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Citing Inefficiencies, John Carmack Quits Meta

Posted December 17, 2022 | Games | Meta | Oculus | virtual reality | VR | Windows

Image credit: Drew “Prognar” Campbell

Legendary programmer John Carmack announced last night that he has quit Meta after struggling to deal with the company’s inefficiencies for 8 years.

“The issue is our efficiency,” he wrote in an internal post to employees, which he’s now made public. “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 percent GPU utilization number in production. I am offended by it.”

If you know anything about Carmack, that last bit will make lots of sense: this is the man who wrung ungodly graphics performance out of mediocre PC hardware, catapulting the platform into a lucrative new category. Across an astonishingly successful series of game franchises, including Commander Keen, Doom, Quake, Rage, and their many offshoots, Carmack’s game engines always defined the state of the art. His career in many ways was predicated on efficiency at every level.

Carmack, of course, left Id Software, the company he had cofounded, in 2013 to join Oculus VR as CTO. Oculus was then acquired by Facebook a year later, with Carmack continuing as Oculus CTO. But he left the firm, now named Meta, in 2019 and became a “consulting CTO” so that he could spend 80 percent of his time on AI. And it’s pretty clear now that he spent most of his time at Facebook/Meta in a frustrated state.

“We [Meta] have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort,” Carmack’s letter to employees continues. “There is no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy … 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.”

Carmack still believes in VR and even in Meta, and he says that the firm could still emerge as the leader in this forever-emerging market. But “there is plenty of room for improvement,” he says.

“Make better decisions and fill your products with ‘Give a Damn’!”, his letter concludes.

Carmack will now continue his work on AI at Keen Technologies, the company he started this past year. In August, Keen raised $20 million in financing.

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