John Carmack has resigned from his position as an executive consultant for VR with Meta and cites a lack of efficiency as a primary reason in an internal note. The legendary programmer had previously been the Chief Technology Officer for Oculus but left that position in 2019 to work on AI but had stayed on as a consultant for the VR department. The note was leaked to the press and snippets of it were published resulting in John Carmack releasing the note in its entirety on Facebook.
In the note, John repeatedly explains how his life and passion for optimizing and being efficient were stifled by an inconsistent direction of his team and a squandering of resources. Team members exhibited a kind of apathetic or even sarcastic attitude towards the inefficient processes that were described as a form of self-sabotage. He owns that he could’ve done things differently by speaking up more and fighting against the issues but also felt he would’ve been bad at it, hate doing it, and lose out anyway.
John Carmack ends the note on a positive point by wishing the team the best and advising them to plow ahead, infuse the products with a “Give a damn!” attitude, and think about making changes for improvement while giving props to Meta as being one the best companies to continue pushing VR development. He also says that he looks forward to putting more focus into his own startup.
Complete Unedited Note
“I resigned from my position as an executive consultant for VR with Meta. My internal post to the company got leaked to the press, but that just results in them picking a few choice bits out of it. Here is the full post, just as the internal employees saw it:
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 beginning – 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 out of it. We have a good product. It is successful, and successful products make the world a better place. 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.
The issue is our efficiency.
Some will ask why I care how the progress is happening, as long as it is happening?
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.
If I am trying to sway others, I would say that an org that has only known inefficiency is ill-prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt-tightening, but really, it is the more personal pain of seeing a 5% GPU utilization number in production. I am offended by it.
We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. Some may scoff and contend we are doing just fine, but others will laugh and say “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!”
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. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two passes and evidence piles up, but I have never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my influence at the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.
This was admittedly self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to wage battles with generations of leadership, but I was busy programming, and I assumed I would hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose anyway.
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. Maybe it actually is possible to get there by just plowing ahead with current practices, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”! “