Sonia Arrison is a futurist and policy analyst who has studied the impact of new technologies on society for more than a decade. A Senior Fellow at the California-based Pacific Research Institute(PRI) and a columnist for TechNewsWorld, she is author of two previous books as well as numerous PRI studies on technology issues. A frequent media contributor and guest, her work has appeared in many publications including CBS MarketWatch, CNN, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. She was also the host of a radio show called "digital dialogue" on the Voice America network and has been a repeat guest on National Public Radio, Tech TV, and CNN's Headline News.
Often asked for advice on technology issues, Sonia has given testimony and served as an expert witness for various government committees such as the Congressional Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce and the California Commission on Internet Political Practices. She is an instructor for California’s Command College and serves on the Board of Trustees for Singularity University.
Prior to joining PRI in 1999, Arrison focused on Canadian-U.S. regulatory and political issues at the Donner Canadian Foundation. She also worked at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, B.C., where she specialized in regulatory policy and privatization. She received her BA from the University of Calgary and an MA from the University of British Columbia.
Her forthcoming book, 100 Plus (Basic Books, Sept. 2011), considers the social, economic and cultural impacts of a significant increase in human lifespan and makes the case for strongly supporting the development of longevity science and technology.
Sonia Arrison: When we can live longer and healthier lives, there’s the question of what happens to many different areas of our lives. The family is one that’s super important. What happened the last time we doubled human life expectancy? Human life expectancy in 1850 in the United States was 43 years. Today it’s around 80 years. We’ve roughly doubled it already. And so the question is, is well what happened to family life during that time?
And if you look, you can see that the age of first marriage has gone up significantly, the age of first-time mothers has gone up already. I mean, right now, we’re in the era of the 40-year-old mother. And I think that at some point there will be a time when we’re in the era of the 70-year-old mother.
We’re at the point where we’re going to see new life phases coming along. And so a lot of scholars are focused on the idea of retirement right now and how the definition of retirement is changing. Right now, we think of it as a period in time at the end of our lives; where we take time off to relax, go traveling, and that kind of thing.
But I think in a longer lived world, where people can be healthier for longer periods of time and work longer, retirement might be redefined to mean something like large chunks of time that you take out of your life to go get reeducated or even take off time to have children or do something else. Because if you could live to be 150 years old in a relatively healthy state then you might want to have more than one career that requires a lot of education.
And then with longer lives, we might also have other periods of life that, for instance, when we extended our life expectancy, a new phase of life came along called adolescence. And that didn’t used to exist before. We used to go straight from childhood to adulthood, but as we lived longer and healthier this new phase of life came along called adolescence. And now, scholars are starting to see another phase of life which they’re calling adult-lescence. And that’s the time after adolescence, but you’re not quite an adult yet. And as we live longer and longer, we might see new phases of life like that.
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