Carmack on Money
FS: You have a good deal of money now - how does that affect you?
John: I have sufficient money that I don't need to work anymore; I really don't have to. That's a nice freedom, the freedom from anyone having the ability to have any leverage over you, as long as you've got the money to take care of yourself and you aren't wrapped up in having more and more money. There are a lot of people even though they have a lot of money, they can still be manipulated by the carrot of having more money.
In my position I have basically everything I want. I've got enough
money to take care of myself and family so nobody, not any company, can have
a significant leverage on me.
FS: So is there some area where you thought you could use your money to have leverage in other situations?
John: I try not to think about it that much. I try not to be too proactive in terms of trying to make other things happen. I like to work directly on the technical aspects of things and while there probably are some things I can do like leverage the money in other ways, I'm much more interested in trying to accomplish things directly.
That's one reason why I'm not a very good manager. I'm an engineer, so I
want to fix things directly. I want to set the circumstances up such that
they become fixed even though in many cases I recognize the larger projects
that need to get done. But it's not something I'm uniquely suited for.
There's a specific area that I'm very good at and I happen to enjoy it a whole lot, so I don't feel a whole lot of desire to go out and exploit other aspects. I do have a pile of money sitting around to do things with, but I'm happy with how things are.
I feel bad for some companies out there. The founders, who are these
incredible engineers, are now directors of their departments doing
management rather than engineering. At the same time most of the people
they are managing are nowhere near as good as they were at doing the actual
That's what I hope never happens to me. I want to stay in the trenches working on the things all the time. There is some benefit to sitting back, reading and researching and getting some broader scope on it. But if you're divorced from the low level nuts and bolts of things, like how this actually applies to the real world, then you're just an academic. You get these huge disconnects between what an academic can do and what somebody in production can do.
In the last two projects, my time has been split. I'd have about 3 months of pure research. I'm in that phase right now, playing around with different stuff. And then after that it's about 16 months of work on the project. It would be nice to shift that more towards research, but I would never want to devote a majority of my time to research. The whole point of research in my mind is you figure out a new way to do something, but then you want to go actually do something with it, not just have the knowledge that it's possible to do something.