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Katherine Shonfield

For generations of GCSE and Olevel students, William Golding's Lord of the Flies has been held up as a warning of what people plonked onto a desert island do when left to their own devices. If you remember, it all ended with a savage ritualistic murder.

Given the propensity to fill the schedules with an exclusive diet of blood and gore, it's probable that an equally gruesome outrage was anticipated by the 'specially selected cross-section of society' the BBC has cajoled onto the Hebridean island Taransay for the programme Castaway .

However, the TV executives have gravely erred in their assessment of human nature at the beginning of the twenty-first century. For what any architect could have told them is that the propensity of any given societal sample of society, at any time, at any place, is to form itself into a committee, which these ersatz islanders have duly done. As such it is following the absolute tendency of all committees. One, eschew all work with a material outcome; two, formulate a set of unworkable rules for infinite interpretation and extrapolation by a bureaucracy; and three, finger a scapegoat.

The accusations and counter accusations floating round the Millennium Dome all follow this pattern. There is now even a proposal to set up yet another committee to find out where it all went wrong. Despite the mileage that this column and others have squeezed out of this disaster, there is actually only one universally applicable lesson, one that no committee will ever come up with: Do not ever try to design anything by committee.

It is our inability to imagine any other social form that has enabled the fuel protestors to catch everyone on the hop. They have done society the incalculable favour of reminding us all of the extraordinary efficiency a clear material aim, an absolute absence of bureaucracy and a few mobile phones can bring to an organisation.

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