February 3, 2023

John Carmack has left his position as chief technology officer at Meta, saying the company “constantly sabotages itself” in their virtual reality efforts and that he’s “never been able to kill stupid things before they do damage.” Carmack made the comments in an internal memo leaked to Business Insider (subscription required). Carmack says he is now focusing his efforts on his artificial intelligence startup.

After the leak happened, Carmack posted the full text of the memo to Facebook, adding some additional context.

“This is the end of my decade in VR. I have mixed feelings,” Carmack begins. After writing that the Quest 2 is “almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start”, he explains that his problem lies with the company’s “efficiency”.

“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we are constantly sabotaging and wasting our efforts. There is no way to reconcile this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy.

“It’s been a struggle for me. I have a top-level voice here, so it feels like I should be able to move things around, but apparently I’m not convincing enough. A lot of the things I end up complaining about turn my way after a year or two passes and the evidence piles up, but I’ve never been able to kill stupid things before they do damage, or map out a direction and actually get a team to stick to it. but it’s never been a prime mover.”

While some of these words are harsh, Carmack says part of the pain stems from his years of dedication to writing efficient code. “When you spend most of your life working hard at optimization, it hurts your soul to see something that is wildly inefficient.” He also adds that he might have been more convincing if he had moved to Meta’s Menlo Park headquarters and focused more on leadership rather than focusing on programming, but that “I assumed I’d hate it , would be bad at it and probably lose anyway.” .”

Carmack’s departure from Meta has long been announced. Several years ago, the co-founder of Id Software wrote that he expected the last act of his career to be aimed at creating artificial general intelligence. Earlier this year, his AGI startup Keen Technologies launched raised $20 million in funding (approximately £16.4 million). More recently, Carmack had only spent “about 20%” of his time on Meta.

Carmack’s departure may have more symbolic than actual significance. Even before joining Meta from ZeniMax – itself a source of controversy – Carmack was one of the most prominent faces of the modern virtual reality resurgence. When the original Oculus Rift tech was shown off, it was by Carmack in a back room at E3 with a jerry-rigged headset prototype and a copy of Doom 3. That he’s now left the industry behind, and games in general , feels like the end of an era.

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