Ethics & AI: Artificial Intelligence Technology Development in Ethical Context

Onyx recognizes its unique responsibility as a leader among technology developers, delivering artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to both defense and commercial partners. More than a disruptive technology, AI is a transformative force impacting every human experience across the globe. Onyx believes that these technologies “... are improving the human condition and proving to be vital in our progression.”  Department of Defense leaders have described AI as “a powerful enabling technology that is rapidly transforming cultures, society, and eventually, even warfighting.”

The evolution of AI undoubtedly calls for a studied and thorough management framework.

Articulating Onyx's perspectives on AI Ethics and Governance describes a portion of the company’s approach. More importantly, defining a vision and acknowledging obligations are intrinsic qualities of Onyx's organizational culture; a culture shaped by decades of driving operational success. Onyx intends to carry these traits forward by ensuring that ethics are included in the definition of successful AI development.

As part of the focused discussion surrounding military robotics, Onyx promotes the importance of policy and reasonable regulation regarding AI. The wider global discussion has been robust. Numerous reports and recommendations regarding AI ethics principles have been introduced over the last two decades.  Authors have spanned the private sector, academia, and government. Even more articles have been published that question the decision to deploy AI writ large, while other commentaries have flatly condemned the technology as a threat to humanity. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published an early set of recommendations in 2016. The United States government documentation is broad but includes the following selections: The Office of Management and Budget – Federal Data Strategy Framework (2018); The Department of Defense – AI Ethical Principles (2020); and The Government Accountability Office – AI Accountability Framework (2021).  The year 2021 also saw the non-profit NGO Human Rights Watch partner with The Harvard Law School to issue a report calling for international legislation to respond to concerns about AI’s evolution.

Onyx AI Ethical Governance Strategy

Onyx employs an interactive set of tools to ensure AI initiatives are focused throughout the design schedule and are defined by sound engineering ethics. All engineering design traces an interplay between objective performance and an undefined number of situational human concerns. Engineers are routinely challenged to strike a balance amid this tension during the design process. The AI Governance Strategy addresses these challenges through interactive development tools. Onyx's ethical development tools include organizational anchors, an Ethical Principles Reference, and an Ethical Development Guide. 

Onyx Ethical Governance Anchors

  1. Organizational: Development Community Leadership
  2. Ethical Principles Reference: Transparency
  3. Ethical Development Guide: Client Outcome Fidelity

The Principles Reference describes fundamental concepts used to shape each AI project. The Development Guide outlines the cognitive landmarks and design queries that propel a continuous evaluation process – what questions must we ask ourselves at each step? The ethical governance anchors are situated at the organizational level, and are also nested within both the Principles Reference and the Development Guide. 

The Ethical Reference is employed deliberately throughout the design schedule: at the outset, at a predetermined midpoint, and again upon project completion. Onyx AI development teams identify the ethical design balance by using the Principles Reference to periodically audit the evaluation tools derived from the Development Guide. The organizational level ethics anchor is used to frame discussion during formal board proceedings and staff training. The functional ethics anchors situated within the Principles Reference and the Development Guide are identified as the core concepts for the respective tools.  

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