Barriers all around you
Look around you. Barriers everywhere; walls, power cable jackets, product cases, car dashboards – they just go on and on. They get in your way constantly, but often in a good way that isolates you from danger, isolates your food from contamination and isolates your home from weather, theft, snooping and intrusion.
Think about it. At home or in the office, inches away from your skin are electrical conductors carrying power that would burn or kill you, pipes carrying hot water or steam that would scald you and so much more… But barriers placed by electricians, plumbers, construction contractors, autoworkers, production workers, engineers and others protect you from these dangers inches away 24/7.
These barriers in our homes, offices, computers and appliances make life easier for us, and far less dangerous. They are so useful, we may consider them essential. So electrical codes, fire codes, standards and laws require them, and engineers and building professionals ensure that they are in place, tested, inspected and ready to serve us and keep us safe. Because of these barriers our safety, security, privacy, reputation and sanity are all better off.
Public barriers direct you
When you leave th building to travel by car or public transportation you encounter more barriers that isolate us from other dangers and direct us for public order. Traffic barriers, authorized access barriers, gates, doors and security access systems are among these systems.
You find yourself protected, constrained and blocked by public barriers almost everywhere you go. This is a natural consequence of civilized life, especially in busy urban centers and hubs.
These public barriers expand and evolve as technology advances and new risks emerge in society. These forms of social isolation and direction with barriers have developed new sets of rules for interaction, etiquette and social behavior. To a growing extent, our grasp of the rules, restrictions and expectations related to barriers is a critical part of our competence as travelers and citizens.
Trouble with barriers
Are you sometimes frustrated with barriers? I am. While architectural barriers, personnel barriers and public barriers perform critical functions, they all come with drawbacks. Barriers, by their very nature, get in the way. They delay your progress, force detours and slow you down, consuming your time and energy.
The busier you are and more critical is your time, the more frustrating barriers can be. In addition to this, the most populated, wealthy and advanced places generally have the most extensive collection of barriers. This is true of physical barriers, organizational barriers and administrative barriers to change like laws, codes, standards and bureaucratic institutions. This infrastructure of barriers, isolation systems and rules can be oppressive to the most creative, inventive and entrepreneurial people and organizations, because they block or slowdown changes, including new business and technology.
It is because of the barriers to change presented by the old infrastructure and established businesses, political groups and other institutions that the most innovative technologies and businesses are called disruptive. For rapid growth in sectors like ride-share (Uber & Lyft) and homestay (airbnb & VRBO), businesses and technologies must find ways past many barriers that impede progress.
Because the richest, largest, most established economies have the strongest infrastructure and the most barriers, they have the greatest resistance to change. So, while great infrastructure has many advantages to a technology business, the resistance to change is a big impediment. For this reason, some innovative new technologies are adopted and grown far more quickly in developing economies than in economic powerhouses like the US and the EU. This may be seen as a big opportunity for strong technology businesses in the developing world, and a big vulnerability for first world economies.
Barriers for fluids
The barriers in buildings, public places and appliances mostly are barriers to people. Another critical type of barrier is the barrier that blocks flow of fluids to isolate liquid or gas. These barriers include fuel tanks, pressurized refrigeration systems, dams and space suits. These barriers protect workers from toxic and irritating materials. They isolate explosive and inflammable liquids and gases from the oxygen in air to avoid explosion.
Without these barriers, every car or bus ride would be a high risk game of fire and explosion avoidance. Commercial airline flights would be impractical. Air conditioning would be nearly impossible, and healthcare for highly contagious patients would be so high risk as to be nearly impossible. Of course we do have dams, pressurized aircraft hulls, refrigerators, ovens, sewage systems and thousands of other flow-isolated systems based on fluid barriers. The scientific and industrial aspects of fluid isolation, sterile processing and special atmosphere isolation barriers are covered in more detail on the Barriers page of this website.
In addition to physical, administrative and infrastructural barriers mentioned above the life barriers to personal change and achievement are worth mentioning. These are seldom strictly legal or physical constraints, though those can be important factors.
The most prominent life barriers are those we place on ourselves and our family members. Social, moral, religious, societal, developmental, economic and discriminatory barriers can be formidable and in some cases terribly challenging to cross, but our self imposed barriers are nearly always the most important. Human beings, even those with disabilities and other impediments are capable of nearly unlimited problem solving and achievement. Often, limitations we see as imposed by family, employers, society or others are barriers that hold us back. But even when these expectations and obligations are massively burdensome, they rarely are legal obligations we cannot modify or challenge.
In the final analysis, most of these barriers are choices and not obligations, so they are truly self imposed. If you wonder about what you could achieve “if only I didn’t have to…” then consider the exercise of playing out what would happen if you ignored or abandoned the barrier condition you feel traps you. This may be a situation that would end your life or freedom, but usually it is not. If it limits you from great things, consider what bypassing that barrier would mean. This is a worthwhile exercise since you only get one life, and it is your choice what to do with it.
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