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Give Me an A! Grade Inflation at U.S. Colleges

I've got some bad news for you. All those A's and B's you received in college that made your parents so proud and boosted your self-esteem? Well—they were bogus (sort of).

Graph courtesy of Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, via NY Times

A new Economix blog post by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times discusses a recent study on grade inflation at U.S. colleges since the 1940s. Apparently, college professors have been handing out A's and B's willy-nilly in recent decades, with a substantial increase in overly generous grading in the past decade.

By the end of last decade, A's and B's accounted for 73% of all grades at public institutions, and 86% of all grades awarded at private institutions, a huge increase over past decades.

The report takes a couple of ideological stabs at explaining this phenomenon—namely, an increase in the "consumer-based approach" to education. But the real answer is probably more involved than that, and certainly more complicated than "students just work super-duper hard now."

Do you think it's noticeably easier to get "good grades" these days? I'm sure not many of you are lamenting the comparative loss/reduction of those cringe-inducing C's, D's, and F's. Not that any flossers know what those look like.

[More on the Study: Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009]

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New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists
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Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

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