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Trump Says ByteDance Can't Keep Control of TikTok in Oracle Deal

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 18:01
President Donald Trump said he might rescind his tentative blessing for a deal between Oracle and ByteDance to create a new U.S.-based TikTok service, casting doubt on the agreement as Chinese state media signaled reluctance in Beijing. From a report: Speaking in an interview on Fox News on Monday, Trump said he wouldn't approve the deal if the Chinese company retains control of TikTok. However, he also indicated that he expected Chinese influence to be diluted by a future public offering of the new company. "They will have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won't make the deal," Trump said, referring to ByteDance, which owns TikTok. "It's going to be controlled, totally controlled by Oracle, and I guess they're going public and they're buying out the rest of it -- they're buying out a lot, and if we find that they don't have total control then we're not going to approve the deal." Shortly after Trump's comments, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the China state-affiliated Global Times, tweeted that Beijing would likely reject the deal "because the agreement would endanger China's national security, interests and dignity."

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Crysis Remastered PC tech review: brutal performance limits can't be overlooked

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 17:59

Digital Foundry's love of Crysis is well documented and the announcement of its remastering remains one of our highlights of the year. Delays to the launch were a sign that not everything was running to plan, but our hopes remained high, especially when Saber Interactive delivered an excellent Nintendo Switch port of the game. However, the PC and consoles versions have now arrived and even our faith in the franchise is being tested. Crysis Remastered has potential and some stand-out technology, but the fact is that key technical decisions have been made that brutally undermine the quality of the final product. Especially on PC, the game is a disappointment.

We'll be talking about the console versions in a separate article - principally because we're informed that a performance patch for Xbox One and Xbox One X will address key issues we have with the game, as mentioned on launch day. Having seen pre-release Xbox One X code operating at a better level of performance than the final release, we retain some level of optimism here. With PC, we find ourselves highly conflicted about the game. On the one hand, Crysis Remastered pushes technology forward in some remarkable ways, but on the other, it's clear that the whole enterprise is based on the legacy CryEngine 3 versions released way back in 2011 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With that comes compromises to the art that are objectionable, but more crucially, there's a reliance on single-thread performance that means that it's almost impossible to run this port at a locked 60 frames per second - even on a Core i9 10900K, the fastest gaming CPU on the market today.

We'll start with the positives though. Sparse voxel octree global illumination - SVOGI - from the latest CryEngine has been incorporated into the PC build. This technology essentially performs a specific type of software ray tracing to simulate how diffuse light is bounced around an environment, significantly upgrading the lighting of any given scene. All together, SVOGI has a huge effect on the game's visual quality, which can be easily seen by turning it off and on in the options. The difference between real-time GI and a system based on screen-space ambient occlusion and ambient colour probe lighting is profound, and it's one of the standout improvements in the game.

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Categories: Video Games

Facebook Threatens To Pull Out of Europe If It Doesn't Get Its Way

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 17:21
Facebook has threatened to pack up its toys and go home if European regulators don't back down and let the social network get its own way. From a report: In a court filing in Dublin, Facebook said that a decision by Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) would force the company to pull up stakes and leave the 410 million people who use Facebook and photo-sharing service Instagram in the lurch. If the decision is upheld, "it is not clear to [Facebook] how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU," Yvonne Cunnane, who is Facebook Ireland's head of data protection and associate general counsel, wrote in a sworn affidavit. The decision Facebook's referring to is a preliminary order handed down last month to stop the transfer of data about European customers to servers in the U.S., over concerns about U.S. government surveillance of the data. Facebook hit back by filing a lawsuit challenging the Irish DPC's ban, and in a sworn affidavit filed this week, the company leveled some very serious accusations about the Irish data-protection commissioner, including a lack of fairness and apparent bias in singling out Facebook. Cunnane points out that Facebook was given only three weeks to respond to the decision, a period that is "manifestly inadequate," adding that Facebook wasn't contacted about the inquiry prior to judgment being handed down. She also raises concerns about the decision being made "solely" by Helen Dixon, Ireland's data protection commissioner.

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PlayStation 5 photos show off how big it really is

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 17:05

Sony's official photos of the PS5 are designed to play up its elegant and inwardly-curved design - a trick of the eye which brings to mind Microsoft's Xbox 360.

These new photos, from a Taiwanese product filing, do not. Instead, they lay the PS5 down on its side next to a pair of long rulers, and show exactly how big this console is when measured up (thanks The Verge).

Officially, Sony has announced PS5's measurements as 390mm (15.4") height, 260mm (10.24") deep, and 104mm (4.09") wide. But in reality it is likelier to be bigger. These numbers do not include the console's chunky base plate, which it is recommended you use to ensure the thing remains stable.

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Categories: Video Games

'Huang's Law Is the New Moore's Law'

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 16:40
As chip makers have reached the limits of atomic-scale circuitry and the physics of electrons, Moore's law has slowed, and some say it's over. But a different law, potentially no less consequential for computing's next half century, has arisen. WSJ: I call it Huang's Law, after Nvidia chief executive and co-founder Jensen Huang. It describes how the silicon chips that power artificial intelligence more than double in performance every two years. While the increase can be attributed to both hardware and software, its steady progress makes it a unique enabler of everything from autonomous cars, trucks and ships to the face, voice and object recognition in our personal gadgets. Between November 2012 and this May, performance of Nvidia's chips increased 317 times for an important class of AI calculations, says Bill Dally, chief scientist and senior vice president of research at Nvidia. On average, in other words, the performance of these chips more than doubled every year, a rate of progress that makes Moore's Law pale in comparison. Nvidia's specialty has long been graphics processing units, or GPUs, which operate efficiently when there are many independent tasks to be done simultaneously. Central processing units, or CPUs, like the kind that Intel specializes in, are on the other hand much less efficient but better at executing a single, serial task very quickly. You can't chop up every computing process so that it can be efficiently handled by a GPU, but for the ones you can -- including many AI applications -- you can perform it many times as fast while expending the same power. Intel was a primary driver of Moore's Law, but it was hardly the only one. Perpetuating it required tens of thousands of engineers and billions of dollars in investment across hundreds of companies around the globe. Similarly, Nvidia isn't alone in driving Huang's Law -- and in fact its own type of AI processing might, in some applications, be losing its appeal. That's probably a major reason it has moved to acquire chip architect Arm Holdings this month, another company key to ongoing improvement in the speed of AI, for $40 billion.

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Microsoft's Xbox Expands, Buying ZeniMax Media and Fallout Maker Bethesda For $7.5 Billion

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 16:00
Microsoft's Xbox team significantly expanded its list of game development studios on Monday, announcing the purchase of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. From a report: The entertainment company owns several industry-leading game developers, including Bethesda Softworks, the maker of the post-apocalyptic Fallout games and the fantasy series the Elder Scrolls. It also owns id Software, known for its Doom, Rage and Wolfenstein shooting game franchises. The move grows the number of in-house Xbox game development studios to 23, up from 15 earlier, and giving it control of some of the game industry's most popular franchises. Microsoft also plans to run Bethesda as its own division, with leadership and structure intact. "As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

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Microsoft buying Bethesda and Zenimax for $7.5bn

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 15:05

UPDATE 4.30PM UK: According to Bloomberg [paywall], the established PS5 timed-exclusivity for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will not be changed by today's acquisition. (Yes, that means Microsoft will technically be publishing two PlayStation 5 timed-exclusives.)

Beyond these, the rest of Bethesda's upcoming games (such as the next Elder Scrolls) will launch on Xbox, PC and "other consoles on a case-by-case basis", the outlet was told by Xbox boss Phil Spencer.

ORIGINAL STORY 2PM UK: In a monumental acquisition that shakes up the gaming landscape, Microsoft has announced it will acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks and more, for $7.5bn.

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Categories: Video Games

17 years later, Freedom Fighters is back

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 15:00

IO has re-released Freedom Fighters.

The Hitman developer's third-person shooter, which originally launched in 2003 for PC, Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2, returns 17 years later in working order on Windows 10 via GOG.com, the Epic Games Store and Steam.

Freedom Fighters is set in an alternate history where the Soviet Union has invaded and occupied New York City. You play a plumber turned resistance fighter who ends up leading the fightback.

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Categories: Video Games

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple Urged to Stop Advertising to Minors

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 13:34
The BBC reports: Tech firms have been urged to stop advertising to under-18s in an open letter signed by Members of Parliament, academics and children's-rights advocates. Behavioural advertising not only undermines privacy but puts "susceptible" youngsters under unfair marketing pressure, the letter says. It is addressed to Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. In a separate move Google-owned YouTube is accused of unlawfully mining data from five million under-13s in the UK... "The fact that ad-tech companies hold 72 million data points on a child by the time they turn 13 shows the extent of disregard for these laws, and the extraordinary surveillance to which children are subjected," the letter reads.

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PlayStation 5 Digital Edition stock far lower than standard PS5, sources say

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 13:00

Sony's £450 PlayStation 5 sold out fast when pre-orders opened last week. But pre-orders for the £360 PlayStation 5 Digital Edition? Those seemed to go even faster.

There was huge demand for the cheaper Digital Edition, but also reports there was far less Digital Edition stock to go around. Now, retail sources Eurogamer has spoken to have said this was accurate.

A source at one major UK retailer said their company's stock allocation had been around 25 per cent Digital Edition versus 75 per cent regular PS5, though this might vary slightly from store to store.

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Categories: Video Games

Hades has sold 1m copies

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 12:40

Hades, the Greek underworld roguelike made by Supergiant Games, has now shifted an impressive 1m copies.

The game first came out in early access in December 2018, and during that time managed to sell over 700k units, but since the game's full release on PC and Switch last Thursday that number has increased by over 300k.

"To all our Early Access players: Thank you so much," Supergiant said on Twitter. "We designed Hades for Early Access, believing you could help us make a better game. That's just what you did."

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Categories: Video Games

Google Returns to Using Humans (Instead of AI) to Moderate Content on YouTube

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 10:34
"Google is bringing back human moderators to oversee YouTube content, taking over from automated systems that were given more responsibilities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," reports Digital Trends: YouTube revealed in late August that in the three months prior, 11.4 million videos have been removed from the platform for violating its Community Guidelines. This is the highest number of videos taken down from YouTube over a three-month period since the service was launched in 2005, and it was attributed to the higher reliance on A.I. as the pandemic prevented human reviewers from going to work. YouTube admitted, however, that some of the videos would have been erroneously removed... Mashable reports: According to the Financial Times, YouTube reversed content moderation decisions on 160,000 videos. Usually, YouTube reverses its rulings on less than 25 percent of appeals; under AI moderation, half of the total number of appeals were successful... Now, the company is able to reassign some of that work back to humans who can make more nuanced decisions.

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Welcome To Elk review - laughter, tears, and lots of beer

Eurogamer - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 10:05

The first thing protagonist Frigg does upon arriving on the small Danish island of Elk is attend a party in a pub, a celebration for a long dead member of the community who ironically no one in attendance liked. Death has a way of sneaking its way into the game like that, an ever-present force Elk's inhabitants navigate around, mostly by drinking lots of Tuborg and making the best of it all. Frigg actually came to Elk to help a friend of her father's with some woodwork, but with everything else going on, making chairs was soon the furthest thing from everyone's mind.

Instead, Frigg is the guest who helps take people's mind off things or perform small tasks. These moments are depicted through some great minigames, like building a fantasy pub out of Legos or designing a squirrel trap (sorry, squirrels) in what's otherwise a narrative-focused game. The breadth of genres in those short games is really astounding - each would have been a lot of fun as a standalone.

Welcome to Elk's plot takes place over a number of days, with a different event unfolding each day. Frigg's experiences on the island are all inspired by true stories, stories the game integrates in a unique way - you can either read the stories as messages in a bottle, told by the real human beings who passed them onto the team, or you get to watch an almost documentary-style recounting of an incident. Neither may be entirely true - Elk simply gives you no way to know, even when it's real people on screen seemingly recounting true experiences.

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Categories: Video Games

From Climate Change to the Dangers of Smoking: How Powerful Interests 'Made Us Doubt Everything'

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 07:19
BBC News reports: In 1991, the trade body that represents electrical companies in the U.S., the Edison Electric Institute, created a campaign called the Information Council for the Environment which aimed to "Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)". Some details of the campaign were leaked to the New York Times. "They ran advertising campaigns designed to undermine public support, cherry picking the data to say, 'Well if the world is warming up, why is Kentucky getting colder?' They asked rhetorical questions designed to create confusion, to create doubt," argued Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University and co-author of Merchants of Doubt. But back in the 1990 there were many campaigns like this... Most of the organisations opposing or denying climate change science were right-wing think tanks, who tended to be passionately anti-regulation. These groups made convenient allies for the oil industry, as they would argue against action on climate change on ideological grounds. Jerry Taylor spent 23 years with the Cato Institute — one of those right wing think tanks — latterly as vice president. Before he left in 2014, he would regularly appear on TV and radio, insisting that the science of climate change was uncertain and there was no need to act. Now, he realises his arguments were based on a misinterpretation of the science, and he regrets the impact he's had on the debate. Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes discovered leading climate-change skeptics had also been prominent skeptics on the dangers of cigarette smoking. "That was a Eureka moment," Oreskes tells BBC News. "We realised this was not a scientific debate." Decades before the energy industry tried to undermine the case for climate change, tobacco companies had used the same techniques to challenge the emerging links between smoking and lung cancer in the 1950s... As a later document by tobacco company Brown and Williamson summarised the approach: "Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public." Naomi Oreskes says this understanding of the power of doubt is vital. "They realise they can't win this battle by making a false claim that sooner or later would be exposed. But if they can create doubt, that would be sufficient — because if people are confused about the issue, there's a good chance they'll just keep smoking...." Academics like David Michaels, author of The Triumph of Doubt, fear the use of uncertainty in the past to confuse the public and undermine science has contributed to a dangerous erosion of trust in facts and experts across the globe today, far beyond climate science or the dangers of tobacco. He cites public attitudes to modern issues like the safety of 5G, vaccinations — and coronavirus. "By cynically manipulating and distorting scientific evidence, the manufacturers of doubt have seeded in much of the public a cynicism about science, making it far more difficult to convince people that science provides useful — in some cases, vitally important — information. "There is no question that this distrust of science and scientists is making it more difficult to stem the coronavirus pandemic."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

With New Security and Free Internet Issues, What Did the TikTok Deal Really Achieve?

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 04:19
Though the U.S. government averted a shutdown of TikTok through a new Oracle/Walmart partnership, that leaves much bigger questions unresolved. The biggest issue may be that banning apps "defeats the original intent of the internet," argues the New York TImes. "And that was to create a global communications network, unrestrained by national borders." "The vision for a single, interconnected network around the globe is long gone," Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs and an expert on cyber conflict. "All we can do now is try to steer toward optimal fragmentation." But the Times also asks whether the TikTok agreement fails even at its original goal of protecting the app from foreign influence: The code and algorithms are the magic sauce that Beijing now says, citing its own national security concerns, may not be exported to to a foreign adversary... Microsoft's bid went further: It would have owned the source code and algorithms from the first day of the acquisition, and over the course of a year moved their development entirely to the United States, with engineers vetted for "insider threats." So far, at least, Oracle has not declared how it would handle that issue. Nor did President Trump in his announcement of the deal. Until they do, it will be impossible to know if Mr. Trump has achieved his objective: preventing Chinese engineers, perhaps under the influence of the state, from manipulating the code in ways that could censor, or manipulate, what American users see. Other questions also remain, including America's larger policy towards other apps like Telegram made by foreign countries. Even Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford's Freeman-Spogli Institute, complains to the Times that "bashing TikTok is not a China strategy. China has a multi-prong strategy to win the tech race. It invests in American technology, steals intellectual property and now develops its own technology that is coming into the U.S... And yet we think we can counter this by banning an app. The forest is on fire, and we are spraying a garden hose on a bush." And another article in the Times argues that the TikTok agreement doesn't even eliminate Chinese ownership of the app: Under the initial terms, ByteDance still controls 80 percent of TikTok Global, two people with knowledge of the situation have said, though details may change. ByteDance's chief executive, Zhang Yiming, will also be on the company's board of directors, said a third person. And the government did not provide specifics about how the deal would answer its security concerns about TikTok... A news release published by Walmart on Saturday on its website — then edited later — captured the chaos. "This unique technology eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation," the company said. "Ekejechb ecehggedkrrnikldebgtkjkddhfdenbhbkuk."

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Could Open Source Licensing Stop Big Pharma Profiteering On Taxpayer-Funded Covid-19 Vaccines?

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 02:05
Two professors at the University of Massachusetts have co-authored a new essay explaining how open source licensing "could keep Big Pharma from making huge profits off taxpayer-funded research" in the international, multi-billion-dollar race for a Covid-19 vaccine: The invention of the "General Public License," sometimes referred to as a viral or reciprocal license, meant that should an improvement be made, the new software version automatically inherits the same license as its parent. We believe that in a time of a global pandemic, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine should be licensed with General Public License-like properties... Fortunately, some pharmaceutical companies, national governments, nonprofits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and international organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives — which supports vaccine development — are putting policies in place that embrace openness and sharing rather than intellectual property protection. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives officials have stated that all of their funding agreements require that "appropriate vaccines are first available to populations when and where they are needed to end an outbreak or curtail an epidemic, regardless of ability to pay." That's an important start. However, when there is a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. and other national governments need to create contractual agreements with firms that provide fair and reasonable funding to cover their costs or even some reasonable profit margin while still mandating the open sharing of the processes for vaccine production, quality assurance and rapid global distribution.

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Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs: the Books They Recommended

Slashdot - Mon, 21/09/2020 - 00:52
Slashdot has featured "the 61 books Elon Musk has recommended on Twitter" as well as the 41 books Mark Zuckerberg recommended on Facebook. Both lists were compiled by a slick web site (with Amazon referrer codes) called "Most Recommended Books." But they've also created pages showing books recommended by over 400 other public figures — incuding Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs — which provide surprisingly revealing glimpses into the minds of two very different men. Here's some of the highlights...

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Browser Extension uMatrix Ends Active Development

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 23:40
Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm quotes Ghacks: Raymond Hill, known online as gorhill, has set the status of the uMatrix GitHub repository to archived; this means that it is read-only at the time and that no updates will become available. The uMatrix extension is available for several browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, and most Firefox and Chromium-based browsers. It is a privacy and security extensions for advanced users that provides firewall-like capabilities when it is installed... Hill suggests that developers could fork the extension to continue development under a new name. There is also the chance that Hill might resume development in the future but there is no guarantee that this is going to happen. For now, uMatrix is no longer in active development.

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Maybe CS Class Isn't the Best Way To Expose Most Kids To CS

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 22:42
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: "If we want all students to learn computer science (CS for All), we have to go to where the students are," writes University of Michigan Grand Valley State University CS Professor Mark Guzdial. "Unfortunately, that's not computer science class. In most US states, less than 5% of high school students take a course in computer science. "Programming is applicable and useful in many domains today, so one answer is to use programming in science, mathematics, social studies, and other non-CS classes. We take programming to where the students are, and hope to increase their interest and knowledge about CS." America's National Science Foundation (NSF) was intrigued enough by this idea to fund Creating Adoptable Computing Education Integrated into Social Studies Classes, a three-year project created by Guzdial and Grand Valley State University history professor Tamara Shreiner, a project which "aims to provide more students computing education by integrating programming activities into social studies classes and to use the computing to enhance students' data literacy." Along the same lines, the NSF has also greenlighted Northwestern University's CS professor Marcelo Worsley's Computational Thinking and Physical Computing in Physical Education for this fall, which will bring computer science to K-5 gym classes. While the tech giants have lobbied for billions in spending on "rigorous" K-12 CS courses, could it be that the best "CS class" for most K-12 students is no CS class?

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America's Air Force Secretly Designed, Built, and Flew a Brand-New Fighter Jet

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 21:48
"The U.S. Air Force revealed this week that it has secretly designed, built, and tested a new prototype fighter jet," reports Popular Mechanics: According to Defense News, the Air Force developed the new fighter in about a year — a staggeringly short amount of time by modern standards. The Air Force first developed a virtual version of the jet, and then proceeded to build and fly a full-sized prototype, complete with mission systems... It took the Air Force just one year to get to the point with the "Next Generation Air Dominance" (NGAD) fighter that it reached in 10 years with the F-35. The Air Force designed the NGAD to ensure the service's "air dominance" in future conflicts versus the fighters of potential adversaries. The new fighter, then, is almost certainly optimized for air-to-air combat. It's a safe bet the fighter uses off-the-shelf avionics, engines, and weapons borrowed from other aircraft, such as the F-35 and F/A-18E/F... If the Air Force and industry can design a new fighter in one year, it could come up with all sorts of cool new planes. This could encourage the development of more exotic, riskier designs that contractors would not otherwise want to devote a full decade to develop. The ability to fail — or succeed — faster will drive innovation in the world of fighter jets in ways not seen for a half century or more. "We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before," says Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in an interview with Defense News: Should the Air Force move to buy NGAD in the near term, it will be adding a challenger to the F-35 and F-15EX programs, potentially putting those programs at risk. And because the advanced manufacturing techniques that are critical for building NGAD were pioneered by the commercial sector, the program could open the door for new prime contractors for the aircraft to emerge — and perhaps give SpaceX founder Elon Musk a shot at designing an F-35 competitor. "I have to imagine there will be a lot of engineers — maybe famous ones with well-known household names with billions of dollars to invest — that will decide starting the world's greatest aircraft company to build the world's greatest aircraft with the Air Force is exactly the kind of inspiring thing they want to do as a hobby or even a main gig," Roper said.

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