July 14, 2024

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John Carmack says Meta “constantly sabotages itself” for its VR efforts

John Carmack left his position as chief technology officer of the Meta, saying that the company “constantly sabotages itself” in its VR efforts and that he “wasn’t able to kill stupid things before they do damage”. Carmack made these comments in an internal memo leaked to Business interested (subscription required). Carmack says he is now focusing his efforts on his AI startup.

After the leak occurred, Carmack posted a Full text of the note on Facebookwith some additional context.

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

“We have an absurd amount of people and resources, but we are constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting efforts. There is no way to cover this up; I think our organization works half as effectively as it makes me happy.”

“It’s been a struggle for me. I have a voice on the highest levels here, so I feel like I should be able to move things along, but I’m clearly not persuasive enough. A big part of the things I complain about end up turning my way a year later or Two years and accumulating evidence, but I’ve never been able to kill stupid things before they cause harm, or set a direction, and I think my influence on the sidelines has been positive, but it’s never been a major driver.”

While some of those words are harsh, Carmack says the pain is partly driven by his years devoted to writing efficient code. “When you’ve been working so hard on improving for most of your life, seeing something terribly ineffective hurts your soul.” He also adds that it might have been more convincing if he moved to the Meta headquarters in Menlo Park and got more involved with the leadership rather than focusing on programming, but “I assumed I’d hate it, avoid it, and probably lose it anyway.”

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Carmack’s departure from Meta had been long anticipated. Several years ago, the co-founder of Id Software wrote that he expected the last work of his career to focus on creating artificial general intelligence. Earlier this year, his startup Keen Technologies was at AGI Raised $20 million in financing (about 16.4 million pounds sterling). Recently, Carmack has only been devoting “about 20%” of his time on the meta.

Carmack’s departure may have more symbolic than actual significance. Even before joining the Meta from ZeniMax – itself a source of controversy Carmack was one of the most prominent faces of the recent renaissance of virtual reality. When the original Oculus Rift compression technology was shown off, it was by Carmack in a back room at E3 with a prototype headset fitted with Jerry and a copy of Doom 3. He left the industry behind, and games in general, the end of an era.