Let’s shift to 25 hours

TL;DR: If we increase the time span of day from 24 to 25 hours, we could solve a lot of the challenges of the future.

Our society is totally obsessed by efficiency. We improve existing services to become more efficient in what we are already doing or use new methodologies to conceive entirely new services which disruptively change what we are accustomed to do in the past.

It is obvious that performing a task in an inefficient manner is waste. If you order an item from your preferred online retailer, why would you wait for three days delivery if this time could be optimized to get your parcels in just one day? Why involving the postman at all if a drone could deliver parcels right into your backyard? Why retaining the job of the packer who puts your purchases past the cashier in bags if you can do it on your own? Why retain the cashier at all?

15455870225_f1c1e599b7_z

If a job according to metrics can be accomplished within 30 minutes, it seems illogical to finish that job in an hour timespan.

What does this urge for efficiency buys us? Machines replaced that many workers previously necessary to build a tunnel, household appliances taking over the chores of hour-long domestic work, and of course computers automatizing dreary bureau tasks. ICT is the productivity boost and to a large extend accounts for economic growth since the late 80is until now [1]. With that excess of free time gained through automation it should be save to assume mankind to be bored out. In fact, that’s what John Maynard Keynes believed to become his grandchildren’s reality: a three hours workday.

Sure, this Utopia never became true. Instead we see unemployment rise with the effect that in socialist Europe fewer have to take care for an ever increasing mass of people incapable to make a living of their jobs. It’s true that productivity gains led to an overall decline in working hours/year but at the price of people being forced to work part time, requiring more but one job to make a living, and fewer people feeding more who live in increasingly dire conditions.

Contrary to this obvious principle, there are “jobs” which are hard to accomplish in any shorter time, like the time spent with your children, partner, or parents. The composer takes it’s time to come up with truly moving lyrics and the painter to finish his Magnum Opus, unless they will also be replaced by AI. In fact there are not that many jobs in the future save from being replaced by a robot.

Today we are all racing against the machines.

The reason for that all? Productivity gains are being harvested by only a fraction of the society.

Swim with the tides.

Fighting against change is futile. So instead of dreaming of the better past it might make more sense to anticipate the future and be it just for the sake of knowing. Let us assume that striving for productivity will increase and with the help of ICT-supported robots, people will become unemployed in masses. Machines don’t pay taxes, so fewer people will earn more, but also will have to work more to support the unemployed [2]. Those with a job  will be the ones which are still “productive” and working in the few jobs, which cannot be taken over by machines. The fate of those humans in the workforce will be to remain productive, efficient.

In the past, efficiency has been increased by doing the same (or more) with less. One constant has not yet put into question and that is time, namely the notion of a day, 24 hours from dawn, midday, sunset, night to another day. Living in a 24 hour day is so naturally that, despite many differences how me measure speed, weight, volume, … in different parts of the world, nowadays every agrees that the day is divided into 24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds.

It’s this notion of a 24 hour day which will hold back those who will still have to rely on people doing their job and not been replaced by machines.

So instead of a 24 hour day (“sunday”), let’s make it a 25 hour day, a “longday”.

Longday

No, the earth will still rotate in (roughly) 24 hours around it’s axis, but with an additional hour gained, people will be able to consume, let’s say, 16 hours of leisure while working for 9 hours. That’s right, one more hour productivity while leisure will stay the same! In mathematical terms, workforce efficacy will raise from 8/24 (~0.333) to 9/25 (0.36). This will of course lead to the fact that longdays will get out of sync with sundays. Assuming that your regular workday starts at 8 in the morning, after a couple of days, you will rise in the late afternoon and go to bed when the sun will rise!

Taking a look at this new working reality, many consequences arise:

  1. End of traffic jams. As people will opt-in this new work plan at different times, people will rush to work at different times. Even though the future will bring us autonomous vehiles, if we continue to stick to a 24 hour work day this would still mean that the vast majority of cars will be needed between 7 to 9 in the morning and between 5 and 7 in the evening. With 25 hour workdays, traffic jams will be a thing of the past with commuters evenly distributed over the day.
  2. End to the distinction between free time and work. The notion of free time will be a thing of the past. Nowadays a simple look at the sky (day, evening/night?) or the calender (weekend?) will give you a notion wheather it should be save to call your colleague or if you are likely to disturb. With longdays this distinction is gone.
  3. No more closing times. As the number of people at work with others in their official leisure time will be evenly distributed around the 24 hour time frame, no one must be penalized. That means shops and service must be available 24 hours round.
  4. End of time zones. Time zones are a thing which make sense when you are living according to a 24 hour rhythm and doesn’t make sense outside these constraints.

What other effects to expect from the 25 hour day? The 25 hour day – Dystopia or does this concept have chance to become reality? Should it become reality at all?

[1] B. Miller und R. D. Atkinson, „Raising European Productivity Growth Through ICT“. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Juni-2014.

[2] At least in socialist countries unless this principle will be decommissioned