Meaningful Human Control Over Smart Home Systems

A Value Sensitive Design Approach

  • Steven Umbrello Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Keywords: meaningful human control, smart home systems, value sensitive design, artificial intelligence, applied ethics


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. This paper engages in a conceptual investigations of how meaningful human control over smart home devices can be attained through design. The value sensitive design (VSD) approach is proposed as a way of attaining this level of control. In the proposed framework, values are identified and defined, stakeholder groups are investigated and brought into the design process and the technical constraints of the technologies in question are considered. The paper concludes with some initial examples that illustrate a more adoptable way forward for both ethicists and engineers of smart home devices.

How to Cite
Umbrello, S. (2020). Meaningful Human Control Over Smart Home Systems. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 13(37), 40-65. Retrieved from