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Undergraduate Spotlight: Ethan Cruikshank

Ethan Cruikshank graduates with a bachelor's degree in symbolic systems.

Jun 12 2020
Diana Aguilera

Ethan Cruikshank is not afraid to confront critical issues. In his Ethics in Society honors thesis, he examines one of the most important social and economic problems of our century: the rise of robots and the massive labor displacement it could cause. As a member of the Ethics Center's Undergraduate Honors Program, Cruikshank had the opportunity to explore scholarship at the intersection of ethics, technology, and universal basic income. We asked Cruikshank about his experience as one of our honors students.

Why did you decide to participate in the Honors Program in Ethics in Society?

I became interested in the Honors Program because of how much I enjoyed the Ethics in Society courses that I took freshman and sophomore year, like Professor Bidadanure’s class on universal basic income. In her class, we learned about political theory and ethics through the specific angle of the policy proposal. 

In a few sentences, give us a sense of what your honors thesis research was about.

My research examines how universal basic income or job guarantee programs can enhance people’s access to meaning and fulfillment, at a time when there is a shortage of conventional work driven by automation. In essence, my thesis argues that engaging in labor provides workers with moral goods that make work far more than a matter of earning a paycheck.

What was the single most rewarding aspect of writing your honors thesis?

The most rewarding aspect of my honors thesis was the fascinating interviews I had throughout this process. I spoke with workers, managers, investors in industry, and academics. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage with so many wonderful and passionate people.

Beyond your thesis, what are some of the most memorable moments of your Stanford undergraduate experience? 

Some of my most memorable Stanford experiences include spending two summers on Fall Leaf Lake while working at Sierra Camp. I was able to appreciate nature while getting to know alumni and their families. Another memorable experience was organizing events for Haus Mitt, Stanford’s German and Central European themed dorm.  

What opportunities would you like to pursue within the next five years? 

I will not be graduating until the fall quarter. After graduation, I hope to study for two years in a baking program at a culinary school!

"The Buzz" is the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society's media portal for ethics-related news on campus and beyond. We review events and speakers, and we feature initiatives that are of broad interest. A wide range of voices author the articles, including undergraduate students.