ‘stimulus’ program, given the uselessness of it all.

The whole time-change event can cause serious malfunction in manufacturing.  One steel plant in Germany suffered significant damage after a load of steel was poured an hour too soon due to the time change.  In a world where precision now dominates, and systems operate continuously, arbitrarily monkeying around with the time can be a dangerous affair, particularly when the costs all seem to militate against flipping it.  Of course, it’s too late to put a stop to it this time, but I would like to see more discussion of this.

Nowadays, Daylight Savings Time seems to be more of a sad tradition than a proposition serving any real and useful purpose.  Russia liked DST so well that they simply moved the time, and left it there.  I’d be happy with that, knowing this would be the last spring in which the society at large was compelled to endure all of the displacements.  In human terms alone, if we never do this again, we will at least prevent another season of time loss, expense, and aggravation, and while it’s too late to save those who will now account for this year’s spike in heart attacks and suicides, at least we will never endure it again.

The real culprit in all of this is a government that never tires of tinkering with our lives, down to the minute and second.  There are whole departments of government that deal with nothing but this issue, and I expect that if we view it through that lens alone, we could probably save a good deal of money.  In fact, in the computer industry alone, there are thousands of people who serve this time-shift and work throughout the year to minimize the sort of outages and disruptions that could get people killed.  If all of those clever people were freed to work at some much more useful purpose, imagine how much better our lives would be.  It’s like almost anything else imposed by a top-down view of governance, in that what once might have served some reasonable purpose has become a yoke around the necks of the people.

I don’t know anybody who likes the time changes associated with Daylight Savings Time, because for virtually all of them, it imposes more trouble in their lives than it is worth.  Some would like us to stay on Standard Time permanently, but most to whom I speak would prefer Daylight Savings Time on a permanent basis.  As one co-worker explained, “So in the winter, I’d be arriving at work as the sun comes up.  What does that matter to me?  I’m at work.  I’m indoors and the florescent lights are burning either way. At least I won’t be driving home as darkness falls in December.” That seems to be the attitude of many, and I couldn’t agree more. As we endure this interruption twice annually, we should ask if the costs of the time-shift haven’t grown too large, and whether it’s time that we pick one and stick with it.

 

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