Peter Rhodes on a superforecaster, a body blow for the cruise industry and the rise of the thought-police

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Next year's holiday bargain?
Next year's holiday bargain?

How to be a prime minister. If you visit flooded communities you are arrogant, cynical and virtue-signalling. If you don't visit flooded communities you are arrogant, cynical and uncaring.

Andrew Sabisky, who has been forced to quit as a Downing Street adviser for his past online comments on eugenics and birth control, departs with a waspish: “I hope No. 10 hires more people with good geopolitical forecasting track records.” Sabisky is not smitten by excess modesty. He likes to describe himself as a “superforecaster.” I bet we can all think of another word.

Incidentally, concerning his dismissal, did this superforecaster see it coming?

Contagion on cruise ships is nothing new, which explains why you'll find every ship is equipped with dozens of disinfectant-gel dispensers. Passengers walk past, endlessly wringing their hands as they anoint themselves with the gel to keep stomach bugs at bay. It is like finding yourself in the Lady Macbeth fan club. Out, damned germs.

But coronavirus has the frightening ability to slip past all the safety measures on the luxury liners currently in quarantine off Japan. Far from being a place of safety, the good ship Diamond Princess seems more like a breeding ground for the new disease, making it the biggest hot spot for coronavirus outside China. Thanks to their online dispatches, David Abel and his wife Sally have become Britain's best-known quarantine couple on the liner. You would imagine the authorities would ensure this high-profile couple's safety. And yet even the Abels have now been diagnosed with coronavirus.

We wish them well but I wouldn't blame them if it's the last cruise they take. And I confidently predict that this time next year the liner operators will be virtually giving cruises away. One tiny virus has the power to bring a global industry to its knees.

Harry Miller, the ex-cop accused of a “non-crime hate incident” for alleged transphobic tweeting, says the Pc who visited him announced: “We need to check your thinking.” Six little words to chill your soul. We tend to assume, in our soft old liberal way, that whatever we may say or tweet, our innermost thoughts are beyond the reach of the authorities. But maybe not. Study your car or household insurance documents closely and you may find a clause obliging you to disclose incidents where you didn't make a claim but considered making a claim. They, too, think they have a right to know your thoughts.

So what is the future for privacy? The generation that thinks of Big Brother as the super-villain in Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, may fight against such intrusion. But the generation that thinks of Big Brother as a TV reality show probably won't. And the generation after that may actually be proud of their jobs with the police, government or Big Business. “Me? I'm a thought-harvester.”

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