Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shanghai is the future

Saw a great movie today, Spike Jonze's "Her." You've probably heard about it - lonely guy falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system, voluptuously voiced by Scarlett Johanson. It's about that, but about much more, brilliantly written, and sheds light on experiences and relationships we have with virtual technology, social media, and ever more human-like machines. It also does what great science fiction does - shows a possible future which makes such sense you feel it's already arrived. We may look back on it, as we do "Blade Runner" and "The Matrix," as not just prophetic but true.

Among its science fiction futures is a more developed Los Angeles which is full of skyscrapers - and even a functioning subway system. That some of these scenes - like the one above - are shot in China is given way not just by the shapes of the buildings but by the hazy white of the sky. In fact this is Shanghai, the city where, it happens, yours truly will be spending part of next year. Yes: I seem to have succeeded in making a connection in the Middle Kingdom, and it's with the Religious Studies Department at Fudan University in Shanghai. More soon!

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