Tim Cook on A.I.: "I Don't Think We Have to Throw Our Privacy Away"

Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

After promising big investments in machine learning during Apple’s fourth quarter earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook told a questioner that he thought artificial intelligence and user privacy could co-exist.

Like any good assistant, an A.I. helper needs to know a lot about you — more, probably, than a real person. And unlike a real person, A.I. is vulnerable to hackers, or it might just accidentally record a sex tape and post it on the web. Whoops.

Cook, however, thought any black-and-white view of privacy and A.I. as polar opposites is overblown.

“This is a long conversation, but at high level I think it’s a false trade-off that people would like you to believe, that you have to give up privacy in order to have A.I. do something for you,” he said. “We don’t buy that.”

“It may take a different kind of work, it might take more thinking, but I don’t think we should throw our privacy away,” Cook continued.

Can privacy and A.I. exist? Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks so.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

“I think it’s like the age-old argument of privacy vs. security,” he said, referencing a popular Benjamin Franklin misquote. “We should have both. It shouldn’t be about making a choice. That, at a high level, is how we see it.”

Cook did not go into further detail about exactly how Apple would manage to provide an effective-but-safe form of A.I., but he did mention earlier in the call that Apple was “investing the future,” and that’s the reason why you see the R&D investment increasing, so one hopes they’re working on it.

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