VR mastermind John Carmack leaves Meta for good and goes all in on AGI
VR pioneer John Carmack is leaving Meta for good. With his departure, the industry loses a visionary and an important voice.
Carmack published his farewell letter on Facebook after parts of the email were leaked to the press.
In the message to employees, Carmack, as usual, doesn’t mince words. He cites a lack of efficiency and his powerlessness to change anything about this circumstance as reasons.
“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy,” Carmack writes. “It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m evidently not persuasive enough.”
Tired of fighting, Carmack says he has his own company to run. But the battle for virtual reality’s success is still winnable, he says.
“Enough complaining. I wearied of the fight and have my own startup to run, but the fight is still winnable! VR can bring value to most of the people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do it than Meta.”
Carmack also cites positive points. Meta Quest 2, he says, turned out to be a “good product” and close to what he wanted from the start. “It all could have happened a bit faster and been going better if different decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to The Right Thing.”
Carmack’s VR career: from pioneer to critic
Carmack spent a little more than a decade in the VR industry and played a major role in shaping it. In 2012, the legendary developer sparked the VR hype, joined Oculus a year later as chief technology officer, and remained in that role after Facebook acquired the company. He led the development of Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Go, two VR headsets that paved the way for Meta Quest.
Carmack’s vision from the beginning was that VR should be standalone: no cables, no external sensors, and no connection to external players. An intuition that later proved to be trend-setting and made Meta Quest 2 the most successful VR headset to date.
At the end of 2019, he gave up his role as Oculus chief technology officer to devote himself to the development of artificial intelligence. From then on, he worked for Meta as an external consultant. In August, Carmack wrote that he still spent about 20 percent of his work time on VR and AR projects for the company.
Carmack and Zuckerberg are at odds
Lately, Carmack has been increasingly critical of Meta. In an interview with podcaster Lex Fridman, the programmer lamented high expenses and wasted resources.
Carmack is known for his honest and candid talks about the state of the industry, which he gives every year at Meta’s VR and AR conference. At his most recent talk in October, he also spoke candidly about the company’s failures.
I thought that the “derivative of delivered value” was positive in 2021, but that it turned negative in 2022. There are good reasons to believe that it just edged back into positive territory again, but there is a notable gap between Mark Zuckerberg and I on various strategic
– John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) December 17, 2022
On Twitter, he elaborates on the reasons for his departure and hints at disagreements with Zuckerberg. “There is a notable gap between Mark Zuckerberg and I on various strategic issues, so I knew it would be extra frustrating to keep pushing my viewpoint internally.”
Carmack now wants to devote himself fully to the development of general artificial intelligence with his AI startup Keen Technologies.