When humans and machines clash over time.
I set up an interview with the director of a major logistics zone and SEZ in Baku. I arranged a time, computed the time difference, then confirmed.
“Just a note: this year we didn’t change our clocks to summer time, so the difference between us is only 8 hours,” the director wrote to me.
What was he talking about? The time on my Google calendar said that Azerbaijan is nine hours ahead. How could Google not know what time it is there?
Azerbaijan decided to cancel daylight savings time this year. The stated reasons are because they feel it’s biologically detrimental to human health or something like that. Whatever, the reason why they did this is not what’s of significance here.
What is interesting is that the official time in the country is no longer coordinated with anybody’s cloud-connected clocks. Google calendar, iPhones, iPads, BlackBerries, Android-based smartphones, laptops, smart watches, internet browsers — pretty much anything electronic jumped ahead an hour for a daylight savings time that wasn’t.
“So there was a confusion regarding the time for a day or two,” the director said. “When you look at your clock or watch and it shows six o’clock when it’s really five o’clock. So you may want to leave work early,” he joked.
The people of Azerbaijan adjusted to this pretty quickly, but this has caused a minor riff in how Azerbaijan — a keystone country on the cusp of Asia, the Middle East, and the West — interacts with anybody on the outside. Before any kind of meeting can be set up or event can be arrange it has to be communicated that the time our machines give us for Azerbaijan isn’t really the time it is there.
Our devices that we meticulously program to think for us and make our lives easier can become far more of an inconvenience if we actually trust them. While humans can simply adjust to arbitrary changes, our devices cannot. We use these things that we call “smart” because they’re supposed to be smarter than us, how how smart can something really be if it can’t even tell what time it is?
Ultimately, the moral to this tale is the same as in any human vs. machines story:
Humans are unpredictable, and unpredictability is something that machines have no tolerance for.