December 10, 2019

John Carmack moves to ‘consulting CTO’ role at Oculus

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John Carmack is stepping down from his full-time position as chief technology officer at Facebook Oculus virtual reality division. Carmack said in a Facebook post that he will be a “consulting CTO” going forward.

Carmack started at Oculus in 2013 as CTO and helped popularize the movement to bring consumer VR back to the masses with modern technology. He started at Facebook after the social media company acquired Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. And he weathered a lawsuit between ZeniMax, which bought his old company id Software, and Facebook over the ownership of the VR technology that Carmack worked on with Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus.

Long considered one of the greatest minds working in game development, Carmack was a cofounder of id Software, maker of the seminal first-person shooter games such as Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. He was an evangelist for mobile VR and spearheaded development of Oculus’ involvement in the Samsung Gear VR and other mobile VR tech.

At Oculus, Carmack was known for his extemporaneous, free-wheeling, two-hour keynote speeches about VR in which he held engineers and programmers (but practically no one else) spellbound with his knowledge about VR. He also gave freely of his time, going around the event and answering questions from people from the VR community who surrounded him.

In his post, Carmack said he is going to work on artificial general intelligence. His departure from Oculus, if it really is that, is a blow to VR, which has struggled to get a mainstream audience.

Here’s what Carmack wrote:

Starting this week, I’m moving to a “Consulting CTO” position with Oculus.

I will still have a voice in the development work, but it will only be consuming a modest slice of my time.

As for what I am going to be doing with the rest of my time: When I think back over everything I have done across games, aerospace, and VR, I have always felt that I had at least a vague “line of sight” to the solutions, even if they were unconventional or unproven. I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn’t in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old.

I’m going to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI).

I think it is possible, enormously valuable, and that I have a non-negligible chance of making a difference there, so by a Pascal’s Mugging sort of logic, I should be working on it.

For the time being at least, I am going to be going about it “Victorian Gentleman Scientist” style, pursuing my inquiries from home, and drafting my son into the work.

Runner up for next project was cost effective nuclear fission reactors, which wouldn’t have been as suitable for that style of work.