Wharton Professor Mauro Guillén’s new book 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything

Beware the futurist who invokes the 40% caveat, the headline-grabbing forecast that comes with a mere 40% probability — enough to grab attention, but wrapped in enough qualifications to prevent later embarrassment. (“I only said 40%, not even half!”).

By contrast, Wharton Professor Mauro Guillén’s newest book, 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything, presents the future not with probabilities, but with certainties. “I’m ready to bet my entire pension fund”, he says admirably, on…


Personalization is the next big food trend. Which products are leading the way?

A long time ago, food manufacturers boasted about low calories and fat, a claim that hasn’t been trendy in two decades, according to food marketing consultant Datassential. At the turn of the century, emphasis shifted to “feel good” foods that are locally-sourced or fair trade, and more recently by “functional” products that claim to make you healthier.

But get ready for the new trend: personalization, as new companies emerge to offer products that are customized to our individual genes.

Food of the future [via Pixabay]

Many of those startups presented recently at the Kisaco Research Personalized Nutrition Innovation Summit in San Francisco, which I attended to…


Most people know about the hormone melatonin and that it has something to do with sleep. Some international travelers take it to counter the effects of jet lag, and some people take it regularly as a treatment for insomnia. You might vaguely remember that it has something to do with the pineal gland, a small organ tucked near your brain, but did you know that your gut contains 400 times more melatonin? Something like 80% of its precursors, as well as those of the similar mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin are made in the gut.

There are other reasons to suspect that…


Can a microbiome gut test find anything useful?

Paul was just a normal father of two teenagers when, oddly, he began having digestive problems. At first he thought it was something he’d been eating; despite a lifetime of Southern living, he didn’t have as much tolerance for deep-fried cooking as some of his neighbors and the past few weeks had been unusually heavy on the grease. So, he laid off the french fries for a few weeks and it seemed to get better. …


A simple drink changed my microbiome and I can prove it

Everyone interested in the microbiome eventually has to check out kefir.

Google the phrase “one of the most potent probiotic foods available” and you’ll find kefir in all the top results. A recent BBC documentary that tested people after consuming different types of “gut-friendly” foods found it had by far the biggest effect. My interest piqued when, after my disappointment with kombucha, I heard from a guy who happened to mention his good luck with kefir as a solution to his long-time gut issues. On a doctor’s recommendation, he tried kefir for a number of years with limited success, until…


You think your life is tough?

Our bodies are bathed in living, eating, reproducing lifeforms that we can’t see but that have profound effects on all that we do. But the rest of our world is covered with microbes too. You can’t think about the human microbiome without wondering where else these invisible creatures might be hiding. Are there any limits?

We are not alone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Scientists studying a water-filled fracture two miles underground at the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa, discovered Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator by accident, after noticing odd levels of hydrogen compounds, by-products of the activity of an isolated bacterial colony.

Interestingly, this organism is a member…


What might a spy learn from my microbiome?

When North Korean leader Kim Jung-un flew to Singapore yesterday, besides his own food and a bullet proof limousine, Korean media reports that he also carried a portable toilet that will deny divers insights into the Supreme Leader’s stools.

Squat!

This is not the first time the importance of gut bacteria has drawn the attention of international leaders. During Mao Zedong’s historic December 1949 visit to Moscow, for example, Soviet spies installed special toilets, connected not to the sewer but to secret boxes, in order to harvest the Chinese leader’s poo for analysis.

According to a former Soviet agent quoted in…


Springtime for many people brings hay fever, an allergic reaction known to be associated with the microbiome. I fortunately don’t suffer from the condition, but I wondered if maybe I could find something in my nose microbiome that would show a seasonal shift, perhaps something aligned with allergy season. Even if I don’t have symptoms, maybe by finding some of the key microbes involved my data might be useful to others who would like to explore more of the link between their allergies and microbes.

Like every place on the body, your nose has its own unique microbial ecology, as…


Most microbiome discussions begin with the assumption that diversity is good. After all, if your body harbors a wide variety of microbes, you’ll have a deeper catalog of useful ones that can be applied to new situations. The world around us is constantly changing, and you never know what new threats or opportunities you may encounter. You can respond better if you have an abundant variety of organisms that can meet any challenge.

In practice, diversity is difficult to pin down quantitatively. We know what we mean in principle — a rich variety of different microbes ought to be good…


The microbiome is way more than just bacteria

While technically the microbiome refers to all microbes in and around us, most of the everyday usage of that term is limited to bacteria. But bacteria aren’t the only microbes in you, and it’s possible that they aren’t even the most important. There are fungi, of course, and perhaps other too-tiny-to-see lifeforms like protozoa, but one large class of microbes appears to have a major effect on us but is rarely studied: viruses.

Viruses present several problems for scientists. They’re super-tiny for one: you can often fit hundreds of virus-sized particles inside a single bacterium. They’re not always made of…

Richard Sprague

Curious amateur. Personal Scientist. Years of near-daily microbiome experiments. Tech industry executive.

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