How Palmer Luckey Got Fired For Making a $9,000 Donation
The Logan Bartlett Show: Untold stories from tech's inner circle
Palmer Luckey is the founder of Oculus VR (sold to Facebook for $2.3B) and Anduril Industries, the autonomous military technology company most recently valued at $8.5B.
In this episode, Palmer reveals the real story of why he was famously fired from Facebook in 2017. He also shares his thoughts about VR and why building autonomous military defense systems actually leads to more ethical wars.
✉️ Episode Memo
A few highlights…
On his firing…
The real story of Palmer getting fired is highly nuanced and not for a short paragraph but I asked Palmer what his main takeaways were, and here’s what he said:
People should be careful not to underestimate the long-term impact of having wrong information persist in the wild. A crisis management firm would probably advise against fighting back on the media, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of other media outlets reporting on and quoting the original (inaccurate) source. Palmer insists that being vocal about what really happened with Oculus & Facebook has removed blockers he otherwise would have faced in founding Anduril.
Palmer wants to be clear that he was fired from Facebook. His reasoning is as follows: when executives are pushed out of their companies, oftentimes the real story behind what happened gets smoothed over by corporate messaging. By contrast, the success stories (exits, promotions, etc) always get celebrated, which can leave less experienced founders with an incomplete picture of reality. Overall, Palmer insists it’s productive that we tell the full story regardless of the outcome.
On why the best AI talent was ignoring national defense…
Palmer fears major historical US defense companies are not equipped with the talent and incentives to build autonomous systems that will deter conflict and define the future of war. Instead, the best AI technologists in the world are tied up working on small problems, like adding mustaches and emojis in Snapchat filters. This is a major problem that Anduril is trying to solve. He also shares his take on why it's completely unethical for US tech companies to shy away from supporting all US government defense efforts.
On why the US should build AI-powered defense systems now…
Palmer stresses “the whole point of the war machine is not to win wars, it's to deter wars.” Without superior technology, you have to fight dirty to survive. With autonomous tech, the military can make more frequent ethical decisions that protect civilians while still feeling confident they can win.
“It's when you have limited capabilities… that you start to say, you know what? We have to take whatever shot we can get… A lot of the worst ethical decisions that we have made as a country in war have been when we are not in a good position to win.”
A fantastic conversation with a unique entrepreneur.
⭐ Highlight: Why the Best AI Experts are Ignoring National Defense
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