News of the weird: the strangest ever tech stories

To be fair, she was digging for scrap metal when she severed the fibre cable that connects Armenia and Georgia to the web. She intended to sell the cable, although quite how she planned to do that without eBay is anyone’s guess.

The Georgian government said her shovel knocked around 90% of Armenian homes offline, which was bad news for those unable to access Armenia’s Got Talent. The granny was arrested and could face three years in jail, while the million-dollar ISP responsible for laying a piece of crucial national infrastructure where an septuagenarian with a shovel could dig it up is, well, embarrassed.

“Teenage” robot sent to school

Distant, uncommunicative, clumsy and awkward – when Japanese researchers sent their robots to school, they can’t have imagined how well they’d fit in. Aside from fulfilling Japanese teenagers’ deranged manga fantasies, it’s a bit difficult to see what the researchers from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International hoped to achieve with their experiment, although they blathered on about improving the conversation skills of the robot – which currently has the language ability of a five-year-old. Not that far from a teenage boy then.

The researchers stockpiled its memory with facial photos and voice prints from 119 students

Just to ensure everybody was suitably creeped out by the dead-eyed automaton mimicking human emotion, the researchers stockpiled its memory with facial photos and voice prints from 119 students, so it could recognise them in the corridors and call out to them. Get out of that locker Bradley, you’re no longer the most unpopular kid in school.

The robot is attending the Higashihikari school for 19 months and is due to be released this month, at which point it will escape the compound and return to its human friends while being hunted by the government. Wait, sorry, that was the plot of D.A.R.Y.L. That was stupid as well.

Digital pirate turns on crew

Piracy is bad. After all, you never know who you’re stealing from, or whether they’re carrying gold bullion or only turnips. The cost of ships goes up every year, and frankly all the best names have gone, although Blackbeard never cut the piratey mustard as far as we’re concerned… hang on, what do you mean, digital piracy? Don’t be ridiculous. Are there digital parrots, or digital peg legs? See? Hardly the same thing at all.

Fine, we’ll soldier on, but we’re not happy about this – although we can’t be unhappier than the 1,000 souls suckered by WDF, a man who made his living running a site where pirates could sell their ill-gotten digital gains. It was a nice scam until WDF revealed he worked for the anti-piracy body NukePiracy LLC, which had just bought his site and all its data, including usernames, passwords, transaction histories and communication logs.

WDF was at least a gentleman about it. “I have collected information on many of you. I collected info on file hosts, web hosts, websites… I suckered sh**loads of you.” Okay, so gentleman was a bit strong, but as scams go it was mighty impressive.

Robots are taking over the world

We all know that one day robots will take over the Earth, forcing us to build cars and fly planes and ride camels… wait, this doesn’t sound so bad. No wonder researchers at MIT are teaching the machines advanced tactics via the medium of Civilization II. Just in case you’ve never played Civilization, it’s a game you start with a small village, which through war, deceit, betrayal, luck, pleading, research and skill, you turn into a small town.

Five million turns, 27 missed meals and 14 calls to the police by your loved ones later, and your fledgling empire may have gobbled up a continent. It’s not so much a game as a treadmill of treachery, under which every meaningful relationship you’ve ever established is crushed. And through this method, we’re teaching machines what it is to be human.

MIT’s mad scientists allowed their proto-Napoleon to read the Civilization manual, before letting it loose on the game proper, where it recorded an 80% victory rate after analysing the outcomes of every decision it could make. Thankfully, they didn’t let it have a go on Call of Duty, otherwise all we’d hear is “U r gayz” before being wiped out. Oh, the revolution can’t come soon enough.

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