David Bullock - mail@davidbullock.uk

Emergent Behaviour

In the movie we see a city centre from above. It appears to be night and part of the city seems to be illuminated by a very large spotlight. Looking closer one might notice that there is activity in the streets. Looking closer still you may notice that the activity is in fact ants foraging. When the viewer moves in front of Sensor A the spotlight searches from left to right. Moving in front of Sensor B changes the spotlight beam size, as if moving closer to or further from the city.

The piece stems from my interest in complexity theory which places a lot of focus on the behaviour of ants. Ant colonies are almost the perfect embodiment of a complex system which demonstrates emergent behaviour. Ants as individuals are no more intelligent than the average insect, but as a colony working in consort ants demonstrate extremely intelligent problem solving abilities. Similarly brain cells are not themselves intelligent. However, if enough of them pass electrical impulses to one another the result is consciousness. The city, which in this case is Munich, reminds me somehow of a brain or at least one of those colourful diagrams showing the architecture of a brain. This is not that surprising as old unplanned city layouts are themselves believed to be the result of emergent self-organising behaviour. The ants in this piece do not show any intelligent behaviour but do move about in a random, seemingly ant-like manner. I developed the code for this from some of Mike Johnson's work on cellular automata which can be found on his Flaver blog.

I also chose Munich because I once lived there and thus it has a personal significance. Like many German cities it has an "interesting" wartime history. It is eerie these days to walk about modern day Munich and discover a particular location was the meeting place for the Nazi Party or another was where the Putsch took place or yet another was where the exhibition of Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) was held. History in most cities is marked by plaques - in Munich it is marked by the removal of plaques. Up to 45% of the city was destroyed by allied bombing. Much of the old unplanned city layout which I spoke of above had to be rebuilt from scratch. In Munich's case the city was rebuilt on the old city layout. To visit the city today one would have little idea of how devastated that city was, as much was painstakingly restored to its pre-war condition. In my film the aerial perspective of the city is similar to the view that the allied bombers would have had. However, in this case the spotlights are looking down upon the city and not searching the night sky from the ground.