Monday, March 12, 2012 11:21 AM
It was not hard to find Daylight Savings Time detractors this morning, in person or on the Web. For my part, I was surprised to find my morning bike ride plunged into darkness, and even more surprised that I was getting up almost two hours before dawn (which sounded a lot worse than it was).
I was not alone. A new blog post on Freakonomics argues that the lack of Monday morning sleep has a measurable effect on productivity, as tired workers are more likely to slack off than rested ones. The blog pointed to an average of 40 minutes of sleep lost as our circadian rhythms adjust to the time change, which makes groggy workers more likely to surf the Web and waste time. Pointing to the same study (originally published in the Journal of Applied Psychology), Patrik Jonsson wrote in Christian Science Monitor that there are also negative health effects to worry about, such as impaired immune responses and sleep deprivation. Huffington has even pointed to a possible increase in missed appointments, heart attacks and traffic accidents. Reportedly, the Applied Psychology researchers have called on Congress to rethink the anachronistic practice, as the costs outweigh any potential benefits.
For years people have put up with this imbalance mainly because DST was supposed to save on household energy consumption. But as Freakonomics coauthor Stephen Dubner pointed out in 2008, new evidence puts the old argument on shaky grounds. While people tend to turn off indoor lights during the now-sunlit evening hours, the benefits are offset by increases in heating and cooling during the morning twilight. The net effect, according to an NBER working paper was a slight overall increase in energy use nationwide.
So why do we still observe it? The practice isn’t all bad, says Nick Sawe of Stanford magazine. During the 1970s energy crisis—when DST was finally put into permanent practice—Americans saved “the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day” over a two-month period. The Department of Transportation also saw a decrease in auto accidents and crime. And some recent studies suggest that the old rationale that DST lowers energy use is right on—but only if DST is extended year-round. During the early 2000s energy crisis, California tried this approach with surprising success, a result the whole country saw when it increased DST by a month in 2007.
There is also a positive impact on renewables, says Sawe. Because DST reduces peak demand for energy—especially in the evening—it puts less stress on renewable sources like solar and wind that may be less consistent due to weather or other factors. And, as National Geographic’s Brian Handwerk reveals, while DST energy savings is marginal to nonexistent nationwide, it’s much more measurable in areas outside the Deep South, like the Midwest and California coast. This is mainly because people in cooler regions are less likely to use air conditioning.
As controversial as DST is now, it’s hard to imagine how we’d ever get to observe it year-round. Ironically, this means we may never see the system’s greatest benefits. In any case, there is something to be said for an extra hour of sunlight in the evening—summer seems that much closer. Mornings will be tough for a while, but it won’t be dark forever.
Sources: Freakonomics Blog, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, NBER, Stanford, National Geographic.
Therese F (Photographerpandora) licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 3:02 PM
If study after study shows a connection between leisure and productivity, why are we being worked to exhaustian in the name of production? In the United Kingdom, the New Economics Forum has released a report called 21 hours calling for a new work-week norm. "Each person in Britain already works an average of 20 hours a week if you spread working hours evenly across the population," reports Zoe Cormier in the New Internationalist:
It all comes down to what we consider 'work': what labour we think is worth paying for. If all the time spent in the UK on unpaid labour--raising children, cooking, household chores and so on--were paid at the minimum wage, it would account for 21 percent of the country's GDP.
...Rather than allowing the labour to remain unaccounted (and underappreciated), we could "redistribute paid labour, reduce the differential between paid and unpaid work, and make better use of assets," says [Commissioner for Health with the UK Sustainable Development Commission Anne] Coote.
"Having the normal working week could solve a litany of social problems," writes Cormier, and it could have an effect on climate change as well:
The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates that is Americans were to work the same number of hours as Europeans (who work up to 300hours less per year) they would reduce their carbon footprint by up to 30 percent. Less time spent at a factory or office translates into less time spent driving to work, less energy consumed in the building or on the road, and fewer materials used in production.
"While we can always make more stuff," says Cormier, "we can't make more time--each of us only has so many grains of sand in our hourglass. As difficult as our mortality may be to contemplate, we each need to learn that our lives are not going to get longer--and in fact, the stress of punishing schedules and sedentary jobs can shorten them."
Source: New Internationalist (article not yet available online)
Image by pizzodisevo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:59 AM
When Google transformed its search page logo into a playable version of Pac-Man last week, productivity nosedived. Buildings began collapsing, the seas rose, and the seventh seal spoken of in the Book of Revelations was finally broken by the Lion of Judah. Perhaps that sounds exaggerated, but The Time Rescue Blog has an amusing breakdown of the time and money theoretically wasted as a result of users playing Google’s version of Pac-Man:
Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time (beyond the 33.6m daily man hours of attention that Google Search gets in a given day).
$120,483,800 is the dollar tally, if the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate).
Source: The Time Rescue Blog
Image by Gizmodo.
Friday, December 11, 2009 2:49 PM
Some 158 million people in the world can’t see clearly and don’t have access to glasses, but the problem doesn’t just affect their quality of life—it impacts the global economy as well.
According to Johns Hopkins Public Health, economist Kevin Frick and his colleagues studied the effect of poor vision on productivity and the economy, and concluded the global economy loses between $121 and $269 billion each year as a result of people not having corrective eyewear. Frick boils it down further for the magazine, adding: “For every person who doesn’t have glasses around the world we’re talking about $1000 worth of productivity lost every year.”
The problem is most prevalent in the developing world, where people don’t even have access to an optometrist. Physicist and social entrepreneur Joshua Silver tells Ode “in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa there is one optometrist for every eight million people. Silver is attempting to solve the vision crisis with his invention of “adspecs” or adaptive spectacles. He explains that with simple training “people can make their own glasses. Using adaptive lenses, people can change the focus of the lens themselves. There are several ways to do this. The one I have developed involves spectacles that have chambers filled with silicon oil. If you fill the chamber with oil, the lens curves out; if you let the oil out of the chamber, the lens curves in. In this way, people can adapt the lens to their own vision needs.”
So far he’s distributed 30,000 adspecs, and he hopes to reach a billion people by 2020.
Sources: Johns Hopkins Public Health, Ode (article not available online)
Image by P/\UL, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 22, 2009 5:27 PM
The people who gave the world email, the iPhone, and the text message now want to save the world from information overload. In the latest issue of the electronic engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum, Nathan Zeldes explains how technologists are trying to save people from the constant interruptions, irritations, and maddening deluge of information that’s ubiquitous in daily life. Zeldes, a former productivity guru for Intel Corp, writes that the current situation resembles the “tragedy of the commons” scenario: “Everyone would prefer that there be fewer messages, but nobody can afford to be the first to cut back on sending them.”
Companies have sent out memos and instituted policies, but that’s not always enough. Engineers have taken matters into their own hands, coming up with software that would help people prioritize their incoming messages and shield their personal time. Zeldes points to Priorities, a prototype program released by Microsoft that analyzes incoming messages to predict their importance. It also is designed to monitor the recipient’s activity, to see if that person should be interrupted. There are also programs like ClearContext Professional that is designed to help people clean up their inboxes.
Before implementing those new programs or any new technologies, Zeldes writes, “we should figure out how best to use it in the cultural context it will inhabit.” That way people won’t be plagued with more technology that's designed to improve productivity but ends up just wasting itme.
Source: IEEE Spectrum
, licensed under
Friday, March 20, 2009 5:23 PM
Modern furniture is having an identity crisis. A couch can no longer be content as a simple couch, now it must be able to convert into a bed, or a desk, or a stove (yes, a stove). The houseware-gadgetry isn’t always as functional as it may seem, and much of it never gets past the prototype stage, but Greg Beato writes for the Smart Set that the dual functions imbue our lives with a “luster of utility.”
The motivation behind the overly complicated stuff goes beyond saving money and saving space. Beato writes:
We are on a spiritual quest to attain higher and higher levels of seamless efficiency and fruitless productivity, and our iPhones can’t shoulder the burden of our dreams entirely by themselves, can they? We need furniture that is as promiscuously versatile as Swiss Army knives — chairs that are 300 percent more chair-like than normal chairs, coffee tables that blossom into dining tables, stoves you can sit on without setting your ass on fire.
Source: The Smart Set
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