Exclusive interview with Apple CEO Cook: Responding to retirement rumors for the first time, joining forces with OpenAI is the best choice now

Apple, AI, and Cook have all dominated the headlines in the tech world these days.

After the WWDC24 keynote speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook accepted a series of interviews, once again introducing Apple Intelligence in detail, as well as many details that were not mentioned at the press conference: the difference of Apple Intelligence, and OpenAI cooperation considerations, and also responded for the first time to retirement rumors and candidates for the next head of Apple.

▲ Picture from: Google

Aifan'er has compiled in-depth conversations with multiple parties, including the Washington Post and well-known technology blogger Marques Brownlee, to show you Cook's vision of Apple's blueprint and his thoughts on the trade-offs between artificial intelligence and user privacy.

Apple’s AI is a little different

Josh Tyrangiel: Compared to Artificial Intelligence, you chose to name it Apple Intelligence. Do you particularly like this name (the abbreviation is also AI)?

Tim Cook: After sifting through many alternatives, this one seemed to be the most logical. At least to me, this isn't a parody of Artificial Intelligence, we're simply naming it based on what it actually does. It’s called that because that’s what it is, Apple’s version of artificial intelligence.

iJustine: Technically, machine learning has been on devices for a long time, but I don’t think you thought of it as artificial intelligence, so now I feel like with Apple Smart, you’re making it commonplace thing.

Cook: Yeah, we really haven’t discussed it (new technology) as artificial intelligence before. We focus more on the benefits we bring to our users and delivering that in our products rather than talking about technology. But it's clear that people want their devices to be smarter, so we're excited about what we've delivered.

Brownlee: I want to know how Apple defines AI, because I know that if you ask an ordinary person (this question), the answer you hear will most likely be generative AI, chatbots and the like. So what do you think about AI?

Cook: We've been using AI (actually) for a long time. It's where you wear your watch, it's at the base of your watch. Things like collision detection, fault detection, Afib (atrial fibrillation), all of these things boil down to machine learning.

But it’s generative AI that’s igniting people’s imaginations, and we think it’s a whole new opportunity to do more for people, to act as our assistants and really improve people’s lives. That's how we see it.

But it's not without its drawbacks, so we approach it very thoughtfully. As you heard, we have always been focused on privacy, so privacy is a very key principle for us as we move into AI.

Efficiency and privacy, Apple’s smart “moat”

Tyrangiel: What are the first benefits Apple users will gain from enhanced AI technology?

Cook: I think the main thing is to save time. Things will become more efficient. Take Siri, for example. You can now have a conversation with Siri and it can complete multiple steps at once, whereas before it might have required multiple requests.

About writing tools: While not everyone uses email, everyone needs to write.

Having an assistant proofread for you is important, whether to make your content more professional or more interesting. Nowadays, ensuring privacy is also a major advantage.

People want to ensure that AI technology is both private and confidential. It’s often hard to have both, but we found a compromise.

Brownlee: You once said that if AI could be used for evil, we wouldn't go down that path. Has this (concept) changed now? Do you have the right tools or constraints in place now to ensure (AI functionality) works smoothly?

Cook: Generative AI has never been excluded [from our plans], it's just that we've been pursuing it in a thoughtful way. So we've implemented it in a way that's less likely to create problems, like personal context and privacy.

We're not waiting for comprehensive privacy legislation to come into effect because we already see privacy as a fundamental human right, that's how we see it. And we want to integrate personal context and privacy at a deep level, like they're already deeply integrated into the apps you use.

Brownlee: That way you can, you can guarantee that no data is ever sent to OpenAI without you.

Cook: Yeah, it's up to you.

SuperSaf: What makes Apple smartphones different?

Cook: What makes it different is that we have the personal context, so Apple intelligence understands you and is relevant to you, and it not only has world knowledge, but it's also private. So that balance between personal context and privacy makes it very unique and it also integrates into the apps you already use.

And, without you having to think about it, Apple intelligence is already everywhere: it’s embedded in notes, embedded in emails, embedded in messages, embedded in pages and keynotes.

There are challenges and confidence

Tyrangiel: How confident are you that Apple Intelligence will not make miscalculations?

Cook: Not 100% guaranteed. But we have done the best we can, including taking a deep look at the maturity of the areas where we are applying this technology. Therefore, I believe it will perform very well. But to be honest, this is not a 100% guarantee. I would never claim that it is completely risk-free.

Brownlee: Do you think we will use our phones less in the future because smart systems work well?

Cook: I think it's possible and very likely. We never intended for people to spend their lives on a device, our model was: we wanted to empower you to do things you wouldn't otherwise be able to do. We want to give you a tool that allows you to do things you wouldn't otherwise be able to do. That's what drives us.

So we introduced features like Screen Time to count your notifications and so on. In times of anxiety, you can silence your phone, etc. So I believe that as the use of Apple's smart phones becomes smarter and smarter, you can even save a lot of time and spend it on things that really require time. I'm very optimistic about this.

SuperSaf: What would you say to someone who is nervous and worried about AI?

Cook: First of all, the way we deployed it was very thoughtful and we spent a lot of time doing what we thought was right, and I think AI really helps you. It is really your assistant, making your writing better, making your communication smoother, and making your chat more interesting through Genmoji. So I am very optimistic about AI.

I know there are a lot of things to consider (at the moment), but I won't bury my head in the sand. We are very thoughtful about the implementation of AI.

Joining forces with OpenAI has also been controversial.

Tyrangiel: Why do you think OpenAI and Sam Altman in particular are trusted partners and aligned with Apple's values?

Cook: They have made some moves in terms of privacy protection that I approve of. For example, they do not track IP addresses and other privacy matters that we also take extremely seriously. I think they are the leader in this space and they have the best models currently. I believe our customers occasionally need to be exposed to technology with a global perspective.

Therefore, we have also comprehensively considered our partners. Obviously, our cooperation will not be limited to a fixed object forever. We are also working with other teams. At present, they are the most suitable choice and they are also in the best interest of our users.

Brownlee: Having all the data on the device is the safest way (for the user). Things are different now though, there are a lot of larger models that require more complex requests where you actually have to leave the device. The general discussion online is that they have to send data to OpenAI in order to get requests from ChatGPT.

Private cloud computing and OpenAI arrangements are two different things. We use similar hardware and the same software as iPhone 15 on the private cloud device, so I believe we have achieved this with a secure, reliable and private private cloud computing device.

We really put a lot of effort into this and are fully committed to making sure it (privacy and security) succeeds.

About Cook, about the future

Tyrangiel: Science fiction writer Douglas Adams once said that the technology we have when we are children is part of the way the world works; any technology that emerges between the ages of 15 and 35 is exciting and revolutionary, and 35-year-olds The technologies that will appear in the future will violate the natural order. You and I both fall into this last category…

Cook: I probably feel this way more than you do!

Tyrangiel: As the CEO of the world's most successful technology company, do you find artificial intelligence a little strange or even unnatural?

Cook: I don't think so. I see it as an inevitable consequence of innovation. Machine learning has been around for a long time, it’s nothing new. It's considered new because it's being discussed everywhere now, but it's not new per se. You want the practitioners involved to be thoughtful people and set some tracks within it. But I think the emergence of AI itself is inevitable.

Tyrangiel: Is there anything about working in artificial intelligence that makes you happy?

Cook: I’m passionate about helping people do their jobs faster, better, and more efficiently, and I get excited about any technology that improves human existence. I think artificial intelligence can achieve these goals, but of course this needs to be within the premise of maintaining appropriate boundaries. So I'm a big supporter of artificial intelligence. I don’t turn a blind eye to problems that may arise, and of course I know that terrible things can happen, which is precisely why we remain cautious in the industry.

Tyrangiel: Since you became CEO, you've often talked about Apple's core values. Of all the products and software you are responsible for, does artificial intelligence pose the greatest test to these values?

Cook: It's not a test for them. We made it clear from the beginning that "these are our values ​​and we can't deviate from them."

We put a lot of time and thought into it and ended up with a product that we're proud of. We realized that due to the large scale of the language model being processed, some operations need to be performed outside the device, so we need to innovate in cloud technology. Fortunately, we are able to use existing resources, such as Apple Silicon, to achieve this.

▲ Picture from: Google

iJustine: How does it feel to look back on your career and the state of Apple and the incredible impact they've had on the tech world?

Cook: We spend all our time looking forward, we rarely look back, and you won’t find a museum here (with us). People tend to focus on what will happen next year or even 10 years from now. When I joined Apple, I discovered that this was a company that truly cared about people, giving people the tools to do things they otherwise couldn't do, and there wasn't a day that didn't go by that way. I'm honored to be here too. That's my opinion.

Brownlee: There's a lot of talk right now about who's next in line? As the current CEO of Apple, what do you think your legacy should be?

Cook: To me, legacy is something that other people define by looking at you, rather than you defining yourself, so I usually always focus on what's ahead rather than looking back. This is also a characteristic of Apple, we are very focused on moving forward. We may have a lot of things you would like to see and recall, but we just don't, it's not part of our culture.

At some point (in the future) there will be another CEO. The focus of my entire life (then) would be to help them succeed.

*Original interview link:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/06/11/tim-cook-apple-interview/

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