Sad, sexy, or self-sufficient, your robot overlords await

CeBIT? More like CeBOT, judging from the news and announcements at Europe's biggest electronics show

This year's CeBIT has come to a close. I don't go anymore -- I can't justify the jet lag, and I hate lurching through a convention hall in a sleep-deprived haze or being wide awake at 4 a.m. arguing with Joachim the sullen night clerk. Instead I contact one of my European minions, members of the Cringing Corps. They're mostly retirees with newspaper backgrounds (read: dinosaurs), but they're cheap, they come through in a clinch, and they can drink any startup punk under the table with nary a burp.

While they were minioning about, I was trying to recover from the shock of Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, incoming NSA witch doctor and Grand Poobah, standing up in front of Congress and exclaiming that the only reform agenda he needed to worry about was better PR. So Edward Snowden was really a creative publicity campaign that went horribly awry? Whatever, it was the catalyst for an epic scotch binge that may have led to the purchase of land in middle Bali, future site of my retirement home/eight-man tent. I'm too scared to log into and find out.

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But it seems the NSA wasn't kidding around. Only this morning, it leaked the news, as part of the now-obvious Snowden PR plot, that it's been pirating pre-pirated zombie botnet PCs for years to further the interests of national security. This Quantum project -- presumably named for the quantum leap forward it represents in not giving a crap what the rest of us think -- appears to be based on the idea it's not stealing when it's already stolen. Best-case scenario: The NSA is Robin Hood. Worst case: Your PC has been hijacked twice, sending spam by day and parsing terrorist-related keywords in teenage Facebook posts by night. Check your electric bill -- your CPU was probably smoking. But I digress.

After five days without word, my CeBIT pygmies made contact late last night from various barrooms and drunk tanks to share the wonders they'd witnessed this past week between buckets of beer and plates of currywurst, which apparently makes Mexican drinking water look healthy. Bathroom breaks aside, they managed to uncover some CeBIT trends and nuggets.

Automatons for the people

First is the topic I haven't been able to shake for the last several months: robotics. Hannover has apparently been lousy with robots for the last week, from speech-givers with sad clown visages to independent bionic limbs all the way to disturbingly hot pole-dancing bots. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron were at the show, oohing and aahing with feigned interest over machines that would soon wipe out their labor forces, economies, and chances at re-election. Both shook hands with a few of the automatons -- ironic in Merkel's case because I'm pretty sure she's already been replaced by an android.

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