Sunday, 14 April, 2002
Some Things Are Too Complicated
So many things in this world seem overly complex to me. Today I've been wondering about measurement scales. In elementary school I learned my weights and measures, like every little schoolboy should, and prided myself on remembering that 12 inches is a foot, and there are 1,760 yards in a mile. When I discovered the metric system in high school, I immediately wondered why we don't use that. It's so much easier to use. Water freezes at 0C, and boils at 100C. Simple. Much simpler than remembering 32F and 212F. And measurements? I find it much easier to calculate the difference between 8mm and 10mm, than between 9/16 inches and 11/64 inches.
And time. I won't even worry about the weird time scales: 60, 60, and 24. But what's with the AM/PM thing? Why doesn't everybody use 24-hour (military) time? When somebody says "It's 6 o'clock", you'd better know if he means AM or PM. But if somebody said "1800", you'd know immediately. And the whole thing about time zones. Forget it. Yes, there used to be a reason for calculating local noon. But no longer. Why don't we all, the whole world, standardize on a time system. UTC (what used to be called GMT) seems simple enough. Rather than posting your hours of operation as 8AM to 5PM Central Daylight Time, just say 1400 to 2200 UTC. Simple. And don't even get me started on the whole Daylight Savings Time idiocy! Arizona seems to get along just fine without it, why can't the rest of the country?
Not that I expect any of this to change in my lifetime. Change requires thought and effort, and people in general are loathe to put forth effort to change anything that doesn't present an immediate problem—the sad state of recycling in this country being a case in point. People say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, it's broke—really broke. But it seems to work okay for now, so we'll continue stupidly along until the effort required to overcome the problems of incompatible standards outweighs the effort required to change. And then people will start pointing fingers at others, blaming everybody else for the time and productivity lost and the inconvenience of having to change immediately something that they've known about and have had the opportunity to change for years. It's the Y2K problem all over again, but writ large. Very large.