The study of aging has always been fascinating, and in today’s society, we have found ways to look and feel younger. Is it possible that science has evolved to the point that in the very near future we will all live longer, healthier lives? Jason Hartman’s guest, Sonia Arrison, says yes.
Advances in gene therapy, stem cell research and personalized medicine means that the human lifespan is ever increasing. Sonia wants to make people aware that we need to push for longevity. Sonia Arrison is the author of 100+, How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything from Careers and Relationships to Family and Health. She addresses diseases that increase aging, making the distinction between lifespan and health span and explains different studies, including observing how various conditions affect human genomes. She also talks about the engineering of new body parts from stem cells, spray-on skin used by the military, and more.
Sonia and Jason discuss the effects of healthy longevity on relationships, such as having a bigger generational impact on families, and the economic impact. Sonia Arrison is a bestselling author and technology analyst who has studied the impact of new technologies on society for more than a decade. Her book is a national bestseller and has been featured in top media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, Fox News, CBS, and the Today Show.
As a founder, academic advisor, and trustee at Singularity University, she is focused on exponentially growing technologies and their impact on society. She is a columnist for TechNewsWorld and was formerly director of the Technology Studies department at the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) in San Francisco.
She is author of three books and numerous PRI studies and was also the host of a radio show called “digital dialogue” on the Voice America network. 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.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Creating Wealth with Jason Hartman! During this program Jason is going to tell you some really exciting things that you probably haven’t thought of before, and a new slant on investing: fresh new approaches to America’s best investment that will enable you to create more wealth and happiness than you ever thought possible. Jason is a genuine, self-made multi-millionaire who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. He’s been a successful investor for 20 years and currently owns properties in 11 states and 17 cities. This program will help you follow in Jason’s footsteps on the road to financial freedom. You really can do it! And now, here’s your host, Jason Hartman, with the complete solution for real estate investors.
JASON HARTMAN: Welcome to the Creating Wealth Show! This is your host, Jason Hartman, and this is episode number two hundred and ninety. We’re on the way to 300 very quickly! And as you regular listeners know, every 10th show, we go off topic, and we don’t really talk directly about finance or real estate investing. But we talk about something that’s of general interest. And today, although it ties in with economics very much, we’re going to talk about longevity. And we have one of the foremost thought leaders in the field, Sonia Arrison, who wrote the book 100+: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. And she will be with us in just a few minutes here. But first, I have Sarah here with me, and we wanted to just talk with you about a couple of things, make some announcements, and maybe do a little mini year-in-review, although the year’s not over yet. But it’s just been an amazing year for business and investing, and Sarah, welcome, how are you?
SARAH: Good, thanks for having me!
JASON HARTMAN: Well, the pleasure’s all mine. First of all, I want to wish you a happy 30th birthday! yesterday was the big day, right?
SARAH: It was, yes. So exciting. I’m so glad to be 30.
JASON HARTMAN: You are? Most people want to be 29 forever, and I’ll throw myself in that category, maybe.
SARAH: Yeah, I was kind of joking.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay, I got ya. Well, it’s kind of fitting that you had your birthday yesterday, and we’re talking about longevity. So, plan to live to be at least 100+. In fact, I think people might live a lot longer, who knows. But you know, Sarah, I wanted to just kind of get your thoughts, since you’re an investment counselor. What have people been saying to you all year? How has business been? From my perspective, it’s been great. People have just come out of the woodwork, money has come off the sidelines, and people are investing like crazy. What’s the sort of sentiment with investors out there? What are they doing, why are they doing it?
SARAH: Well, it’s definitely been a very busy year. In fact, I think the biggest challenge has been keeping up, and getting new inventory for our investors. You know, it used to be that investors were real timid and shy about maybe doing their first deal, and now, a lot of our new investors—they’ve got a few concerns, but they’re jumping in to several deals at once, so they can take advantage of this awesome financing. We’re still seeing rates at 4.5% and below, in some cases. And so, you know, one thing I’m noticing, and I was just talking to a client about this before you called, is the simplicity of closing two deals at one time. You know, in terms of cutting your paperwork in half. So that’s something that was just fresh on my mind, and so people are really trying to simplify the loan process, take advantage of the low rates as well.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah. So you’re saying, when you buy multiple properties, you can sort of economize the paperwork, in terms of applying for more than one loan at a time, is that what you’re saying?
SARAH: Yeah, as long as they use the same lender for both loans. So in some cases, for clients who have a real aggressive acquisition plan—maybe they’re looking to do 10 properties in the next year—they would maybe pick two different properties in the same market. Or different markets, if the lender can finance in both markets. But yeah, really cutting that paperwork in half so that they don’t—because every time you acquire property, the new lender on the next deal wants information about your previous purchase. And so, it’s kind of like the never ending—it can be never ending paperwork if you’ve got that heavy acquisition plan.
JASON HARTMAN: Sure. Sure. And I just have to point out that 10 properties a year is not that heavy of a plan. But it’s a good one. But we certainly have clients doing a lot more than that. First, maybe, I want to talk a little bit about motivations. More about what are the clients saying, why are they doing what they’re doing? I mean, it feels to me like money has just—it’s just coming off of the sidelines. People have been waiting to do something; maybe they’ve done a little bit over the last few years, but with all the uncertainty in the economy—they’re just going at it right now, it feels like. It’s kind of a feeding frenzy, really.
SARAH: It is, and I’m seeing a lot of investors liquidate their IRAs, and—either liquidate them, or pay out cash and buy with their IRAs. But I’m seeing a lot less faith in the stock market, and of course, the many markets in those types of savings plans that really don’t pay. And so, they’re really looking to secure their retirement, because you know, it’s really up to us as individuals to make sure that we don’t, like you said, we don’t outlive our income, or our money.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, and that’s one of the topics, actually, of today’s show. I think the three big things, since today’s show is on longevity—and humans are pretty close, I think, to discovering that fountain of youth that they’ve looked for for eons. And that really presents like three main issues, I think, as it comes to investing in economics. Number one, too much life at the end of the money. People will outlive their money. And also, when people live longer, that places more demands on the entitlement system—Social Security, Medicare, etcetera.
These systems become more and more broke as there are fewer people paying in, and more people living much, much longer. I mean, when people used to, in the olden days, and when I say olden days, I’m talking about the 70s—not even that long ago. When they used to retire in the 60s or 70s, and they’d retire at age 65, they wouldn’t live that long! Now, people are living much, much longer, and they’re drawing on these entitlement programs.
And the government simply cannot afford it. And this lack of ability to afford it will become worse and worse in the future. So, what does that mean to investors? Well, it means that the most likely way the government will “solve” the problem, and it’s not a solution, but it’s something we can profit from as investors, is they will just create more fake fiat money in order to pay for the programs in nominal dollars, and that will create inflation. And most people will be impoverished by that inflation, yet our investors following our plan will be enriched by it.
So, those who understand the nature of money, and the nature of investing, and the way things truly work—they’ll benefit. So, people will outlive their money, governments will inflate to pay for entitlement programs, and then the other issue you have here is just a situation of population increasing. Because if people are living longer, and with our guest today we’re gonna talk about how women can have babies much, much later—I mean, they’re already doing it. But in the future, and we’re going to touch on that, with this upcoming guest. Women may have babies into their 50s and 60s; maybe even older than that, if you can believe it. I know it sounds weird, and I know it may sound like science fiction, or something. But really, that’s becoming a possibility pretty rapidly.
And to me, that means an increase in population. Now, to our guest, she sort of talks about how it might not necessarily mean an increase in population. I’m not sure I agree with that part, but I agree with her on so many other very interesting things that she talks about. So, an increase in population means what? What does that mean? It’s the third big thing that our investors can benefit from. It means more and more demand for resources.
More and more demand for energy, oil, natural gas, every kind of energy, and what’s in the price of a house or an apartment building that one might invest in? Energy is a huge factor in the cost of these investments. It means more demand for lumber, it means more demand for concrete, for copper wire, for all the petroleum products that go into a house. It means more demand for glass, more demand for steel, more demand for all of that stuff.
And when there’s more demand, what does that do? It’s these materials that are the ingredients of a house or an apartment building—the stuff our clients invest in. These ingredients are simple ingredients. They’re not high tech. They’re simple materials. And these materials have not a totally limited supply, but there are some constraints on the supply of these materials, and increasing demand—that just means prices go up. So, construction costs will rise, and if you lock in the cost of construction today, and you lock in the cost basically of energy today, because all the energy to build that house or apartment building has been priced in at today’s price, and today, you can actually—and I’d like you to speak to this—in some markets, you can still, although this opportunity is disappearing so rapidly, Sarah—you can still buy below the cost of replacement, or below the cost of construction today. Although, rapidly disappearing, that concept.
SARAH: Yeah, well, I was just thinking, as you were speaking here, speaking of prices going up—I mean, we’re seeing that happen in some of these markets. Specifically Atlanta—the prices, they’re not going way up, to where investors are being priced out, but they are inching up. And we’re seeing some articles that say, Atlanta’s following in the footsteps of Phoenix, even. So, I think there’s a great opportunity in Atlanta right now. Maybe a shorter window of opportunity than we initially thought. But inventory is tight, but we are still getting some good deals in Atlanta, but I think that’s definitely a market to watch.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, no question about it. So, that leads me to another question. What are some of your favorite markets right now?
SARAH: Well, Atlanta’s mentioned—my husband and I purchased there last year, so I’m partial to Atlanta. Another new market that I’m not even sure if we’ve interviewed our new market specialist, but I’m really excited to do that, and launch, is San Marcos. And that’s just outside of the Austin metro area. We’re getting some brand new construction there. Been having some pretty heavy conversations with the property manager, and it just seems like a great market. It’s a college town, so there’s a huge demand for housing over there right now.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. So, San Marcos. That’s a new one for us. And we don’t know if we’re going to be lucky enough to have this local market specialist speak at the Meet the Masters event. I kind of don’t think we’re going to get them. But you can certainly ask your investment counselors about that market. And again, that’s San Marcos, Texas. It’s an area somewhat outside of Austin, Texas. And why do you like it?
SARAH: Well, it holds the second largest university in Texas, and I think that’s a driving force for that market. The rents are pretty strong in comparison to the value. Similar to the rent-to-value in the Houston market, which in fact is another market which I think is going to be one to watch in 2013. We’re really working hard to get inventory there as well. So, some of these Texas markets are looking pretty good in terms of rent-to-value. Now, the down side would be that property taxes are a little bit higher, but I think you make up for that in the rents enough to still make it a great buy.
JASON HARTMAN: And so, those higher property taxes in Texas are typically passing through to the tenant’s cost. Because what I’ve always said is that if you look at the way that a tenant thinks when they live in Texas, they think gosh, if I live here, I don’t pay income taxes—there’s no state income tax—and I don’t pay property taxes, because I’m not an owner! But what’s really happening is that the property tax price is usually passing through to them in the increased rents that offset it. So, good point. Well, anything else you want to mention to our investors before we go to today’s guest?
SARAH: Just one thing real quickly, is for all of our past clients who have had properties for a while, or in the last couple years have purchased, and are still looking to acquire more properties—don’t forget about your existing loans. The rates are so low, and have even dropped a little bit. And also, this is just a side note, but, even your auto loans. I have to add this, because I just refinanced both of my auto loans at 2.some odd %, and I also refinanced a property I bought 5 years ago in Houston. And between those three loans, I’m saving almost $800 a month in payments. I lowered the rate, but I also stretched out those payments. So don’t forget about all the other ways you can save money. Lock in those low rates. Also, you know, call your insurance carriers. Call all your providers. Lower those payments, and really increase your cash flow. Make that a goal for 2013, so that you can continue to acquire new properties as well, and maximize your return on investment.
JASON HARTMAN: But Sarah, I’m not making any plans for 2013, because the Mayan calendar comes to an end in two days!
SARAH: Well, we’ll leave that up to everyone’s imagination. But I think we’re all going to be just fine.
JASON HARTMAN: Let’s just hope that we don’t regret making that joke [LAUGHTER]. And I’d say that, just one thing—it sounds crazy, you know, some old fashioned thinking would say, never finance a car. Now, I happen to own the car I drive now free and clear, I paid cash for it. But usually, I’d finance them. And I’m certainly wealthy enough to pay cash for almost any car, but it’s like, at 2.9%, you’re actually getting paid to borrow the money to drive the dumb car! The real rate of inflation has got to be 9 or 10%, and you’re benefiting, because you’re much lower than the real rate of inflation just right there. So you have a negative interest rate while you’re getting paid to borrow. And if you have business use on that car, you can deduct the minute interest cost anyway. So, I just think being a borrower is the position of strength, because you benefit from inflation-induced debt destruction, and with what we talked about, about longevity, a few minutes ago, inflation is just—it’s gonna be in our future in a big way, I think. And many of our guests have talked about that before. Well good stuff! So when you said don’t forget about existing loans, you meant don’t forget about refinancing them, consider refinancing them, right?
JASON HARTMAN: Good stuff! Well hey, Sarah, thanks for joining me on the intro portion today, and we will be back with our guest, talking about longevity, in just a moment!
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JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome Sonia Arrison to the show! She is the author of 100+: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. And she’s coming to us from the Silicon Valley area in Northern California today. Sonia, how are you?
SONIA ARRISON: I’m doing quite well, thank you!
JASON HARTMAN: Well, good! So, this is a fascinating topic for me, as we were talking about before we started the show today. And I’m glad you wrote this book, and I’m glad you have examined certain parts of this issue that maybe some others haven’t examined. I don’t know where you want to take it first, but I was going to ask you about the science side of it first. I mean, are we really going to live to be 100, 150, or maybe even longer? Are we close to the fountain of youth?
SONIA ARRISON: The answer is yes, we will be. And I take—the premise of my book, I say well look, it might be possible to double our life expectancy again. Because we’ve done that in the past. If you look back in time—if you go way back, during the Cro-Magnon era, people only lived to be around 18 years life expectancy. By the time of the European Renaissance, people could expect to live for 30 years. By 1850, it was only 43 years. We forget this. Today, we have close to 80 birthdays. So, between 1850 and now, we’ve roughly doubled life expectancy, and it’s possible to do it again. It’s possible to do it much faster this time around, because of computing power, and the direction that science and technology is going in. So, the question is not if—the question is when, right? It is going to happen. But the question is, will it happen for me and you, or is it going to happen for our children’s generation? And the reason why I wrote this book, actually, is because I want people to be aware of the fact that if we work really hard, and we push really hard now, it can happen for us. But if we just sit back and don’t really push for it, we’ll probably be the last generation to die with a life expectancy of 80 instead of 150 or so, which would be much better, wouldn’t it?
JASON HARTMAN: It sure would. But I just want to play devil’s advocate with you for a moment on that. Because, is it really that life expectancy has actually increased? Or is it just the absence of things that kill us? Like germ theory, and Joseph Lister? It really seems to be more like an absence of dying, rather than a life expectancy increase, because you know, a long time ago there were people who lived a long time—Stradivarius, the greatest violin, he lived—Antonio Stradivari lived for a long time. And other people throughout history lived long lives—70, 80 years—but most people lived only 30 or 40 years, in recent history. So, which is it? Is it just that more people will live longer, or is it that we will really, really have quantum leaps in life expectancy increase?
SONIA ARRISON: Right, and see, you’re absolutely right to bring that up, because the gains that we’ve made in life expectancy, at least until the second half of the 20th century, were made by tackling the things that killed us at the beginning of life. So, we brought infant mortality down. We’ve learned a lot more about nutrition. We got better at growing food, so we always had something to eat so we didn’t starve. We had safer work environments. And all of these things—germ theory, and antibiotics, and all of these things, are tackling the things that killed us earlier on in life, right? And once we did that, our life expectancy really shot up. And like you say, there were people who lived to old ages way back when, say in 1850, or during the European Renaissance, but there weren’t very many of them.
JASON HARTMAN: True, true enough.
SONIA ARRISON: And they didn’t look that good either. Think about it. A 60 year old back then does not look like a 60 year old looks today. And the reason for that is because we’ve come up with all these ways to keep ourselves in better shape over time. Now, starting in the second half of the 20th century, that’s when things really started to turn around, and we started to tackle the things that started killing us at the end of life. We had never really had to think about them before, because we were so worried about the things that killed us at the beginning of life. So, then we started tackling things like chronic diseases, heart disease, cancer, diabetes—all these things that are the diseases of aging, the things that really start to kill us when we’re older. And so that’s what will—that’s what scientists are working on today, and that’s where there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on, where you look at it and you go okay, well, it might be possible for us to really make some dents in some of these things that are killing us later on in life, rather than at the beginning of life. And that’s what’s going to extend our—not only our life expectancy, by the way. I like to talk about health expectancy. Because we’re not going to be just extending our lifespan, and be really old for a long period of time. We’re going to be extending our health spans, so that we’re healthy, and younger feeling, for a longer period of time. And that’s super exciting.
JASON HARTMAN: I really like that definition, by the way. It’s not just about lifespan—it’s about health span. So, very, very good distinction there. By the way, just for the record, l looked up Antonio Stradivari while you were talking, and he was born in 1644, and lived to be 93 years old. So, pretty amazing.
SONIA ARRISON: Yeah, it could be done. But he was rare.
JASON HARTMAN: He was very rare, yeah.
SONIA ARRISON: There weren’t that many people. And if you looked at the longest lived person ever in human history, it was Jeanne Calment. She lived to 122 years old. And she died not too long ago, like maybe five years ago or so. And so, she grew up during a time when most people didn’t actually live that long either. So, it’s completely possible, and those people won the genetic lottery. And really probably the environmental lottery too—they didn’t get in any serious accidents, and all of that kind of stuff.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, right. Well, just touching a little bit more on the technologies that will help increase lifespan and health span—what are they? Is it mapping the genome, is it stem cells, are these the things, really, of the future that will increase lifespan?
SONIA ARRISON: Those are the things of the future. And the biggest—if you look at the biggest thing that’s a paradigm shift that’s changed between now and say like 1950, there was a lot going on in medicine. Everybody was predicting back then that we’d live so much longer. And a lot of exciting things happened in the 50s. But here we are today, and we’re still waiting for a lot of big things to happen. And so, the big thing that’s changed now, is that biology has gone from being just about basic biology to being an engineering project. So now, you see people who are computer engineers, and tissue engineers, and different types of engineers, getting into biology, which is super exciting, because they’re looking at the problems from a different perspective. And you brought up the genome—the human genome was sequenced in 2000, the first draft of the human genome was sequenced in 2000.
And so some people look at that and go okay, that was back in 2000, here we are in 2012, we’re almost to 2013. So, what was so—that hasn’t really—how much has that changed our world, right? And so they think that maybe the genome isn’t important. But what they forget, what they don’t realize, is that the genome is super important. The genome is the blueprint for humanity, as Bill Clinton said when he was announcing it in 2000. It’s just that it was so expensive before! To sequence a genome was millions and millions of dollars, and so you couldn’t do a lot of research on it. You couldn’t have every person in the United States get their genome sequenced, and see what medicines might be good for them or bad for them based on the genome, and all that, because it was way too expensive.
But what happened, during that time, from 2000 to now, is that Moore’s Law, which is famous in the computer industry, has kicked in in Biology. And so now, when it used to be millions—in fact, billions, for the first time, of dollars, to sequence a human genome, now today it can be done for a thousand dollars on a US [unintelligible]. There was a company in the UK that just announced they could do that earlier this year. So that’s an exponential decrease in the cost for sequencing genomes. And what that means—so, you can think of a genome like the code for a human being, where it’s just like computers have ones and zeros, human beings have a code too. It’s the A, C, T and G of DNA. Four letters. And just being able to decipher that, and look at that, and see how everybody’s a little bit different, and see how medications affect different genomes, and all of that is gonna have a huge, huge impact on this.
But even before we get there—before we even go to that point, there’s other things that are super exciting, like tissue engineering. So, that was actually one of the things that got me super interested in this area. I was looking around and I saw that there were some scientists that were able to grow brand new human organs out of a person’s own adult stem cells in the lab. So, there’s a scientist named Dr. Anthony Atala at Wake Forest University who—he was one of the first, actually, who grew brand new bladders for children who had spinal bifida and of course when you have spinal bifida, your bladder doesn’t grow; you’re stuck with this baby bladder, and as you grow to an adult, your bladder doesn’t grow, and it’s a big problem. And up until Dr. Atala got involved, there wasn’t a great solution for them. They had to make makeshift ones out of the intestinal material, and that didn’t work very well. And what he did is, he built a matrix, took some of their own stem cells, incubated it in the lab, and tried it in some of these patients, and it worked! He grew brand new bladders for them, using their own bladder stem cells.
JASON HARTMAN: Did he do it? So, he did it in the lab, and then they implanted the bladder?
SONIA ARRISON: Exactly. So, he made a mold of it, he said okay, so this is about how big—he kind of jokes about it. He’s like, there’s three sizes—small, medium, and large. And he’ll make a little mold in the shape of a bladder of course, and it’s made out of a biodegradable material, and then he takes some of their own bladder stem cells, and creates more of them, grows them, and then aligns the mold with their cells, and incubates it in a lab, and it grows! The stem cells recognize—and this is the great thing about biology, it’s almost kind of magical—the stem cells realize what they are. They’re like oh, we’re bladder cells. And here we are in something that’s shaped something just like a bladder. So we’re gonna grow, and become bladder tissue. And that’s what happens. And then they take that—he took that, and implanted it in these patients, and he did this way back in the mid 90s, actually, and didn’t really tell anyone, because he didn’t know if it was going to work out or not. But it did work, and he didn’t announce the results, I think, until about 1999, after it had been—after his patients had had them for a few years.
JASON HARTMAN: Sounds almost like one technology I’m just crazy about, and I can’t wait to see it used just everywhere all the time, is just 3-D printing. It sounds almost like 3-D printing with genetic material.
SONIA ARRISON: Well, and that’s being done as well. There’s a company called Organovo, that you may have heard of, where they—so they do what Dr. Atala does, in a different way. This is the engineering part of it, right? Scientists know that stem cells can recreate themselves, and recreate tissue. But the question is, what’s the best way to do it, right? And so, Dr. Atala does it using a mold, and then lining the mold with the stem cells. But there’s a company called Organovo that takes the stem cells and puts them into a literally a printer, a 3-D printer, and then has biomaterial as the paper, right, so the cells are like the ink, and the paper is the biomaterial, and they just print and print and keep printing on top of each other, and that turns into a 3-D sructure. And they’ve managed to print things like blood vessels that actually work. And so their long term goal is to print entire organs in the lab.
JASON HARTMAN: Amazing. That’s just incredible. Yeah, it really is. It really is. So, how much longer will people live, and by when? The big question is when. Everybody with the economy is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and nobody knows when. So, when it comes to health span and lifespan, when will the other shoe drop, I guess? For lack of a better way to say it.
SONIA ARRISON: Well, I hope—I hope that it’s—I’m 40 years old. I hope it’s within my lifetime. I mean, we’ve seen proof of concept that brand new bladders and windpipes have been created for real human patients already, so, we know that bladders and windpipes can be grown in the lab. So can skin, by the way. There’s this stuff that the military’s creating called spray-on skin, where they take skin cells and literally spray on burn victims, right? And by the way, the military’s spending tons of money on this, because of course they want to be able to replace—when soldiers come back from war, missing an arm or a leg, they literally want to be able to replace it. And so they’re spending a lot of money. Last time I looked, it was a quarter of a billion dollars in—they call it regenerative medicine, where they try to grow new parts from people’s own stem cells.
JASON HARTMAN: Incredible.
SONIA ARRISON: So, to answer your question, I guess. You asked when. I think the answer is that we don’t know, because—we know that it’s going to work, because we can see it happening in the lab. Scientists have already created hearts and lungs for lab animals, as well, in the lab. So we know it works. It’s just a question of, how long is it going to take for real people on the street to get access to technology, right? How long is it gonna be—and is it gonna take scientists to go through all the regulatory hurdles, through all the testing they do, and all of that, right? So that’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book, is that I think we should really be focused on this, and we should try to do everything we can to help speed it up. Because our goal, probably for all of us, is to live longer and healthier lives. We want to be healthier. We don’t just want to live longer—we want to be healthy, so we can be productive, and spend time with our families, and do stuff.
JASON HARTMAN: One of the other things you talk about in the book is the way it affects relationships and the sociological component. I mean, certainly to be able to pass—I mean, there’s a whole huge legacy component here. The generational component. Learning lessons from the past, understanding one’s history better. Because having living relatives, living for so much longer, to be able to reach down through the generations—I mean, what an amazing concept, really. How would it affect family relationships, for example?
SONIA ARRISON: I think it’ll have a number of effects. And actually as I was just listening to you ask the question, I remember in one of my other interviews, somebody had said to me something that really stuck. And that was, every time somebody dies, an encyclopedia dies with them. Because all of this information and experience that they’ve gathered over the years just disappears. And you know, you can imagine having more generations around in families will have a big impact on how those families operate, right? In terms of not only experience and knowledge, but family relations—I mean, today we have grandparents. Parents and grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. But in the future, there could be great-great-grandparents, and great-great-great-grandparents, and so on.
And so, families will be bigger, and more diverse, and more dynamic. So that will certainly change family relations. And then if you throw in the fact that fertility may be extended in the future—in fact, that may even happen faster than longevity gets here, because the reproductive technologies sector of our economy is really, really active, and it has a lot of money, and it’s doing a lot of research. So you know. Today, we’re seeing—it’s possible for women to have children at much older ages if they use donated eggs. You know, a woman’s eggs tend to expire around 40, but the uterus still works, so if you get donated eggs, you literally can still have a baby into your 60s and 70s. And we’ve seen that happen by the way. It’s detailed in my book.
JASON HARTMAN: That’s incredible, really incredible.
SONIA ARRISON: But the question is, most women want to have their own genetic, biological children. So the question is, can you extend the lifetime of eggs. And looking at the research, I think the answer is yes. And I think it’s actually going to happen pretty soon.
JASON HARTMAN: Amazing. Amazing thing. How about the economic impact? I mean, wow! I don’t know if the economic impact is necessarily positive. I guess it is if we have health span, but not if we have lifespan without health span.
SONIA ARRISON: Exactly. You’ve hit right on it, and that’s just the thing. And I’m—I think that we’re looking at a future in which we’re going to have health span. I mean, there may be a transitional period of time where we have more life without health, and I think we’re actually sort of living that now. You can see, there’s a lot of people my age or a little bit older than me, who are having to take care of their older parents who aren’t doing so well, and who didn’t plan to be alive so long. So I think we may already be in that transitional phase. But I think at some point we’re going to be living even longer and healthier. Which means that we’re going to work a lot longer, right? So, retirement at 60 isn’t even gonna be—well, today it’s almost a joke. But, in the future, it won’t even be a thought. People will continue working into their 70s and 80s, and they’ll be healthy, and they’ll be happy to do it, because they’ll have purpose. And that’s gonna drive the economy.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah. The other thing that’s interesting about it is, for one to witness this, even without any major advancement in some of the sciences we’ve talked about, or at least having them hit the general widespread market yet, which they haven’t—but, I mean, just look at old movies. Look at movies even from the 70s. And look at a 40 year old in one of those movies. And the way they looked, the way they acted, the whole—their whole context was just so different than it is nowadays! Whether it be a 40 year old or a 60 year old, I mean, it seems like 40 is the new 25, and 60 is the new 40.
SONIA ARRISON: Yeah. It is. I think you’re right about that. A 60 year today does not look like a 60 year old did 30 years ago.
JASON HARTMAN: But the question is, is it looks? I think looks—John Denver in one of his songs has a great lyric that I really like, and he says, my body is merely the shell of my soul, but the flesh must be given its due, like a pony that carries his rider back home, like an old friend that’s tried and true. And so what I was getting at with that is, looks impact the way one feels about themselves. And maybe the physical activities they’re willing to take on, and the adventures they’re willing to take on. And I think when a person looks younger, they tend not to get stodgy, and sort of act old, and become old before their time. So, I think that looks component has—it’s a legitimate part of the process. It’s not just skin deep, if you will. It’s not a shallow thing, necessarily. But what I wanted to ask you with that is, are people just looking better, or are they really better?
SONIA ARRISON: They really are better, actually. When I looked at the data, like I said, we’ve made progress since the middle of the 20th century on the things that get us in older age. And so, we’ve actually made progress on chronic diseases. So, chronic diseases set in later today than they did before. And so, slowly we’ve been chipping away. So before when heart disease maybe would have kicked in at 50, now it kicks in at 65. It’s moving up. We’ve made progress. And we’re gonna continue to make progress, and I think it’s going to move faster than it has in the past, which is why we have a chance to really see this happen during our lifetime, which is why we should really be working towards the goal of making it happen faster.
JASON HARTMAN: It’s interesting though, because—I hear this stuff, I read stuff like what we’re talking about. And you know, there’s so much optimism about it. But at the same time, you look at this epidemic of diabetes and obesity and people sitting around watching TV and video games, and the sort of entertain me entitlement type of culture. It seems like there’s a real dichotomy in society, where I don’t know. Half the world’s acting one way, or at least half the US, and half is acting another way. You know?
SONIA ARRISON: Yeah, and I think you’re right to bring that up. There’s already a divide in life expectancy. If you look at—there’s different ways to slice it based on wealth, or based on what area of the country you live in. And a lot of that is based on a whole bunch of different things, including lifestyle choices. About whether or not you’re exercising and eating right. Because it’s not—not everybody—if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not gonna be able to just rely on technology to be healthy. So, I think that’s the other message that has to get across. Is you still have to take care of yourself. Technology is not some magic bullet that’s going to save you from having bad habits.
JASON HARTMAN: We’ll be back in just a minute.
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JASON HARTMAN: So, we talked a little bit about the economy, but not much. Or the economic impact. But not much. But there’s also the environment side of it. And just so you know where I’m coming from, I think in many ways the environmental movement is very dangerous, actually. Because I interviewed a professor—a Berkeley professor, so you can tell where he’s coming from, most of the time. My mom went to Berkeley, by way, and she’s the opposite of the Berkeley idea. But she did go to Berkeley in the 60s. And I just couldn’t help but hear in this whole discussion, and when I hear environmentalists, it always comes down to that people are the problem. There are too many people. People need to go. And I’m like, I just asked this professor, in a very nice way, I said, well, who gets to decide who goes and who stays? It sounds like you’re saying, we need another Stalin, you know? Or Mao, or Hitler. So, it’s a really kind of a scary, at least to a scary conclusion, really.
SONIA ARRISON: And it’s a fallacy. It’s based on this Malthusian idea that more people automatically mean a disaster. And it’s wrong. Malthus was wrong.
JASON HARTMAN: I know Malthus was wrong, so far.
SONIA ARRISON: The reason why he was wrong is because humans actually are a resource. We think of copper, and water, and all of these things as being resources, but humans are a resource also, because they contain ideas, and innovation. And that’s why we haven’t already destroyed ourselves. Because we come up with ideas, and ways to fix things.
JASON HARTMAN: Well, I agree with you. And the Malthusian ideal, I think, is wrong. But the question is, is there some tipping point at which Malthus is right? And when I interviewed this professor, I brought up to him, and he couldn’t really explain it—I said look, in the 70s, and in the 60s, there were all sorts of fears about famine. There were all sorts of fears about—the total opposite has happened. You look at the World Health Organization; they came out with a report a few years ago, I believe it was, that for the first time in human history, there are more people who are considered obese on the planet than malnourished. That’s never happened before. And obesity doesn’t necessary mean they’re eating too much of a good thing. They’re eating a lot of junk. So, we all understand that. But, people are a resource. But people thought at 3 billion people, that was as much as the earth could sustain. Everything was just going to end. Species extinction, everything was going to dry up, and we’re gonna have an ice age, and now we’re going to have global warming—God! You drive yourself crazy with these kinds of theories, but people are a resource, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s just, the question is, who’s to say that the earth can’t support 20 or 30 billion people? Nobody knows!
SONIA ARRISON: Well, in my book I have an entire chapter on the environment and population, because I think one of the first things that people think of, once they realize that wow, we could be living much longer lives—that means people won’t die off quite as soon, therefore, the population may grow. Right? They sort of stop and think, wow. This could be dangerous, right? We might have too many people on the planet. And how is that gonna play out? And you know, there’s a couple of responses to that. The first one is that heavy population growth doesn’t actually come from fewer deaths. It comes from births. So, when I really dug into this topic, I went around and talked to demographers, and people who spend their lives looking at these things. And it turns out that heavy population growth comes from births, not from deaths. Not from fewer deaths. Because when you have children, you know, one, two, three, it’s exponential, right? And when one person doesn’t die, that’s only one person.
And so it’s not exponential growth. Now, that said, you say okay, so it’s not gonna be exponential growth, but the population still might grow. And so I found some demographers at the University of Chicago who had actually looked into this, surprisingly. And they said, well okay, what if the entire population of Sweden were to become immortal tomorrow, right? And this is immortal. Not living to 150—this is like, never dying, right? What would happen to the population of Sweden over 100 years? And they took the UN’s population model, and a bunch of ones that demographers always use—the World Bank, that kind of thing. And they plugged in all the numbers.
And surprisingly—I mean, there’s still population growth, obviously. But the population of Sweden would only grow by 22% over 100 years. Which is much less than you would think, right? Just on a first glance. So, and that just goes to illustrate the exponential versus non exponential way of growing population between, say, the births or the fewer deaths. So, that’s one way to look at it. But you say okay, so maybe the population will still grow, because what if fertility technologies get really great, and women still keep having children in their 60s and 70s, right? So maybe there’s a population boom from births. And so, that could still happen. But, even then, you look at it, and you say okay, well, as the technology’s getting better to keep us healthier longer, it’s also getting better—so, saying nanotechnology is one technology that’s used in science, and in biology, and different ways of fighting cancer, and things. But nanotechnology is also used in commercial goods, and cleaning up oil spills, and all those things.
So, as the technology’s getting better to keep us alive longer, it’s also getting better at cleaning the environment, and doing things like that. Managing waste, and since—one of the things I covered in the book was how some countries are now looking at using waste as fuel, and even after I published the book, I saw that there’s a new [unintelligible] not long ago about how one of the Scandinavian countries actually has a garbage shortage, because they’ve been using garbage as fuel. They’re one of the leaders in this area, and they don’t have enough garbage! So they’re now importing garbage from other countries. Which is fantastic, isn’t it? And that just goes to show, that’s the point of human innovation. That oh my God, humans create all this garbage, they’re these menaces, blah blah blah—no! When it gets to be a problem, then that’s when human innovation and ideas really kick in. And it’s like okay, let’s use garbage for fuel! Right? And then there’s not even enough garbage. So, you have to love stories like that.
JASON HARTMAN: The lesson there is, go out and be a conspicuous consumer, and create more trash, and it’s just so counter-intuitive to what we’ve been told.
SONIA ARRISON: It is. It really is. And that’s just really what’s so brilliant about humanity, in fact. That we keep surprising ourselves with things like that.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, no question about it. Anything else you want to say on the economic side of it? I know there’s a lot more than what we touched on in the book, but, other things about the economic side?
SONIA ARRISON: Yes, there’s a lot to be said about economics, actually. And it turns out that as life expectancy has grown over history—because this is what I did in the book, by the way. I kept looking backwards in time, and I said, how have things changed in the last 100, 150 years as our life expectancies have grown? And it turns out that actually a lot of economists have done work on longevity and economics, including Gary Becker, who won a Nobel Prize for some of his work that touches on this. And it turns out that as we live longer, we become wealthier as a society. And the reason for that is because, as we live longer, we’ve also been healthier, because as I mentioned, we’ve been fighting chronic diseases and other things that slow us down, and as we’ve been healthier, we work more!
And when you can work more, and be productive, that generates more wealth. And so, as we live longer, we become wealthier. And there’s a number of really interesting studies done on it, and one more I’ll mention that’s in the book is a study from Harvard that shows if you compare two countries that are relatively similar in their economy type—if you compare them and one has a life expectancy of just five years longer than the other one, the one with the longer life expectancy will grow 0.5% faster than the other economy. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s huge! That’s a huge amount. And you can imagine wow, that’s only with a five year life expectancy advantage. What if a country had a ten year advantage, or a twenty year advantage over the other economy, right? Then you start getting into huge numbers.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, amazing. Really amazing stuff. Well, give out your website, if you would, and tell people where they can learn more and get the book.
SONIA ARRISON: Sure. My website is my name, so it’s www.soniaarrison.com. And you can buy my book, 100+, at Amazon, or any of the other major bookstores. So it’s 100+: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. And it’s published by Basic Books. It’s coming out—it’s in hard cover right now. It’s coming out in paperback in March 2013. So, that’s fairly soon.
JASON HARTMAN: Good, good. Anything else you’d like people to know, in closing?
SONIA ARRISON: You know, just that this is…I actually think that this is one of the most important things that we should be paying attention to, because without health, you really don’t have anything else.
JASON HARTMAN: I’ve got one final question for you, and I forgot to touch on this earlier. But, are there any institutions people should support, donate to, learn about? Who are the cutting edge organizations in this, if someone’s really wanting to dive deep into the topic, and maybe support the cause?
SONIA ARRISON: Well, that’s a good question. And there really aren’t any—I mean, I’m involved with Singularity University, which is a university here in California. The [unintelligible] campus that does a lot of work on this type of stuff. But you know, you look at the nonprofit world, and there’s the Cancer Society, Diabetes Society, all of those things, and they’re all based on a disease-based model where really, I mean, the way to slow down all of those diseases is to try to slow down aging. Which would have sounded crazy 10, 20 years ago, but now we know aging is plastic. Aging can actually be slowed down in the lab, in lab animals, by tinkering with their genome. And we now know we can repair people with regenerative medicine. So, there’s a regenerative medicine lobby group in DC. There’s the SENS Foundation, which Aubrey de Grey is the head of, that works to fight aging, and to grow health spans. And there’s the Foresight Institute for Nanotechnology that does a lot of work on this. So, there are a few nonprofits that you can support. And I would recommend looking at all of those websites. Particularly SENS, and the Foresight Institute.
JASON HARTMAN: And we had Aubrey de Grey on another show, as I mentioned to you before we started recording. So, fascinating stuff, fascinating stuff, Sonia. Thank you so much for telling us about this, and please give us a call if any new, big discoveries or developments pop up. We’d love to have you back on the show to talk about them.
SONIA ARRISON: Absolutely, will do. Thanks for having me.
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Transcribed by David
The Jason Hartman Team
Episode: CW 290: New Technology and Human Longevity with Sonia Arrison Author of ‘The Coming Age of Longevity’
Guest: Sonia Arrison
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