I study what drives or prompts actions in people, groups, and sophisticated autonomous robots — think of intelligent machines that can perform tasks and move around without human intervention, like R2-D2 from “Star Wars” or Bender from “Futurama”. In particular, I investigate philosophically interesting commonalities among them. For instance, if R2-D2 and I each eat a chocolate bar, are our actions explained by the same sort of thing? Like some mental representation of how we’d like the world to be like, what we informally call a desire? Or are they structurally different: I eat because I want to eat chocolate, R2-D2 because it is hard-wired to eat chocolate bars? This is philosophically interesting because it informs us how we ought to ascribe praise and blame to sophisticated autonomous robots. If actions of humans and robots are relevantly similar, then they should be treated the same from a moral and legal standpoint. But that can be a bit counterintuitive in some cases.
Before coming to Azim Premji University, I worked at Ashoka University as a Visiting Assistant Professor. I received my PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara, with a dissertation on what is known as ” Frege’s Puzzle”: how can a person rationally believe and not believe, at the same time, that an object has a property — think of Lois Lane, who believes that Superman flies but not that Clark Kent flies. The puzzle arises because it is natural to think that if Lois believes that Superman flies, she should believe that Clark Kent flies. After all, Superman and Clark Kent are the same person. But, if you know the story, you know that she doesn’t.
In my free time, I like to travel, knit, crochet, code, and peruse Reddit.