Subtle Physical Computing

And so, after absorbing a few different sorts of literature, here’s my first stab at a) ‘developing in the open’ and b) attempting to reconcile my software engineering practice with elements of philosophy.

I give you draft 1 of the ethos of ‘Subtle Physical Computing’ aka SubPhys Computing or, in short, SC. Special Circumstances may become the norm, who can say? (SPC is a more valid acronym but I had to get a Culture reference in there somewhere)

It is an offshoot of the idea of ‘pervasive computing’ from the world of IoT. With any luck, the ethos will grow. It is not designed to turn a profit. It is designed to change. Olamina’s ‘Earthseed’ aside, God is Change. AI is not God. For all the hells on earth, there is Helsuit. For the rest of us, there’s Earthsuit.



The most useful things in the world were invented by people who have no names. No one ever made ‘serious’ money from the fundamentals: Maxwell did not patent his equations. Truly useful things are developed by civilizations across centuries. Some of those centuries are already ending. Some begin today. Take your names off your products. Share your ideas and your implementations. Make them – and set them free.

Draft 1:

We are Helsuit
Wear Helsuit
We are Helsuit

Helsuit: compatible with birthday suit.

Helsuit: you’re already wearing it.

We raise Helsuit

  • we believe the first draft of anything is shit
  • we read books like Doughnut Economics, The Deficit Myth, Everything you need (the A L Kennedy one), Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Metamorphosis, The Old man and the Sea, Harry Potter, Thus Spake Zarathustra and, with healthy pinches of salt and sugar, Maps of Meaning, Bleak House, Jane Eyre, Three Body Problem, Zima Blue, Surface Detail, Excession, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, A Man called Ove, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, Lord of the Rings, Robert Webb’s autobiography, (Memories, reflections, dreams), The Parables of the Sower and Talents, The Wasp Factory
  • we believe in giving things away
  • we believe not in paying for things, but working for things. Although money can still change hands and lives
  • we believe that ideas are worthless
  • we believe the best ideas should be allowed to percolate without pressure from profit or management
  • we believe that an idea, however good, should not be all encompassing. We First!
  • we believe that moonshots are worth taking – with calculated guesstimates. We know there are many moons out there!
  • we believe that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
    • it: Chi va piano va sano e va lontano
    • phonetically: ki vah peeano vah saano ey vah lontaanoh
    • Google translate says: ‘Who goes slow and steady wins’
    • Latin: ‘qui tardus et stabilis suscipit‘
  • we believe that theory without application is like bread without butter: you need damn good bread to get most people excited. For good bread contact Dusty Knuckle bakery
  • we believe that things don’t always go to plan: the goal you expect might not arrive. What arrives might not be the goal
  • we believe in ‘subtle (and frequently wearable!) computing’
  • we believe that distrubuted systems running locally are easier to reason about than those running remotely
  • we believe that computing is art and should be free and open to all (as it already is) (like the Tate Modern)
  • we believe that art should be made with discipline (Thanks Barbara!)
  • we believe that great artists share
  • we believe in taking what we need and giving back what we can afford
  • we believe in the full context of the mantra: “optimization is the root of all evil”
  • we believe that implementations should tend towards freedom the more people they touch (or, the more people that wear them…)
  • we believe that your Mum and Grandma should be able to use the implementation, unguided
  • We believe that ‘apps’ only lead to more apps. ‘Domains’ and ‘use cases’ lead to more solutions
  • we believe not in reinventing the wheel, but making the wheel fit your car (or suit)
  • we believe the best interface is no interface
  • we believe the best interface is your interface
  • we do not believe that labels like ‘frontend engineer’ and ‘backend engineer’ are useful over the long term. There exists a ‘frontend’ to a compiler – it is not written with Vue.js. When thinking about on-suit architecture, we think about writing useful software for the suit. If delineation needs to exist, it should exist within teams, not within individuals
    • What is ‘the long term’? The long term is over the lifetime of a given technical person. Paradigms ebb and flow, frameworks come and go
  • we believe that the domain of in-body monitoring should be part of the platform (to enable preventative medicine)
  • we believe that the domain of out-body monitoring and maintenance should be outside, and perhaps connected to, the platform (to treat acute matters, e.g. brushing teeth – we are not inspector gadget)
  • we believe that not all out-body systems need to be connected: your toothbrush does not need to be connected to the Internet, nor does your toaster
  • we believe that technology can be used to connect us to our planet (not in an Avatar way, dw, just by allowing us to be outside for longer)
  • we believe that a broken escalator is still a staircase
  • we believe in a ‘personal platform for platforms’ (PPfP)
  • we believe in playing the hands we are dealt
  • we believe in an ‘always on’ architecture
  • we believe that ‘openness’ leads to fewer vulnerabilities in most contexts
  • we believe in open source software and hardware. We believe that the wearer should be a closed source unless they choose otherwise.
  • we believe in the largest attack surface on earth: all of us
  • we believe no one is too small to make a difference (Thanks Greta!)
  • we believe that wobbly bridges can be fixed by the same people that made them wobble – without loss of reputation. There is usually a precedent!
  • we believe good technology lasts across centuries and across politics. Technology is not always ‘computers’ and ‘coding’ and ‘dashboards’ and ‘apps’ and ‘machine learning’
  • we do not believe in Earthseed or E/Acc. But, if that’s how it goes, Helsuit can help. This is our only wager. Pascal has something to do with it.
  • we believe in the stories we tell ourselves
  • we are conscious of hubris
  • we are kind to our nemesis
  • we wear hylozoic (hardware / software / wetware) architectures
  • we do not believe in altering carbon, we believe in shielding, absorbing and protecting it
  • we believe in incentivising healthy bodies and consentful physical touch
  • we believe that while thoughts and ideas are important, we are not them. Dawkinsian memes might be as important as food, shelter, recreation and companionship
  • we believe a digital twin should live on your body (personal data store on suit)
  • we believe in forwards compatibility at all costs
  • Memento mori
  • our corollary: “Be more Woz”

We want to avoid a Wall-E future. We also want to avoid a Matrix Revolutions future.

For more information and development progress, see

The obvious question: what in the bloody hell (Harry) is a Helsuit? To which I’d hazard a reply: “What is WordPress? Anything you want it to be”

Another, more mysterious and antagonistic reply: “We’ll show you”

Finally, we believe in the following, wrongly attributed to Mahatma Ghandi:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

The full, correct quote according to AP, is from Nicolas Klein:

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.

This is how we fight. However, SPC does not expect monuments. We support subtle wins and quiet protest.

Wear Helsuit. We are Helsuit.

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