(In 1994, a team of Redding journalists produced a series of stories that attempted to predict life in Redding in the year 2020. This is the second of three articles looking at just how accurate that crystal ball was.)
In 1994, the intoxicating effects of technology were hitting folks like the third round from a frat house keg. The iMac was still four years out, but personal computers were popping up in homes like skinny steel ottomans and the internet was still more like an interesting house guest than obnoxious door-to-door salesman.
The R-S team found educators in unison about what they saw in Redding schools in 2020: Computers, specialization, computers, technology and, well, computers. And now, in 2020, it looks like those educators had done their homework — at least about the future.
One Shasta County early childhood educator predicted children as young as 3 or 4 dipping their toes into the school system with kindergarten-like classes preparing them for later academics. While sounding crazy for 1994, it won’t be radical in 2020, she said. And it’s not.
Today, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is riding that train as well, allocating nearly $32 million in his next proposed budget for all-day preschool in some areas. The kids, they are a-starting younger, just as the experts in 1994 predicted.
The Vision 2020 stories also quoted educators who predicted computers becoming a common denominator in virtually (no pun intended) all classrooms. They saw “notebook-sized computers and wristwatch-sized devices” supplanting book bags. And “wireless infra-red and microwave networking will replace the cables,” said one. Well, hello, Wi-Fi.
One high school principal envisioned more “connections with the real world” such as internships for students. He saw students spending part of their day at a hospital or similar future employer.
The stories described the newly built Boulder Creek Elementary School in east Redding, that was wired for the future. It included what was then “space age inventions” like classroom lights that go on when someone walks into the room and off when it’s empty. Or computers scattered throughout the library and classrooms. Indeed, some of the youngest students at Boulder Creek enjoy a stable of Chromebooks to learn on today. As the newest school in the Redding Elementary district, it was building the future into its own walls.
Homes of the future
Wayne Gunnel, a city of Redding building inspector, saw most homes having a “computer that serves as a video telephone, fax machine and interactive television” to shop with. Soon, he said, we will have the ability to shop by computer. And it will control the home’s temperature and lighting, using software to conserve energy and save money. Not bad for something that was barely off the drawing board in 1994.
Other experts saw outlets in every room for computers, phones and faxes. Funny, the folks of 1994 had a romance with faxing that they thought would be a long-term marriage into 2020. How many of us have fax machines now? Didn’t think so.
Here’s a bit of good news — one prediction that went thankfully wrong. Based on historical home price appreciation, some real estate experts predicted the average home price in 2020 would top $850,000. More luxurious pads would top $1 million and one-bedroom apartments would go for $1,709 per month. (It isn’t clear why that rent payment was that specific).
Crime in 2020
Let’s hope you’re buckled tightly into the DeLorean by now, because this is where the Vision 2020 stories veered off the highway. The experts’ predictions about crime — or lack of it — in 2020 ran farther off the rails than vintage Lindsay Lohan. The romance with technology turned into a full-scale orgy in 2020.
The project spun the story of parents in 2020 whose newborn carried a gene determined by scientists to make people violent. But, rather than watching their child to grow up to tattoo his entire face and change his name to “Beast,” they opted for “fairly minor” surgery to reprogram the kid and swap out the bad-boy genes with good. Oh, and they opted to shell out a bit more cash at the time and add a locator chip as a hedge against future kidnapping.
Yep, not far off on that one. But it gets better.
Experts in 1994 saw a 2020 with law enforcement bolstered by technology. Redding’s jails have no walls because prisoners have “electronic bracelets that stun then when they wander a fixed distance.” Their sentences are programmed into the bracelets. Auto thefts in 2020 would be rare because newer vehicles have built-in computers that shut down an engine on command. Older models have trackers fixed to the frames.
Best of all, some envisioned a way to prevent violent criminals and sex offenders from reoffending once released: A “chemical packet” would be implanted in their bodies after the first offense. “The device would sense if the person is going into a rage and discharge a chemical to balance their chemistry.”
See, the answers were out there in 1994 all along.
What do you think? What does Redding 2045 look like and how should we get there? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Next: What about 2045?