Meta just took another hit. John Carmack, a virtual reality pioneer, is leaving his high-level consulting role at the company—and complaining about its inefficiency on his way out.
His departure comes as investors are increasingly worried about CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with the metaverse, a largely unrealized virtual world that has underwhelmed users and could take years to become profitable, if it ever does. (Even Meta employees directly involved in the effort don’t seem that impressed with it.)
While Meta remains a juggernaut thanks to Facebook and Instagram, it’s seen slowing growth in social media and has spent huge amounts on the metaverse. It announced large layoffs last month and has seen its shares fall more than 60% this year.
Carmack explained his reasons for leaving Meta in a farewell note shared on Facebook, writing: “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.”
He added in a tweet that he has “always been pretty frustrated with how things get done at FB/Meta. Everything necessary for spectacular success is right there, but it doesn’t get put together effectively.”
Carmack is widely known for his work with virtual reality headsets. He was the chief technology officer of Oculus, the VR firm Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014. He was also the lead programmer for many revolutionary video games, including Doom and Quake.
His exit will do little to reassure investors worried about Meta’s direction, and it has many in the tech industry pondering inefficiency at large companies.
Frustration at Meta
Carmack’s farewell note “summarizes a sentiment I’ve heard from literally all of the highest impact/most effective people I’ve talked to at large companies: You can make a big difference, but you’re constantly fighting a self-sabotaging organization,” tweeted Dan Luu, a former Twitter engineer.
“Feels weird to think that even people of his caliber will face those challenges,” tweeted Vittorio Bertocci, principal architect for Auth0.
Carmack’s caliber was reflected in the outpouring of gratitude shown in comments posted below his departure note, with some software engineers saying he inspired them to enter the profession.
Facebook CTO Andrew Bosworth was no less effusive, tweeting on Friday: “It is impossible to overstate the impact you’ve had on our work and the industry as a whole. Your technical prowess is widely known, but it is your relentless focus on creating value for people that we will remember most. Thank you and see you in VR.”
In an August interview on the Lex Fridman podcast, Carmack shared why why virtual reality inspired him: “My pitch was that it should be better inside the headset than outside—the world as you want it…I think it’s going be a positive thing, this world where people want to go back into their headset.”
Carmack will now focus on his startup Keen Technologies, which raised $20 million in August. Its goal is human-like artificial intelligence, or AGI (artificial general intelligence).
As he tweeted at the time of the funding, it’s “AGI or bust, by way of Mad Science.”
That’s a lofty goal—some would say an unattainable one—but at least he’ll be less hampered by bureaucracy trying to achieve it.
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