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🧬 A controversial crime-solving method

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Are you a teacher or student with thoughts on ChatGPT? Have you had to confront the use of AI in the classroom? Let us know in this short survey for an upcoming story we’re working on.

In today’s email:

  • Grad school could become popular again.
  • Video: Why free stuff makes us irrational.
  • DNA databases: A controversial way to solve crimes.
  • Around the web: The history of Play-Doh, Einstein’s law of focus, a strange litter, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Mark and Zack discuss magic mushrooms in Oregon, Japan’s plan to move people out of Tokyo, and whether grad school is a worthwhile bet for laid-off tech workers.

The big idea

Maybe you shouldn’t get that master’s degree in this economy

During the Great Recession, it seemed like every millennial except Lena Dunham decided to enroll in grad school.

The logic appeared sound: Wait out the squishy economy and reenter the job market with greater earning potential.

These days, however, as the US confronts an economic downturn and tech companies slash payrolls, experts are warning prospective MBAs and JDs to reconsider dropping six figures for a fancy-schmancy degree, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Business schools are marketing to jobless techies

Recently laid-off tech workers can apply to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management without submitting standardized test scores. Other schools like MIT Sloan and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business have waived entrance fees and extended deadlines.

But 2023’s economic climate makes grad school less enticing than during the Great Recession:

  • The downturn is not widespread yet, so laid-off employees have a good chance of finding something new.
  • Inflation means rent and daily expenses are even less affordable on the limited salary of a student.
  • Average interest rates on new student loans have increased, as has tuition. The median debt load of master’s degree recipients was ~$61k in 2016, a twofold increase since 2000.

Grad school isn’t always the wrong bet

People with professional and master’s degrees still make more, on average, than those without them. They’re also more likely to be sought for management positions.

And data tools from the BLS and College Scorecard can help indicate whether the debt is worth it.

But experts advise against using grad school as a “procrastinating tactic,” per WSJ.

Plus: If you get laid off and have a gap in your resume, it might not matter. Gen Zers are actually embracing resume gaps.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Calendar purge: Ecommerce giant Shopify is banning all recurring meetings between more than two employees, and any meetings on Wednesdays.


Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy. The trial for the disgraced founder of FTX is scheduled for Oct. 2.

Honey, pack the car. Japan is giving families 1m yen (~$7.6k) per child to move out of Tokyo and diversify aging populations throughout the country.

Oof: Data compiled by tech layoffs tracker shows there were 153k+ job cuts in tech in 2022, compared to just 15k in 2021.

Astronomical: SpaceX’s $750m funding round values the company at $137B. Its satellite internet service, Starlink, recently passed 1m subscribers.

Apple’s mixed-reality headset reportedly has a dial for switching to a real-world view and an outward-facing display that shows a user’s facial expressions.

Love keyboards? The upcoming keyboard history book, Shift Happens, has 1.3k photos of them. The book’s website has cool minigames, too.

Dubai has halted its 30% tax on alcohol for one year to lure more tourists.

Adults in Oregon can now legally use magic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes while supervised by a certified facilitator.

Bars, donuts, lines: We love a great chart. Visualize data deliciously with these free Excel graph generators that work for up to five variables.

free stuff

Why free stuff makes us irrational

In 2015, at a Southern California Costco, a 78-year-old was punched in the face after accusing a 24-year-old of hogging too many Nutella waffle samples. An arrest was made.

It may seem odd that a few small nibbles on toothpicks would incite violence, but this conduct is rooted in behavioral psychology.

Humans love getting free stuff. Free samples, free shipping, free content — it all makes us do very strange, irrational things. Like, for instance, getting a tattoo when we weren’t considering one, or punching someone in the face over one-inch waffles.

So we took a deep dive into how free stuff makes us irrational. You can read the full story here, or…

Read the full story →
Free Resource

A deep dive into the new age of sales

Today, there’s less customer face time, and more competitor research; less dressing up and door-to-door, more smiling and dialing.

Sales teams are evolving. And none should jump into next year without consulting the 2023 Sales Trends Report by Aircall and HubSpot.

Eight data-backed chapters on sales:

  • Top six sales goals of 2023
  • Tackling common challenges
  • Making the most of every call
  • Generating high-quality leads
  • Building a resilient team culture
  • Sales industry comparison (2021-22)
  • Key sales and productivity metrics
  • Insights and tips from pro salespeople
Sales industry insights →

A controversial way to solve violent crimes

Idaho police recently arrested Bryan Kohberger on suspicion of murdering four college students in November.

The tech used to apprehend him is a controversial one that involves public DNA databases, per Business Insider.

How it works

Online tools, like GEDmatch, compare DNA test results from companies like 23andMe and Ancestry. Users download their DNA data file, upload it to GEDmatch, and potentially find relatives around the world.

But cops use GEDmatch, too:

  • In 2018, police used GEDmatch to arrest Joseph James DeAngelo, AKA the Golden State Killer, after matching crime scene DNA to his distant relative.
  • In 2019, GEDmatch was acquired by Verogen, a forensic firm that works with law enforcement. Now, users who opt to share DNA do so with investigators.

It’s a complicated issue

Some advocates tout the tech’s ability to solve cold cases and exonerate the innocent.

Others argue it’s a violation of privacy that must be regulated (e.g., restricted to only certain violent crimes). Just because you opt to share your DNA doesn’t mean your relatives do. Also:

  • DNA testing isn’t infallible, and has led to wrongful convictions due to human error, contamination, secondary transfer, and other factors.

Podcast: NHPR’s Bear Brook explores the first cold case solved using genetic genealogy.

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🇺🇸 On this day: In 1965, Patsy T. Mink became the first Asian-American woman and first woman of color to serve in Congress, representing Hawaii.

🤯 That’s interesting: The history of Play-Doh, which began as a wallpaper cleaner.

🧠 How to: Be more productive, using a twist on Albert Einstein’s law of focus.

🎧 Chill out: With these customizable soundscapes.

🦦 Aww: And now, one of these is not like the others.

circling back after the holidays meme

‘Tis the season. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “Masters of None” Dent.

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