🐤 Choose your own adventure

The current economy is uncertain, but that is giving college students some newfound freedom.

Monday | November 20th, 2023
Early Chirp

Happy Monday, chirpers … and condolences to the Carter family.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died this week at the age of 96, surrounded by her family at home in Georgia. She had been married to Jimmy Carter since 1946 — the longest marriage in U.S. presidential history.

Since leaving the White House in 1981, both had made an indelible mark on the country as tireless advocates and volunteers for a variety of causes.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” the former president said.

-Chris Agee

$11.81 (0.08%)
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S&P 500
$5.78 (0.13%)
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$788.37 (2.15%)
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*Market data for this issue is from November 19th, 2023 at 7:01pm EST

🏦 Markets: Stock futures were down on Sunday ahead of a week on Wall Street that will be largely dominated by tech (specifically artificial intelligence) earnings news.

In addition to forthcoming reports from software firm Nvidia, other sector leaders — including Microsoft, Meta, and Alphabet — will be releasing their latest numbers this week.

Then there’s OpenAI, which is preoccupied with whether CEO Sam Altman will return after his ouster by the board last week … more on that in today’s Breakdown.


The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

The Breakdown Sotheby's

🥃 Buy me a drink: A night out at the bar can be expensive, but it’s nothing compared to the price one bidder was prepared to pay for a nearly century-old bottle of whisky that went up for auction at Sotheby's in London over the weekend. It was one of only 40 bottles of Macallan 1926 Scotch ever produced and was even rarer due to the artwork by painter Valerio Adami that adorned the label of just 12 bottles. It sold for about $2.7 million and set an auction record for wine or spirits.

💥 SpaceX ‘mishap’: The world’s most powerful rocket blasted off on Saturday as SpaceX continues to push toward space exploration missions on the moon, Mars, and beyond. While the launch of Starship, which did not have any crew aboard, went off without a hitch, the FAA later confirmed that a “mishap” shortly thereafter led to “a loss of the vehicle.” Authorities said no injuries or property damage were reported and the incident remained under investigation.

📈 Sugary surge: Be prepared to pay more to satiate your sweet tooth. Prices for labor and a host of ingredients are on the rise nationwide, but sugar itself is driving the increase. Droughts and other climate issues plaguing areas like India and Thailand, both of which are major sugar exporters, have forced the cost of sugar on the global market to reach its highest point in well over a decade. It remains to be seen how long the trend will last or how high the prices will get.

💻 Bring back Sam: OpenAI has been a leader in the emerging artificial intelligence realm … and CEO Sam Altman has been a big factor in its prominence. That’s why the tech world was perplexed on Friday when the board voted to boot him from his position. Some top employees were also surprised, as evidenced by subsequent resignations and a memo from Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon expressing optimism that OpenAI will be able to reinstall Altman as CEO.

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Highest score wins an Amazon gift card!


*Prizes are sent out via email the next day by 11am EST.


A Chaotic Economy Is Giving Rise To Highly Customizable College Programs

Settling for an ordinary major could soon be a thing of the past.

A Chaotic Economy Is Giving Rise To Highly Customizable College Programs Giphy

A growing number of college students are starting to treat higher education as a buffet, picking and choosing the options that best suit their own personal desires and needs. And it could help them navigate a very uncertain future.

The rise of “chaos studies”

While it’s not entirely unheard of for enterprising college students to develop their own path through the four (give or take) years after graduating high school, most previous generations have generally gravitated toward established majors like computer engineering or business.

But with so much about the future up in the air, there’s an unmistakable trend of students who are pursuing relatively uncharted courses in hopes of staking out a niche that will allow them to earn a living and pursue a rewarding career of their own making.

Some notable examples include “chaos studies” and “food theory,” but the options are really only limited by the imagination of the students themselves.

Facing unparalleled obstacles

The threat of artificial intelligence on the job market is a big factor in this foundational shift toward so-called interdisciplinary degrees.

  • AI could replace 300 million jobs or more in the relatively near future
  • Students have responded by prioritizing creativity as a path toward success
  • Interdisciplinary degrees spiked by nearly 20% between 2010 and 2020

Regardless of the economic forecast, there’s always been a segment of the population with a desire to build a customized path to success. Take renowned crossword puzzle creator Will Shortz, for example.

“I remember joking about majoring in puzzles as a kid, never imagining that such a thing was possible until my mom discovered the individualized major program,” he said.

But while it was a novelty for Shortz decades ago, many current college students see these self-made majors as a necessity.

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A Few Reasons Why Ultra-Luxury Vacations Are On The Rise

They might cost a pretty penny, but today's travelers think the experience is worth it.

A Few Reasons Why Ultra-Luxury Vacations Are On The Rise Giphy

You don’t have to look very far these days to find evidence of a global economy teetering on the edge. But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of travelers from plopping down a small fortune on opulent outings and elaborate excursions.

What’s behind the trend?

After the COVID-19 crisis began to cool off a bit, many people found themselves with extra cash and a pent-up desire to get out of the house. This led to a rise in so-called “revenge travel,” but the pandemic alone doesn’t explain the spike in luxurious trips.

Experts believe there’s a newfound sense that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, which has motivated people to seize the opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life while they can.

Contrary to what you might think, inflation hasn’t been a huge dealbreaker. One study found that just 22% of people said higher prices would “greatly impact” their travel plans and a whopping 91% of Americans indicated they planned to take a vacation within the following six months.

But since prices are higher, these travelers seem determined to make the money they spend count, often by turning an ordinary vacation into a VIP experience.

Where’s the money going?

Just because vacation cash is flowing doesn’t mean folks aren’t being selective about where they spend it. Based on anecdotal evidence from travelers themselves, there are three ways they want to describe an ideal vacation:

  • Comfortable: Whether it’s extra leg room on the plane or a hotel suite, this is a big factor in any luxury trip.
  • Convenient: Springing for a direct flight or paying someone to take care of all the planning can make a vacation less stressful and more enjoyable
  • Costly: Vacations can provide people with an excuse to order expensive foods, try new things, or pamper themselves.
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Are You Living In A ‘Brain Fog’ These Days? Join The Crowd.

Memory problems and trouble concentrating are two common symptoms.

Are You Living In A ‘Brain Fog’ These Days? Join The Crowd. Giphy

The Census Bureau has long gathered information about some of the day-to-day difficulties that people are experiencing at a given time. And there’s been a marked increase in cognitive issues over the past few years.

Exploring the trend

For the sake of the census survey, serious cognitive problems are defined as persistent trouble remembering, concentrating, or making decisions. And in the years since COVID-19, the share of the populations experiencing these issues has been on the rise among people between the ages of 18 and 64.

At the same time, certain physical ailments have been trending downward. According to the latest results, there are now about as many working-age American adults with serious cognitive problems as there are those who have trouble walking or navigating stairs.

The number has reached its highest point in at least 15 years at roughly 1 million.

Long COVID symptoms

One of the most obvious factors at play is long COVID, a chronic set of cognitive ailments that impact a subset of people who are infected with the virus. It’s generally described as a “brain fog” and the issues can last for months or longer.

Some estimates suggest 1 in 4 people who get COVID-19 report cognitive issues several months later. An even smaller group say their ability to think clearly and concentrate is severely impacted for an even longer period of time.

But while long COVID is clearly one cause of the spike in serious cognitive problems, it’s probably not the only one. It does appear, however, that the pandemic is a central culprit.

Aside from the direct symptoms of the disease, medical professionals point to the isolation and fear that accompanied COVID-19 as causes of psychological distress that can manifest itself in brain fog and other cognitive issues.

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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

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