John Carmack leaves Meta

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I have resigned from my position as executive consultant for VR at Meta. My internal mail at the company was leaked to the press, but that only resulted in them picking out a few cut outs. Here’s the full message, as the internal staff saw it.

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This is the end of my decade in VR.

I have mixed feelings.

Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start: mobile hardware, inside-out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4K(ish) screen, cost-effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people are still getting value from it. We have a good product. It’s successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It could have happened a little faster and could have gone better if other decisions had been made, but we’ve built something pretty close to The Right Thing.

The problem is our efficiency.

Some will ask why do I care how progress happens, as long as it happens?

When trying to influence others I would say that an organization that has known only inefficiency is ill-prepared for the inevitable competition and/or tightening of belts, but in reality it is the more personal pain of seeing a 5% GPU utilization rate in production. I am offended by it.

[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 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 tragically low number on a profiling tool.]

We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we are constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting effort. There’s no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. Some may scoff and claim we’re doing fine, but others will laugh and say, “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!”

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 complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two of passes and the evidence piles up, but I’ve never been able to kill stupid things before they do damage, or set a direction and a team actually stick to it. I think my influence has been positive on the margins, but it’s never been a prime move.

Admittedly this was my own fault – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to compete with generations of leaders, but I was programming and I assumed I’d hate it, there would be bad at it and probably lose anyway.

Enough complaining. I was tired of the fight and have my own startup to run, but the fight is still winnable! VR can add value to most people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do so than Meta. Perhaps it is possible to get there by simply continuing with current practices, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”!

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