Tag Archives: British Broadcasting Company

Ants, anarchy, chaos and progress

At school, science was always sold to me by my teachers as being about facts and I was crap at it. I always felt my chemistry teacher fled to New Zealand to avoid having to mark my incompetence and lack of interest any more. If science had been sold to me as a creative curiosity into how things work and why the world is the way it is, I might have been interested.

So it was potentially a bit intimidating going to yesterday’s European Science Television and New Media Awards Evening at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in Savoy Place which, in 1923, was one of the first homes of the (then so-called) British Broadcasting Company.

But I enjoyed the evening and did learn that, around the world, 60 volcanoes explode every year and that no one ant in any ant colony knows everything that is happening within the colony nor how it is organised over-all… No one individual ant controls nor supervises everything and yet colonies successfully thrive in an astonishingly complex way.

This would seem to be an argument for anarchy although I know from experience that to create anything which seems to be very anarchic you have to organise everything with immense care. I remember a production meeting for the children’s TV series Tiswas in which producer Glyn Edwards said he was worried that the shows ran too smoothly and nothing ever went seriously wrong; it looked anarchic but it ran smoothly. We never did figure out how to build-in real catastrophes.

Chaos and progress are two sides of the same coin in the same sense that you can only create by destroying what previously existed and, by destroying anything which exists, you are, by definition, creating something new. In Hindu mythology Shiva, the god of destruction, destroys creation in his Tandava dance; but, as he dances, out of the mists, he creates a new world.

My occasionally revived company is named Shivadance Productions for that very reason.

It might be a wanky name; it might not be. But at least it’s memorable. As is the view from the third floor Riverside Room at Savoy Place. That has to be one of the best views of London.

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