When Palmer Luckey sold Oculus to Facebook, people warned him that Oculus would get turned into Facebook.
“I think it's been the other way around: Facebook got taken over by Oculus, and it turned into Oculus,” Luckey observed in a recent interview with Wired.
The VR pioneer has been forced to watch this transformation from the sidelines. Luckey was pressured out of Facebook in 2017 after receiving severe public backlash for funding pro-Trump internet “shitposters.”
Shortly thereafter, Luckey founded the high-tech military contractor Anduril. As Luckey noted in the Wired interview, Anduril has become one of only three unicorns — alongside Palantir and SpaceX — to emerge in the defense space over the last 35 years. The journey to unicorn status has been propelled by plush defense contracts, including a $1 billion contract with the Department of Defense to build drone interception systems and an Air Force contract worth nearly $1 billion to help build a battlefield Internet of Things platform.
Anduril is guided by Luckey’s worldview that the era of possible warfare between great powers isn’t over. (This observation might seem obvious now, but Fukuyama’s “The End of History” stance was very much in vogue as of just a few months ago.) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was one of only a few European leaders who understood “you can’t deter expansionist dictatorships using mean words or moving money around, that it could only be deterred through credible threat of force,” Luckey told Wired.
The interview also covered the potential for dystopian weapons technology to play a role in such conflicts. Luckey said there’s a misconception that autonomous weapons systems aren’t already in use. He characterized their use as an inevitability, claiming: “There's no other way to solve the problem. You can’t have a person literally be responsible for pulling the trigger in every instance.” Luckey said rather than resist these systems, they should be designed in a way that ensures “thinking is happening before the trigger is pulled” and that “responsibility for them always lands with a person.”
On how Anduril is playing its part, Luckey told Wired: “All of our systems have historical logs — who had access to them, what they did with them, what they told them to do, and how they handed over responsibility to somebody else. What I don't want to do is make it impossible for these systems to ever be used in certain ways — for instance, firing on a target if they don't have an active communication link back to a person.”
So how does a once-idealistic gamer/futurist feel developing weapons systems? “My mind is less sunny than it used to be,” Luckey said. “Now I get to think about things like, how is my system going to work during all-out thermonuclear war as our enemies try to bombard and jam and destroy us?”