Apple Inc. chief executive officer Tim Cook appears to be a good sport.
Making the trip from Silicon Valley to New York for Time 100’s first summit, the tech titan laughed along with the audience when President Trump accidentally referring to him as Tim Apple at the end of a meeting was brought up.
It wasn’t so easy, though, for him to respond when probed on the subject of his recent dealings with Trump, leading to a pregnant pause, during which it was just the audience who laughed.
He finally answered that he would never talk about private conversations publicly — no doubt disappointing those in attendance, but making backstage small talk less awkward as the next speaker was none other than White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Cook did give a taste of what might have been said behind closed doors, though, as he spoke passionately about the big issues on his mind.
One of those was regulation, telling the audience that he’s been on a “regulation kick” for a while now because, at this point, he doesn’t see another path forward.
“Even though I am deeply a free-market person and believe that some unexpected things can happen in regulation, I think we all have to be intellectually honest, and we have to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working and that technology needs to be regulated,” he said.
This was not the first time Cook has publicly made the case for regulation in the sector, which has received a lot of negative attention over data privacy, fake news, as well as abuse on social media. In January, he called on Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation — a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer.
But he didn’t seem so sure Monday his dreams would become a reality. When asked by the interviewer, Harvard professor Nancy Gibbs, if he was confident that lawmakers could create smart, non-destructive regulations, his answer was that he wasn’t. Instead, he thinks Europe is further ahead when it comes to regulating tech and described its General Data Protection Regulation as not ideal, but “a step in the right direction.”
Also on his mind at the summit were his hopes of what Apple could achieve in the health sphere and immigration — including tackling the hefty green card backlog and getting every child coding.
“I think every kid in the world should learn to code. I think it’s the most important second language you can learn. It’s a global language,” he said. “I’m not saying everyone needs to become a programmer. I’m saying that like the basics of math and history and so forth it’s a core skill that kids need to have.”
Explaining why it’s important for private companies to get involved in such issues, Cook said not everything can be addressed solely by governments: “We should not be looking for government to solve all the problems. I think it takes the public sector, the private sector and academia kind of working together to solve some of these huge problems. Climate change is not going to be solved by government. It’s just one example.”
As for ruffling feathers with some of its actions, he added that tries not get “wrapped up in a pretzel” about who he upsets as the company will “be judged more by did we stand up for what we believed in.”