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Carmack comments on why Facebook might be a good fit for Oculus VR
Carmack comments on why Facebook might be a good fit for Oculus VR
March 31, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

March 31, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
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As you may recall, Facebook publicly announced it had acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion in cash and stock early last week.

Both parties published their official opinions of the union alongside large swathes of the internet-enabled public last week, and over the weekend Oculus VR CTO John Carmack -- a veteran programmer whose career spans Softdisk, id Software, and Armadillo Aerospace -- appears to have expressed his thoughts in a series of comments on a blog post by Peter Berkman.

Berkman, guitarist and lead songwriter for the chiptune band Anamanaguchi, wrote about his growing concern that people on the internet were getting upset about Oculus VR's acquisition for all the wrong reasons.

In response, Carmack -- or someone with access to his Twitter account pretending to be him -- published two comments outlining why Oculus VR was fated to be acquired by a much larger company and why that might merit cautious optimism.

"Honestly, I wasn't expecting Facebook (or this soon). I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies," wrote Carmack. "However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don't make a commitment like they just did on a whim."

Carmack went on to sympathize with the privacy concerns of Berkman and other commenters, but admitted that he doesn't have much of a problem with the prospect of Facebook collecting data from Oculus users.

"Being data driven is a GOOD thing for most companies to be," wrote Carmack. "Everyone cheers the novel creative insight and bold leadership that leads to some successes, and tut tuts about companies ending up poorly by blindly following data, but cold analysis of the data is incredibly important, and I tend to think the world will be improved with more and better data analysis."

You can read his full comments on Berkman's blog.


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Comments


Timmy GILBERT
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Carmack should note that what's good for a company might not be good for people.

Innes McNiel
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While being data driven is important, Facebook's problem ends up being that a lot of the data collection they do is all based in implied consent. Things like area demographics are a far sight different than "I just broke up with my significant other and am in a relationship with somebody else the same day" or any of the other information that facebook collects to a ridiculous degree of granularity. It's all a little worrying.

Jay Anne
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What's a concrete example of a serious event that happened to a user due to Facebook data collection?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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@Jay -- Are you fine with me rummaging through your mail if I've done it to your neighbors and no "concrete" or "serious" event happened?

Jay Anne
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@Jeffrey Crenshaw
If I'm handing over my mail because it is part of a service that you are providing for me, then yes I'm fine with it. If I see others fall victim due to that service, then I'll stop. I don't make it a habit to hamstring my life over theoretical events that have never happened.

Timmy GILBERT
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Well you are just a google away from said story, there is plenty enough to not be ignored. Like being fired other image a third party upload and tagged, people being stalk by being datamine from information friends have collect on them, etc ...

Amir Barak
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@Jay
So you've got no issues with the mailman/woman reading your next letter from Amazon (or whatever) then calling you to ask if you're interested in some of their books?

Eric Gilbert
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@Jay
Here's one example of analytics harming someone (granted not facebook specifically, but same principle)...and this was just from purchasing pattern data:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-fig
ured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/

Big data and analytics have a huge potential for abuse. Technology is inherently neutral, but people use that technology for good or bad. Not understanding the risk of the bad uses is pretty naive. What happens when the analytics infer incorrectly? How would you correct that...or more importantly, how would you even know about it?

Benjamin Quintero
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@Jay

I think one of the biggest concerns with most data mining is that information is being extracted and stored beyond your control. People make mistakes in life and they do what they can to fix it and be a better person. Digital mining is a scarlet letter that doesn't wash off. This is effectively giving a corporation the keys to your life, your dating past, the schools you attended, your credit history, your inner most secrets, then asking them not to use it for their own financial gain.

The smart thing to do would be to not be stupid, and if you are then don't put it on the web. But that just isn't how it works and most people don't understand how persistent something can be if it goes viral. This is especially bad if Facebook is hacked or has changed their privacy settings and a lewd photo made it's way out of your "secure" gates.

There is just a lot of concern surrounding Facebook; some of it more justified than others. But the concern is still there.

Facebook gets away with an otherwise illegal act because the users of Facebook are technically offering this information up themselves. Facebook is not digging through your trash, it is just harassing you with pop ups and telling all those OCD people that their profile is only 45% complete because they haven't spilled their life story yet. That is technically legal... but I wouldn't call it right.

Jay Anne
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@Eric Gilbert
Oh right! I remember that story. Does anyone have examples of more systemic occurrences? The Target story was pretty horrific, but it came across like a very isolated rare moment.

@Benjamin Quintero
Yes, I understand the general argument and it's a vulnerability. Until we see real concrete abuse or potential damages, it feels irrational to start demonizing companies over it. Also, I don't believe there are or ever will be laws against popups or profile progress meters.

Eric Gilbert
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@Jay
Maybe this one will help:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/02/pf/consumer-scores/index.html?hpt
=hp_t3

"Data brokers, analytics firms and retailers are creating hundreds of "secret" consumer scores that rank you on everything from the likelihood you will keep your job to how likely you are to commit fraud..."

"Yet, while these consumer scores are pervasive, most consumers don't know they exist. Rarely are they able to view their scores, find out how they are compiled or used or correct inaccuracies like they can on a credit report, the World Privacy Forum found."

"Consumers have little to no ability to learn when their lives are affected in a major or minor way by a consumer score that they never heard about"

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"I don't make it a habit to hamstring my life over theoretical events that have never happened."

FWIW, I think that's good advice. There is too much to worry about in this world to let small things get to you. How big or small or harmful corporate data mining is something we're all going to have to figure out at an unprecedented level.

Marvin Papin
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Let's see.

Even if I still support Oculus rift, I also support Infiniteye. I hope They'll do some great stuff and they'll take advantage of this oculus's misadventure :

http://www.roadtovr.com/infiniteye-technical-qa-high-fov-virtual-
reality-work/

Michael Thornberg
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I am in all honesty tremendously worried about that last statement [Carmack]. I know it is own opinion, and that it doesn't represent anything in particular. However, to me is sounds like they are going to do just that.. collect data. And I don't agree that it is a good thing. It is a horrible thing. It is one thing to track movements, and another entirely to track content. That to me is incredibly worrying. That essentially means that after a few hours they (whomever looking at that collected data) will be able to not only see what you like. But also do a psychoanalytical evaluation of you. That one will "know" you better than yourself. To me that is anything -but- good. Again, I know it is his opinion, but it is worrying all the same.

Allan Rowntree
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Can't online games do that already, the only thing that will be different from a standard game is the level of head tracking. Which arguably you already have with most first person games.

It's when they add the groinal attachment that you should get concerned about how much Facebook could end up knowing about you and who you interact with online.

Michael Thornberg
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Sure they can, but some don't play online games that much. I am one. I don't mind playing multiplayer games, and I do on occasion. And you are correct, they can collect data then. But this is different. This is collecting data from what games you play, what movies you watch, what your mails contain etc.. the list can be made very long. And like you mentioned.. the people you interact with. So that worries me personally, quite a bit. And I am amazed that so many are used to so willingly give up anything about themselves, that they no longer realize that this is actually an issue to worry about.

TC Weidner
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being data driven, and being a data miner however are 2 entirely different things though.

Troy Walker
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my guess is because of the big bucket of stupid money they got.... but what do I know.

Chad Wagner
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Wait a minute - is this Facebook, or Google we're talking about? I just got confused for minute. ;)

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I *really* respect Carmack, and believe he is more sincere than most people, but I've never heard someone whose company was recently bought out say bad things about the new person that signs their paychecks.

Robert Schmidt
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I don't see the type of data collection that FB has been doing has really helped anyone but themselves. My experience as a FB user has not improved. I am usually bombarded with invites to games I'm not interested in, adds for some miracle B.S. that some professional group doesn't want me to hear about, ads for singles from virtually every demographic and religion and numerous game rip-offs. I have to read quarterly terms of service changes to make sure I haven't given FB exclusive rights to my identity. And at the end of the day, there is nothing really new for me to do. With FBs innovation, in 4 years we will still have the same technology as we do today except that ads will take up almost half the view screen. Big companies tend to be terrible at innovation. I would have preferred Oculus to already be a commercial product with a library of content before someone came along and stifled creativity.

Alex Covic
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You game developers should be more articulate in describing the future? I am talking about all your comments from the last couple weeks. Raph Koster captured it a bit, but many of you are still looking not further then the tip of your own noses?

Imagine the most exploitive, most horrific, most frightful science fiction scenario you can. Even Phillip K. Dick could not smoke enough crack pipes to come up with where our future is going (if the global warming, overpopulation, usual economic wars and asymetric military conflicts don't bother you enough).

We live in a world, where 'invisible' drone operators fire rockets at wedding parties in Iraq (or was it Afghanistan?), from thousands of miles away, mistaking the 'intel' (a specific sort of data collection?). Countries, which have areas where people never have seen a train or an airplane before in this day and age.

We are manipulating single atoms these days, inject foreign DNA into plants and animals (foreign organs in humans, of course), creating artificial materials, nature did not come up with without us. The NSA (and others), collecting data by the terabytes evey minute. A bit over a hundered years ago, the first moving pictures where shown (now, our eyes are all glued to monitors the whole day), the first train moved people faster than a horse, etc, etc.

Our bodies are not prepared to handle the technology surrounding us. Our minds are not prepared to deal with the technology. Those who can think of ways - any ways - have an advantage? You better hurry up?

What does this have to do with Facebook, VR & Oculus? Everything?

You have to look beyond your Google Glasses and headsets, to see the 'big picture', to imagine the big picture. Whatever the accquisition of Oculus means to Facebook, the future is filled with lifelogging, monitoring, data crawling, data mining, ... Erwin Chargaff - to namedrop a real-life oracle of the atomic 20th century - said once: if humankind can think of it, people will make it. We are doing it now.

In the early stages of 20th century physics, nobody knew, they were also working on the nuclear bomb. There are video game companies working on simulation software for the military. The military (not just U.S.) in encouraging video game makers to work with them and CoD playing kids to join them for a reason? Robotics and virtual reality is, was and will be huge. Civilian 'players', like Google or Facebook know that. If some Kickstarter project helps pushing this, they are welcome to join (and they are and will join in the future).

Finding ways to re-create reality, fake/mimic reality, virtualize reality - strip reality away(!) from 'users', is a huge step in good and bad ways to come. Think of the greatest and worst things that come to your mind and in 30-40 years, you will laugh about how 'small' you dreamed? Don't let these 'discussions' get stuck in the blue-pill reality of the tinkering engineer, who "had no clue that people can use it for evil" mindset?

Mike Griffin
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I'll bite on this, Alex.

Unfortunately we're probably screwed. Of any generation, this one (the young folk in their early 20s) have the best opportunity to elicit change in the world. They have massive exposure to information and a vast array of tools to share information.

Sadly, this generation is sort of "in shock" at the moment thanks to data overload. They have literally been raised in conditions that bombard them with so much data and information, it becomes their obsession. An addiction to being connected and sharing info.

Self-imprisonment inside the walls of social media, because social pressures demand that they voluntarily lock themselves within that environment of data sharing, even as the outside world crumbles around them.

It will take another generation to get through this quagmire and address the issues. It will take weather extremes and serious environmental calamities (clearly of anthropogenic origin) before we finally wake the fuck up.

Even then, you'll have people saying: "Well, there's nothing you can do about the weather, right? Only God knows why it works this way." Leave God out of this equation and start worrying about humans behaving badly and killing their own ecosystem. We haven't created settlements on the moon or Mars yet; as a species we have nowhere else to live.

We'll look back on this era, everyone so dazzled and beguiled by technology and lifestyle sharing, oblivious to the steep and rapid decline of the natural world that supports human existence. Unaware that intense climate calamities are just around the corner; not 1000 years in the future like an old vision of science fiction -- rather, we're literally two generations away from the beginning of real (bad) environmental collapse.

"We had no idea it could happen so fast!" they will lament in the 2050s.
Even though we have a clear and scientifically accurate road map right now that details the forthcoming environmental calamities borne of our unending consumption and waste.

Acting now to fully correct this trajectory would likely cause a semi-collapse of Western society (such is the amount of change required), and that scares the shit out of those in power.

So we'll sit and wait it out, comforted by the dazzling layers of comprehensively social networked VR worlds, until we can't draw another breath.

Michael Joseph
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"We'll look back on this era..."

This era has been going on in earnest for over 70 years. The digital information age has certainly greased the rails but social media is just another in a long line of media outlets and producers run by marketers (by training or by mimicry) and fueled by greed that have helped to create -not by design or specific intent, but by consequence- a post-literate society.

And games are apart of that equation.

But what's so bad about a post-literate society? Well, the people in it tend to become easily attached (emotionally invested or involved) to the frivolous crap that businesses and marketers produce. (see fanboys.) But what's wrong with that? Marshall McLuhan might say it's a form of re-tribalization of people. He would say it's an observation and not a critique. To me that sort of attachment doesn't sound like a product or promoter of free thought.

Few game developers would see the viral adoption of their game as a bad thing. But that type of adoption is too a product of the culture of new trends that must be started and followed as the old trends lose their ability to satisfy as they always do.

Marshall McLuhan's novel perspective on language and various forms of media consumption stresses how different mediums effect the structure/wiring of the brain which is why he says the medium is more important than whatever message or information is being relayed in any particular program. It is why TV watching where the viewer is exposed to a dynamic series of densely packed lights/pixels influences the structure of the brain differently than when watching a projected film, or reading the printed words of a novel versus a magazine or the web or playing different types of games. So it's not just about the message, it's also the medium itself that is shaping the brain and how those changes would effect society in the long term he believed remained to be seen.

It's a subject that still isn't talked about much. ADHD, learning disorders, anxiety, depression, impulsiveness and impatience, short and long term memory problems, for all we know may be caused in part by the consumption of certain forms of mediums and not just media content.

VR, twittering and texting, and other newer forms of media and communication, and the consumption of so much disparate information (regardless of what it actually is) may have different effects still. Marshall made it a point to observe and articulate the differences and to avoid (mostly) placing a valuation on them.

Marshall McLuhan Q&A Three parts on media.
http://youtu.be/ImaH51F4HBw
http://youtu.be/a11DEFm0WCw
http://youtu.be/CtpX8A7Q2pE
(his comments on the differences between eastern and western perspectives I think are much less true today as the east has become much more westernized over the last few decades)

That particular program was from 1977 and they're talking about the same issues and concerns we are talking about today. So "this era..." is not recent.

Lennard Feddersen
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The most hopeful thing that has happened in the past few years is that these topics have become main stream conversation. When we all point in one direction we can get a hell of a lot done.

That said it does feel like we are all driving 110 MPH on roads with no lines while talking on our cell phones.


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