My City: Why Shanghai is the ultimate hackerspace

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Originally posted on TED Blog:

Along the east side of the Huangpo River, across the water from historic Shanghai, is Pudong, a business district famed (and often reviled) for its efflorescence of gaudy skyscrapers. In the early years of the millennium, when David Li moved to Shanghai, "everything was changing, everything was moving." Photograph: Lawrence Wang.
The Pudong business district of Shanghai is famed (and often reviled) for its efflorescence of gaudy skyscrapers. Photograph: Lawrence Wang. See also Wang’s photoessay of must-see Shanghai places.

In 2005, at the start of my first visit to Shanghai, the city clothed itself in a growling thunderstorm. When dusk fell and neon began to score the sky, the city was more Blade Runner-y than I thought a real place possible to be. I remember diving into a luxe spa for a post-train massage, slipping, mildly terrified, into an urgent slumber, if that’s not a contradiction, as rain clattered the roof.

Shanghai will do that to you: the intensity, the thrill, the—um—overwriting. It’s a sensation David Li knows well. He was born in Taiwan, studied computer science at USC, and worked as a programmer in Los Angeles during what he remembers as “the good old fun days” before the…

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