Apple CEO Tim Cook on AI, Sustainability, and Succession

In a wide-ranging interview with entertainer Dua Lipa this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook touched on artificial intelligence, including the need for government regulation, while also discussing Apple’s environmental commitments, human rights issues in the tech supply chain, succession planning, and his personal background.

On the issue of artificial intelligence (AI), Cook struck an optimistic yet cautious tone, arguing new forms of AI like generative models have “captured people’s imagination” because they can “be life changing” in areas like health care diagnosis. However, Cook said these technologies also potentially enable “not good things” posing “profound risks.”

“What is needed in with AI, with this new form of AI, generative AI, is some rules of the road, some regulation around this,” Cook told Lipa. “And I think most governments around the world are now focused on this.”

Cook welcomed government oversight of advanced AI, countering arguments from some technologists that AI development is moving too fast for meaningful regulation. “I think most governments are a little behind the curve today,” Cook said. “But I think they’re quickly catching up.”

“We’re one of the first ones to say this is needed, that some regulation is needed,” Cook added regarding AI safeguards, noting Apple has been “very thoughtful and deliberate” about researching AI responsibly.

The Apple chief also highlighted existing AI applications used across Apple products daily, ranging from predictive text to mapping services, clarifying that “labeling it as AI” explicitly is not always necessary for consumers. “AI is sort of everywhere today,” Cook said.

Discussing Apple’s approach to emerging technologies, Cook emphasized the importance of considering potential harms seriously during research and development. “If [products] can be used for nefarious reasons, we don’t go down those paths,” Cook said.

Beyond AI, Cook and Lipa covered additional topics including Apple’s environmental commitments, Cook’s outlook on racial diversity in business leadership, Apple succession planning, and Cook’s personal background growing up in Alabama.

Cook touted Apple’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, including across its supply chain, and highlighted the company’s existing use of recycled materials in products like the Apple Watch. Questioned about reports of child labor in the cobalt mining industry, Cook also said Apple’s supply chain tracing and audits aim to verify responsible labor practices back to the mine level.

Asked about the slow pace of increased diversity in Fortune 500 CEO positions, Cook lamented that inequality and discrimination remain problems in too many industries, saying “I think there’s still a glass ceiling.”

While not naming specific potential CEO successors, Cook emphasized Apple is continually focused on internal development of well-rounded senior leadership candidates in the event of his unexpected departure.

Cook additionally recounted his working class upbringing in Alabama during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, crediting his parents with instilling a strong work ethic and his college experience with exposing him to wider horizons beyond his small hometown. Before discovering a passion for technology work, Cook said his early aspiration was actually to become a musician.

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