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The Human Body as a Dev Platform:


Evolution, Challenges and Approaches

Classification - Parental Guidance
Licence - CC BY SA

@KathyReid on GitHub, Twitter, IRC, Slack etc


Platforms and Operations Manager

Early computing platforms

Attribution: United States Army via Wikipedia.


Attribution: Bernard Goldbach via Flickr.

Transistors ftw

Attribution: IBM 608 via Columbia University.

Punch cards ftw

Attribution: Punch Cards via Chris Limb on Flickr.

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons


Attribution: Wikipedia Commons

Attribution: Sir Tim Berners-Lee via ITU Pictures on Flickr.

(somewhat) portable

Attribution: Wikipedia commons

which model?

Attribution: Devices via Jeremy Keith on Flickr.

Platform Physical environment Environment [de]commission Development approach Testing and QA Deployment and release
Early computers
  • Huge - fill a room
  • Not portable
  • Susceptible to environmental failure
  • Expensive
  • Time consuming
  • Long lead time
  • Laborious
  • Non-automated
  • Errors mean rework ++
  • Manual checking
  • No testing automation
  • Minor mistakes, major rework
  • Real programmers code in production!
  • Smaller - fill a desk
  • (still) not portable
  • Generally robust to environmental failure
  • New environment = new machine
  • Requires installation or imaging
  • Automated tools
  • Heterogenous platforms = headaches
  • Automated tools
  • Heterogenous platforms = headaches
  • Physical install media
  • Very small footprint
  • Simple to set up / tear down
  • Automated dev tools, mature toolchains
  • Distributed development
  • Strong(ish) standards
  • Test-driven
  • Equivalent dev / pre-prod environments
  • Automated testing frameworks
  • Strong(ish) standards
  • Mature - ftp, git push
Mobile and wearables
  • Tiny, portal, mobile
  • Disk image, re-image device
  • Hybrid or native?
  • Which platform?
  • Heterogenous devices = headaches
  • Behaviour-driven
  • Emulation services available
  • Distributed testing
  • Requires ecosystem - ie App Store
Platform Physical environment Environment [de]commission Development approach Testing and QA Deployment and release
The human body ? ? ? ? ?

Fundamental assumptions

Seditious and defiant

Attribution: Ninjas via Andrés Álvarez Iglesias on Flickr.

Assumption #1:

If you can't open it, you don't own it.

And yes, you own your own body.

Assumption #2:

Ethically, it's neither absolutely right or wrong to functionally modify your body. Doing it well minimises harm.

Assumption #3:

We're already in the trans-human phase. The post-human era is nigh. We need frameworks to respond appropriately.

Physical environment

six billion different environments

Attribution: Micah's DNA via Micah Baldwin on Flickr.

Age Medical history Psychological disposition Socioeconomic factors
  • Younger people are generally more resilient physically
  • More co-morbidities as we age
  • Physical changes make implantation more risky as we age
  • Allergies
  • Previous medical conditions may preclude implantation
  • History of infection
  • Previous implants - scarring, 'leftovers'
  • Compromised immune system
  • Cartesian split - body vs mind?
  • Psychological rejection of implantable devices (eg. 'Twiddlers syndrome')
  • Embodiment of implantable devices into the 'self'
  • Ongoing support, maintenance and care
  • Ability to self-care and self-maintain?
  • Costs of ongoing care and ability to service costs
  • Equity - who gets the technology?

Establish a baseline

Have an implementation plan


Embody - or back out the change

infections are bad

Attribution: Kathy Reid

Environment [de]commissioning

cloning a new env?

Attribution: Human Cloning via News Online on Flickr.

Organ on a chip

End of lifecycle planning

Attribution: My father's funeral via Stephan Ridgway on Flickr.

Organs on a chip

End of life planning and management

Development approach

Dangerous Things NFC

Northstar v1


Circadia implanted

Karen Sandler

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons

Strong community - avoid the orphan tech problem

Open platforms - extendability and scrutiny

Testing approach

Embodiment driven development

How do we test for embodiment?

Release and deployment approach

Near field communication

Attribution: NFC seal IMAG0351 via Gohsuke Takama on Flickr.




Snip, rip, slip, clip :(


We are transhuman, and about to be posthuman

We are woefully unprepared for this

We need a set of best practices



Duarte, B. N. (2014). Entangled Agencies: New Individual Practices of Human-Technology Hybridism through Body Hacking. NanoEthics, 8(3), 275–285.
Esch, M. B., King, T. L., & Shuler, M. L. (2011). The Role of Body-on-a-Chip Devices in Drug and Toxicity Studies. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, 13(1), 55–72.
Hacking, I. (2005). The Cartesian vision fulfilled: analogue bodies and digital minds. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 30(2), 153–166.
Norton, Q. (n.d.). The Next Humans - Body Hacking and Human Enhancement. Retrieved from
Thomas, D. (2005). Hacking the body: code, performance and corporeality. New Media & Society, 7(5), 647–662.

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