John Carmack Legendary game designerAnd the Rocket man And VR enthusiasts, he announced he was leaving both Meta/Facebook, and the VR business itself, after a decade as one of its most prominent champions.
Carmack The position was like Executive consultant. After initially sending his farewell message to colleagues in an internal memo, when this was partially leaked to the media, he decided to post the whole thing — including some explanations — on his Facebook page instead.
Here it is in full:
This is the end of my virtual reality contract.
I have mixed feelings.
The Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start — mobile hardware, indoor-outdoor tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k(ish) display, cost-effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people still benefit from it. We have a good product. It’s a successful product, and successful products make the world a better place. Everything could have happened a little faster and worked out better if different decisions had been made, but we built something very close to the right thing.
The issue is our efficiency.
Some will ask why do I care how progress happens, as long as it does?
If I were trying to impress others, I’d say that an organization that has only known inefficiency isn’t prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt-tightening, but really, it’s a more personal pain to see a 5% GPU usage figure in production. I’m upset about that.
[edit: I was being overly poetic here, as several people have missed the intention. As a systems optimization person, I care deeply about efficiency. When you work hard at optimization for most of your life, seeing something that is grossly inefficient hurts your soul. I was likening observing our organization’s performance to seeing a tragically low number on a profiling tool.]
We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we’re constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting effort. There is no way to coat this in sugar; I think our organization works half as effectively as it makes me happy. Some may scoff and argue that we are doing a good job, but others will laugh and say “Half? Ha! I’m in a quarter efficiency!”
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 convincing enough. A good portion of the things I complain about eventually get my way after a year or two and the evidence accumulates, but I’ve never been able to kill the stupid stuff before it causes damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my impact on the sidelines has been positive, but it’s never been a major driver.
Granted, this is self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to pick fights with generations of leadership, but I was so busy programming, I assumed I’d hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose anyway.
Enough complaining. I’m tired of fighting and I have a startup to run, but the battle is still winnable! Virtual reality can bring value to most people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do so than Meta. It may indeed be possible to get there by moving forward with current practices, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”!
As his explanation makes clear, while his comments may sound damning, they don’t necessarily relate to any individual he was working with, or decisions made over him. They’re more about his apparent passion for the idea of optimization itself, a structural and methodological problem that, at a company as big as Meta, might have been maddening for a guy used to writing code and launching rockets into space.
This would normally be a part of the story where I’d like to leave some guesswork, perhaps how such a high-profile departure could spell trouble for the Meta’s efforts in space, but lol, I think the Meta does a good enough job of shouting it from the rooftops themselves.
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