What’s so great about kefir?

I love the tangy, delicious flavor, creamy consistency and confirmed health benefits of live, probiotic-rich fermented beverages like kefir milk. Unfortunately, the kefir milk typically found at grocery stores tends to be an expensive, less healthy and fake version of the real thing.

(This is an excerpt from The Spartan Diet Journal email. Read it here.)

That’s one of many reasons why I recommend that you get and keep live kefir grains.

No, kefir grains are not grains like wheat grains — they’re a specific collective of friendly microorganisms that, when added to milk or just about any drink containing sugar, initiates a natural fermentation process.

In other words, kefir grains are like a sourdough starter, kombucha scoby or vinegar mother. They’re used, cultivated and shared for the purpose of fermenting foods.

Kefir grains are especially valuable in an industrialized food context, because they enable us to make fermented dairy products using pasteurized milk.

Here’s everything you need to know about kefir from the Spartan Diet Journal, plus a recipe for cultured butter. 

Watch out for Silicon Valley bros who crave a dystopian future

Elon Musk tweeted this week that, instead of worrying about overpopulation, "we should be much more worried about population collapse." Musk fears that Earth won’t produce enough people for him to send to Mars.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Sahil Lavingia replied that "We should be investing in technology that makes having kids much faster/easier/cheaper/more accessible. Synthetic wombs, etc."

Then, bitcoin bro and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin chimed in by saying that "disparities in economic success between men and women are far larger once marriage+children enter the picture. Synthetic wombs would remove the high burden of pregnancy, significantly reducing the inequality."

Don't you see? Pregnancy and birth is an engineering problem for Silicon Valley to solve, patent and profit from. Because gender equality!

When "Brave New World" or "The Matrix" depict a dystopian future where babies are "grown" in artificial wombs and then "decanted" or "harvested," it was meant to be a warning, not a business plan. 

Read the rest in my newsletter, Mike's List!

How to truly understand the social media trap

We've all heard about what's wrong with social media. The algorithms surface content designed to trigger emotions, and so we're all constantly exposed to triggering content. Filter bubbles protect us from opposing viewpoints. It's addictive and time-wasting. It's filled with haters and trolls. Yada, yada, yada. 

There's truth in all of this. But the real problem with social media is something people never talk about. 

Here's the problem: Social media makes you feel like you're doing the very thing social media is preventing you from doing. 

Let me explain. 

We live in an attention economy. Your attention is worth more than gold. 

If attention is currency, then social media distraction represents a transfer of wealth from yourself to whoever is most successful at taking your attention — Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook that owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram), Google (which owns YouTube), ByteDance (which owns TikTok), Snap (the company that owns Snapchat), Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter and others. 

These companies extract your attention the way "the Machines" extract electrical energy from people in the "The Matrix." 

Of course, some distraction is good. At the end of the day, it's great to forget about our troubles with online escapism. Such distractions, plus connecting with other people, may be especially important during a pandemic lock-down. A little social media is nice. 

But with each passing month, the distraction industry evolves to become better at manipulating your paleolithic brain to distract. And we don’t evolve quick enough to resist.

As a result, people time spent on social media grows every year and shows no signs of stopping. Every year, we transfer more and more attention wealth to the giant corporations that have created the best distraction artificial intelligence technology. 

And so we are distracted by social media more than we should be or want to be. 

Society is slowly evolving into something out of the novel "Ready Player One," where everyone is so distracted (in the movie by a "metaverse," called "The Oasis") that the real world goes to hell. Everyone is too distracted with digital experiences to take care of the real world. 

OK, social media distraction isn't that bad. Yet. But it’s still true that for many people, social media distraction, obsession and addiction is the main barrier to achieving real-world goals and making our own lives better.

Different people are triggered by different social media distraction drugs. I know many people who get sucked into Instagram like they're hypnotized. Others can't stop watching YouTube. We journalists can't seem to stay off Twitter. 

We've heard the theories and seen the studies. Let's finally understand how this all really works

Watch Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis, Ant Pruitt and me on This Week in Google!

In this Earth-shattering episode, we bravely tackle mankind's most pressing concerns, including subscription Taco Bell, Web3, Signal, Facebook, Google's messaging mess, Samsung's ghosting of the press, Starlink cats, Zynga, antivirus cryptomining, Wordle, hacked Teslas, E3, covid shrinkage, TikTok, Google's Sonos patent loss, the worst of CES and more!

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It’s time to put ‘Fear, Inc.’ out of business

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. She has a lot of fear in her life now.

She often doesn’t know where she is or who the strange man in the house is, even when she’s home alone with her husband.

The last thing she needs is scammers calling her on the phone to scare her into giving them money.

A voice mail left on her phone recently went like this:

“This is Susan Mullen. I’m contacting you in reference to legal allegations that are being filed against you. We are requesting a verbal statement from you. Failure to respond will result in a forfeiture of your rights and a process server will be contacted to have you served at your home or place of employment. Press zero now! To speak with a mediator. You have been officially notified.”

The call comes from a US number, processed through a VoIP service and has been traced to India.

It has always been possible for anyone with a phone to call anyone else with a phone and scare them to death. But now this is becoming more common.

Fear is big business. Call it “Fear, Inc.”

In fact, fear-mongering for money and power is the defining challenge of of this generation.

Bob Woodward’s recent book on Trump is titled “Fear” because its central insight is that Trump’s political career is based on the insight that scaring people gives you power.

Trump told us that rapists were pouring over the border, gangs have taken over our cities, our allies are taking advantage of us, China is stealing our jobs.

Some of the president’s fear mongering is based in fact — ISIS terrorists are trying to wipe out Christians in Iraq.

Most of it is based on exaggeration or outright lies: The murder rate is the highest it’s ever been (in fact homicides are way, way down from decades past).

He dog-whistled fear of black people and foreigners. Everyone in the world except Russia is out to get us, Trump told us. Trump scared us. So we elected him.

Let’s turn that around: We elected Trump because he made us afraid.

(More accurately, he amplified the fear we already felt as the result of getting news from other fear mongers: Putin, Fox and Facebook.)

These news sources discovered long ago that fear gets you power and money.

There’s nothing new about this, of course. It’s the defining insight of terrorism, which is a war tactic whereby you gain power through fear.

Creating fear for profit is the business model of fake news, pharmaceutical drugs and TV evangelism.

Creating fear for power is the driving force behind today’s divisive politics. “People react to fear, not love,” Richard Nixon told us.

Everyone’s life is a mixture of joy, happiness, fear and sadness. Fear mongers mine money and power by converting our joy and happiness into fear and sadness. The more unhappy we are, the more money and power they get.

They’re ruining lives by the billions out of naked self-interest. The scammer who preys on the elderly and people suffering from dementia is operating from the exact same business model as the fear-mongering politicians like Trump, the cable "journalists," and the TV evangelists. 

It’s time to stop this.

Statistically, life is getting better and safer. But we all feel like the world is getting worse and more dangerous.

These trends are driven by the rise of Fear, Inc. And the fear will keep rising until we shut down the fear mongers.

Instead of rewarding the fear mongers with money and power, we need to do the opposite. We need to punish them with non-support, with scorn and ridicule, with legal action and with political action.

Instead of bickering with people on social media over the different things different fear mongers have scared us into fearing each other over, we need to unite against the fear mongers.

We journalists need to challenge fear mongering politicians every. Single. Time. And never stop until they stop using fear to gain power.

Most importantly, we need to learn to instantly categorize fear mongering for what it is and reject it categorically. Reject scary stories and hyperbole and insist on the statistical facts.

Reward the politicians and companies and people who are helping to contextualize events and phenomena in our world in a way that helps us understand the world, not fear it.

Because life is scary enough. We don’t need fear magnified because some sociopath wants power — or make a few bucks on a phone scam.

You can safely ignore Web3

The tech visionaries are bickering over Web3.

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that the Web3 idea is not a force for democratizing the web, but instead a tool of the venture capitalists. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen blocked him on Twitter. Elon Musk said that Web3 is just marketing hype and he doesn’t understand it.

Web3 is everywhere. Web3 is nowhere. Everyone is talking about it, yet few understand what it’s all about. Here's what you need to know about Web3.

How retailers can keep up with rising customer expectations

Changes in the marketplace are driven by customer expectations, which are constantly shifting. This requires a nimble approach to retail customer experience strategy to keep pace with expectations. Retailers that offer the best customer experiences can impress new customers and enhance the loyalty of existing customers.

Today, customers expect their retail experience to feel like a relationship. They don't want to simply leave with their purchase; they want maximum choice in how, when and where they interact with the brand, and they expect brands to know who they are at every stage of their journey.

This has left many organizations wondering how to enhance customer experience in retail, but it's not as complicated as you may think. The best way to meet rising customer expectations is to rely on advanced technologies and their associated methodologies.

How to speed up IoT adoption

The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to transform business. The insights enabled by IoT bring unprecedented levels of awareness and automation into business processes and decision-making.

The IoT revolution is ushering in a new age of digital business. And that makes sense—the benefits are enormous. Network-connected, sensor-equipped devices can enable powerful monitoring of activity, environment, location and other factors. They can cut operating costs. Organizations can enjoy improved mobility, seize new business opportunities and gain better control over processes and facilities.

So, with all the benefits of IoT, what is slowing down IoT adoption?

The art and practice of digital workplace governance

In the past, some viewed the digital workplace as a kind of inevitability—something that will emerge organically as business tools and processes improve with the advance of new technology. But the pandemic changed everything. It prompted a swift move to cloud-based tools and a sharp rise in remote work.

The overwhelming majority of companies around the world believe that in the future, remote working will increase (78%) and that the digital workplace and the physical workplace will coexist (86%), according to a 2020 report from Harvard Business Review. Rather than allowing gradual trends to shape the digital workplace, many organizations are keen on accelerating the process to get in front of the changes happening to business and the culture. Success in these efforts will require deliberate digital workplace governance.

By driving a digital workplace culture, organizations can improve communication, connection and collaboration—leveraging the power of unified action across the organization. This can remove the barriers of time and place, enabling teams to work in physically distant locations, while mobile and in all time zones while staying coordinated and connected. It also boosts business agility, which is increasingly necessary in today's fast-moving, fast-changing and unpredictable world.

But the digital workplace needs more than the right tools. The other vital part? A digital workplace framework and workplace governance.

Technology is to blame for the ‘Great Resignation’

Have you heard about the September exodus? More than four million Americans quit their jobs that month, shattering the record for resignations previously set the month before. And some 40% of remaining employees are thinking of quitting, too, according to a Microsoft report.

The crisis is even worse in technology. TalentLMS and Workable reported recently that 72% of US-based tech employees are thinking of quitting their job in the next 12 months.

Pundits point to many causes for the trend, from government stimulus checks to the rise of remote work to entitled millennials and even pandemic-driven stress.

In general, it’s clear that there’s a growing incompatibility between the reality and the expectation of the employee experience.

Making matters worse: The more people quit, the harder life gets for those who remain on the job. This is especially true of tech workers. IT departments have been notoriously understaffed, and as the Great Resignation increasingly hits tech workers, all employees suffer more downtime, cyberattacks, and tech implementation slowdowns.

This is an emergency. You need to know why people are resigning in such high numbers