A top Facebook VR exec is taking a step away from the company to become a 'Victorian Gentleman Scientist' working on AI

john carmackJohn Carmack arrives for The British Academy Games Awards 2016 at Tobacco Dock on April 7, 2016 in London, England.Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

  • Oculus exec John Carmack is leaving his post as CTO to work on artificial intelligence.
  • The legendary game programmer is stepping away from his position at the top of Facebook's virtual reality unit, though he says he will remain a "consulting CTO."
  • Carmack will now focus his time on working on artificial general intelligence, a branch of AI focusing on building flexible, human-like intelligence with machines.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Top Facebook executive and legendary game programmer John Carmack is stepping away from his role as chief technology officer at Facebook-owned virtual reality unit Oculus to focus on artificial intelligence research.

In a post on Facebook on Wednesday, Carmack announced that he is transitioning to a "consulting CTO" role and is going to work on artificial general intelligence, a branch of AI research that focuses on building flexible, human-like intelligence.

"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," he wrote. "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."

A Facebook spokesperson stressed that Carmack would remain at Facebook, albeit in this new role. There are no plans to hire a new CTO for Oculus, they said.

Carmack's departure represents the latest exit or transition by a respected leader at a company acquired by Facebook. Over the past few years, the founders and heads of businesses including WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus have all steadily left Facebook as their products have been more closely integrated into Facebook; Carmack wasn't a founder of Oculus, but he joined it early in its life, prior to its acquisition by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, and remained at the helm as CTO since then.

The 49-year-old technology exec is a legend in the video games industry, cofounding the id Software studio that was responsible for megahits like Doom, before joining Facebook.

Here's Carmack's full goodbye post on Facebook:

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.

Do you work at Oculus or Facebook? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

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