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John Carmack takes other people’s money, even though he wouldn’t have to, so he can focus better.

At the end of 2019, Doom creator and VR hero John Carmack stepped down from his role as Oculus chief technology officer – with a new goal: He wants to develop a universal artificial intelligence, that is, an AI that can perform many tasks similar to humans.

$20 million for steps toward general artificial intelligence

On the way there, his AI start-up “Keen” has now collected a considerable sum: Carmack is getting 20 million US dollars from investors. Leading the investment round are Github CEO Nat Friedman and Cue founder Daniel Gross. German investor Tobias Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify, is also betting on Carmack’s skills in AI development

On Twitter, Carmack stresses that he could have raised this amount from his funds. But “knowing that other people’s money is on the line”, he says, helps him focus and muster “more discipline and determination”.

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Carmack thinks AGI is more likely – and continues to develop VR

At his 2019 announcement, Carmack said he wanted to address a problem whose solution was possible but not yet in sight. At the time, Carmack assumed there was a 50 percent chance there would be “signs of life” of general AI by 2030.

Carmack is now raising that estimate to 55 to 60 percent because he perceives an acceleration in research and development. More and more experts are considering the possibility of AGI, he said. Estimates of how long it will take for it to occur would be lower on average.

For his forecast, he draws a comparison with human intelligence. “If we get to the point where you’ve got a learning disabled toddler […] that can still interact with their favorite TV show and video game and can be trained and learned in some appreciably human-like way, […] it’s going to be a done deal,” Carmack said.

Carmack remains interested in virtual reality and assists Meta with research and development. He still spends about 20 percent of his work time on Meta’s VR and AR projects. As an external consultant, Carmack says he is deliberately critical internally at Meta. Carmack is also not sparing in his criticism of Meta externally.

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Online journalist Matthias is the co-founder and publisher of THE DECODER. He believes that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers.
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