Co-Design of a Trustworthy AI System in Healthcare: Deep Learning Based Skin Lesion Classifier

Steven Umbrello

This paper documents how an ethically aligned co-design methodology ensures trustworthiness in the early design phase of an artificial intelligence (AI) system component for healthcare. The system explains decisions made by deep learning networks analyzing images of skin lesions. The co-design of trustworthy AI developed here used a holistic approach rather than a static ethical checklist and required a multidisciplinary team of experts working with the AI designers and their managers. Ethical, legal, and technical issues potentially arising from the future use of the AI system were investigated. This paper is a first report on co-designing in the early design phase. Our results can also serve as guidance for other early-phase AI-similar tool developments.

Robot Care Ethics Between Autonomy and Vulnerability: Coupling Principles and Practices in Autonomous Systems for Care

Alberto Pirni, Maurizio Balistreri, Marianna Capasso, Steven Umbrello and Federica Merenda

Technological developments involving robotics and artificial intelligence devices are being employed evermore in elderly care and the healthcare sector more generally, raising ethical issues and practical questions warranting closer considerations of what we mean by “care” and, subsequently, how to design such software coherently with the chosen definition. This paper starts by critically examining the existing approaches to the ethical design of care robots provided by Aimee van Wynsberghe, who relies on the work on the ethics of care by Joan Tronto. In doing so, it suggests an alternative to their non-principled approach, an alternative suited to tackling some of the issues raised by Tronto and van Wynsberghe, while allowing for the inclusion of two orientative principles. Our proposal centres on the principles of autonomy and vulnerability, whose joint adoption we deem able to constitute an original revision of a bottom-up approach in care ethics. Conclusively, the ethical framework introduced here integrates more traditional approaches in care ethics in view of enhancing the debate regarding the ethical design of care robots under a new lens.

Robot solidali: dal cinema alla realtà e viceversa

Lorenzo Denicolai

Il robot diventerà davvero capace di solidarietà con gli esseri umani o sarà soltanto la nostra immaginazione e la nostra capacità di ‘percepire’ la loro vicinanza e partecipazione alla nostra vita a farceli vedere così, come nei film? La sensazione è che ciò che il cinema anticipa si possa effettivamente avverare.

Value Sensitive Design to Achieve the UN SDGs with AI: A Case of Elderly Care Robots

Steven Umbrello, Marianna Capasso, Maurizio Balistreri, Alberto Pini & Federica Merenda

Healthcare is becoming increasingly automated with the development and deployment of care robots. There are many benefits to care robots but they also pose many challenging ethical issues. This paper takes care robots for the elderly as the subject of analysis, building on previous literature in the domain of the ethics and design of care robots. Using the value sensitive design (VSD) approach to technology design, this paper extends its application to care robots by integrating the values of care, values that are specific to AI, and higher-scale values such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ethical issues specific to care robots for the elderly are discussed at length alongside examples of specific design requirements that work to ameliorate these ethical concerns.

Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Contextual Nature of Hors de Combat Status

Autonomous weapons systems (AWS), sometimes referred to as “killer robots”, are receiving ever more attention, both in public discourse as well as by scholars and policymakers. Much of this interest is connected to emerging ethical and legal problems linked to increasing autonomy in weapons systems, but there is a general underappreciation for the ways in which existing law might impact on these new technologies.

20 maggio 2021

In this paper, we argue that as AWS become more sophisticated and increasingly more capable than flesh-and-blood soldiers, it will increasingly be the case that such soldiers are “in the power” of those AWS which fight against them. This implies that such soldiers ought to be considered hors de combat, and not targeted. In arguing for this point, we draw out a broader conclusion regarding hors de combat status, namely that it must be viewed contextually, with close reference to the capabilities of combatants on both sides of any discreet engagement. Given this point, and the fact that AWS may come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made for many different missions, we argue that each particular AWS will likely need its own standard for when enemy soldiers are deemed hors de combat. We conclude by examining how these nuanced views of hors de combat status might impact on meaningful human control of AWS.

Can humans dream of electric sheep?

James M. MacFarlane: Transhumanism as a new social movement: the techno-centred imagination. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, 239pp, € 72,79 HB

Steven Umbrello

15 maggio 2021


Designing AI for Explainability and Verifiability: A Value Sensitive Design Approach to Avoid Artificial Stupidity in Autonomous Vehicles

One of the primary, if not most critical, difficulties in the design and implementation of autonomous systems is the black-boxed nature of the decision-making structures and logical pathways. How human values are embodied and actualised in situ may ultimately prove to be harmful if not outright recalcitrant. [...]


Value sensitive design (VSD) is an established method for integrating values into technical design. It has been applied to different technologies and, more recently, to artificial intelligence (AI). We argue that AI poses a number of challenges specific to VSD that require a somewhat modified VSD approach. Machine learning (ML), in particular, poses two challenges. First, humans may not understand how an AI system learns certain things. This requires paying attention to values such as transparency, explicability, and accountability. Second, ML may lead to AI systems adapting in ways that ‘disembody’ the values embedded in them. To address this, we propose a threefold modified VSD approach: (1) integrating a known set of VSD principles (AI4SG) as design norms from which more specific design requirements can be derived; (2) distinguishing between values that are promoted and respected by the design to ensure outcomes that not only do no harm but also contribute to good, and (3) extending the VSD process to encompass the whole life cycle of an AI technology to monitor unintended value consequences and redesign as needed. We illustrate our VSD for AI approach with an example use case of a SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing app.

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I social robot, cosa sono, come utilizzarli nel settore dell’educazione

Renato Grimaldi e Silvia Palmieri

I social robot sono strumenti dotati di un’intelligenza artificiale incarnata, capaci di raccogliere, produrre e analizzare dati dalla realtà circostante (anche attraverso big data) e interagire con essa. Progettati per relazionarsi con l’uomo nel modo più naturale possibile, esibiscono comportamenti sociali per raggiungere risultati in diversi campi, tra cui l’educazione e la cura...

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Reckoning with assessment: can we responsibly innovate?

Steven Umbrello

Emad Yaghmaei and Ibo van de Poel (eds.): Assessment of responsible innovation: Methods and practices, 1st edition. London: Routledge, 2020, 394pp, £96 HB

Renato Grimaldi (a cura di) - Contributi di Paola Borgna, Sandro Brignone, Simona Maria Cavagnero, Benita Delfino, Maria Adelaide Gallina, Tania Parisi, Jenny Ponzo, Antonella Saracco, Gianni Carlo Sciolla, Roberto Trinchero

2020 - FRANCO ANGELI, Percorsi di ricerca _ Open Access - Clicca qui per scaricare

Meaningful Human Control Over Smart Home Systems

A Value Sensitive Design Approach - Steven Umbrello


The last decade has witnessed the mass distribution and adoption of smart home systems and devices powered by artificial intelligence systems ranging from household appliances like fridges and toasters to more background systems such as air and water quality controllers. The pervasiveness of these sociotechnical systems makes analyzing their ethical implications necessary during the design phases of these devices to ensure not only sociotechnical resilience, but to design them for human values in mind and thus preserve meaningful human control over them... (continua sulla pagina dedicata alle pubblicazioni di Steven Umbrello)

Batya Friedman; David G. Hendry; Steven Umbrello; Jeroen van den Hoven; Daisy Yoo

Paradigm Shifts in ICT Ethics: Proceedings of the ETHICOMP* 2020

Testo completo

Lucia Gazzaneo, Antonio Padovano, Steven Umbrello

Procedia Manufacturing, Volume 42, 2020, Pages 219-226

Under a Creative Commons license

Umbrello, S. Imaginative Value Sensitive Design: Using Moral Imagination Theory to Inform Responsible Technology Design. Sci Eng Ethics 26, 575–595 (2020).

Umbrello, S., Torres, P. & De Bellis, A.F. The future of war: could lethal autonomous weapons make conflict more ethical?. AI & Soc 35, 273–282 (2020) - DOI: 10.1007/s00146-019-00879-x

S. Brignone, L. Denicolai, R. Grimaldi, S. Palmieri, S. Ambrosio, V. Fabris

Atti Didamatica, 2019, pp. 199-207

A cura di R. Grimaldi, Cavagnero S.M., Gallina M.A.

Roma, Aracne, 2019

Umbrello, Steven, 2019 , Delphi: Interdisciplinary Review of Emerging Technologies, Vol. 2, No. 2, 79-83. DOI:10.21552/delphi/2019/2/6

Umbrello, Steven, 2019 , TECNOSCIENZA: The Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1., 71-88

Umbrello, Steven, 2019 open_in_new, International Journal of Technoethics (IJT), Vol. 10, No. 2, 1-21. DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2019070101

Umbrello, Steven, 2019, Sorgner, S. L. , Philosophies, Vol. 4, No. 2, (24). DOI: 10.3390/philosophies4020024

Umbrello, Steven, 2019 , Delphi - Interdisciplinary Review of Emerging Technologies, Vol. 1, No. 2, 30-34. DOI: 10.21552/delphi/2019/1/7

Umbrello, Steven, 2019 open_in_new. Big Data and Cognitive Computing, Vol.3, No.1, (5). DOI: 10.3390/bdcc3010005