Future Found

Shanghai is a wonderful place to visit as a fan of the futuristic. From the well known Pudong skyline to the wicked fast Maglev train to constant KTV and the seedy neon lit backstreets featuring whispered promises of “younger beautiful woman, bar, watch, bag, dvd…”, Shanghai has a little something for everyone.

The place that really hit it out of the park future-wise, though, was the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, which features details on a number of forward-thinking projects, including a truly stunning floor-sized model of Shanghai 2020. It’s not hard to buy a lot of it considering what present day Shanghai already represents.

But it can’t all be spotless. The voiceover that comes with the future perfect displays (above) truly echoes the sanitized, disembodied voice accompanying the Blade Runner blimp in dystopian Los Angeles 2014:

A new life awaits you in the Off-World colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure. New climate, recreational facilities…absolutely free.

Just replace Off-World with Shanghai and you’ve pretty much got it. It’s this sort of thing sends those tiny chills, snapping you out of the full-on adoration of the city and revealing the “museum” as the propaganda palace it really is — presenting the super green, zero unintended consequence, 100% thought out, everybody happy all the time tomorrowland that will be Shanghai in 20 years. Surely, it’s a nice thought but we’re also left to wonder what is conveniently absent.

Of course, the lack of free press means it may be impossible to ever know for sure how much is real and how much memorex. But it certainly whets the appetite for more trips to Shanghai, and much more conversation with the Shanghainese about real life and the real impacts of a rapidly arriving future.

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