STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We saw the start of a conference in Silicon Valley yesterday, a conference for Apple software developers. They lined up for hours until the doors opened.
Here's another mass coming in - a couple thousand at a time, maybe - everyone courteous, almost everyone with a backpack.
Many aspire to make apps, which they hope will be used on iPhones or iPads.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Three, two, one, go.
INSKEEP: The company invited attendees to play an augmented reality game. Players aim iPads at a real table and see virtual game pieces on that table. It's a simple game meant to inspire developers to invent more-elaborate ones. People came here from 77 countries, a reminder that Apple is a global enterprise. And when CEO Tim Cook sat down with us on the sidelines of the conference, we focused on the biggest country of all.
Is it getting harder to follow the values that are important to you as an executive when doing business in China?
TIM COOK: No. No, not at all. The - we don't - we never move off of our values - never. Our values are very clear. We - I think everybody in every country in the world knows what they are. That doesn't mean that we're fortunate enough or that it's realistic that every country have the same laws.
INSKEEP: Well, here's the thing that's on my mind. Given your emphasis on protecting people's personal information...
INSKEEP: Was it a difficult call to comply with the Chinese demand that Chinese customers' iCloud data be stored on servers in China, where it sounds like the Chinese government might have an easier time accessing it sometime?
COOK: Well, that's a faulty assumption that you're making. The same encryption that Apple uses in the United States, and in the United Kingdom, and in France and in the UAE is the same encryption we use in China.
INSKEEP: Cryptographic keys are also supposed to be kept in the country. Is that correct?
COOK: Cryptographic keys - it doesn't matter really where they're kept. It matters whether they're safe or not, right? And keep in mind that the only people that have a key for messages are the sender and the receiver. That's it. Apple doesn't have access to the data. I mean, that was what the whole - how we got sued in the United States was that U.S. asked us to...
INSKEEP: In a famous terrorism case, right.
COOK: In the - that famous case where the U.S. asked us to essentially put a back door in, which would allow for access. And we said, no, this is not good for civilization; this is not good for people. If - you can't have a back door for good people. You put a back door in, and it's for everybody.
INSKEEP: And one other question along those lines - when China asks Apple to remove or delete an app from the app store because it includes a VPN - a virtual private network, which allows people to conceal their communications - is it bothersome to you to comply with that?
COOK: Yes, it absolutely is. It's something that we didn't want to do. Unfortunately, unlike the U.S., where we felt we had the law on our side in the famous case where the FBI sued us, we do - we did not have the law on our side in China. The law is pretty clear that you have to have a license in China to operate a VPN service. And so there actually are still VPN apps on the store - less than there were because there were a set of companies that didn't get a license.
INSKEEP: What was your recent meeting like with President Trump?
COOK: It was a meeting about trade and immigration and some of the topics that we feel very passionate on. And I felt he very much listened to the point of view.
INSKEEP: What do the administration's trade policies regarding China mean for Apple?
COOK: Well, there's probably a better person to ask that than me about the current status of negotiations. I have no idea.
INSKEEP: Yeah, but just, what is...
COOK: From my point of view...
INSKEEP: What's at stake for your company?
COOK: ...If I zoom out and talk about trade in general...
COOK: My view is that countries that have a significant level of openness - and I mean that in terms of immigration and trade as an example - are the companies that thrive over time, and countries that are more closed do not.
INSKEEP: Did you talk to the president on that level about the philosophical benefits of openness?
COOK: I am - you know, I am a really straightforward kind of guy.
INSKEEP: Did you tell him on China specifically, a trade war with China is going to cost American jobs?
COOK: I don't want to get into the details of the conversation because it was a private meeting, but I think I've pretty clear with...
INSKEEP: Well, just tell me, does a trade war with China cost Apple jobs?
COOK: I don't think that Apple is going to get caught up in a tariff there, but I don't know this. It - but I don't think so because if we were, it would hurt the U.S, and so it doesn't make sense to do from that point of view.
INSKEEP: One other thing I want to ask because we're at this conference where you're discussing augmented reality, you're discussing machine learning - that leads over to the phrase artificial intelligence. Are you in any way as scared by the prospects of AI getting out of control as, say, Elon Musk of Tesla is?
COOK: Well, I can't attest to what Elon thinks and so forth, but here's what I think. And I've said this before, and I generally mean it - is, I don't really worry about machines thinking like people. I worry about people thinking like machines because it's the absence of humanity in products that create the issue. It's the absence of deep thought about, you know, what products can do, what they can be used for, the good and the bad. And that's what I worry about. And so I think that - the reality is, if a machine - for you and I, to make it personal - if a machine could do an hour's worth a day of what we're doing, this would be a grand thing. It'd be a great thing if you could give every American back an hour a day. This would be a fabulous thing. We could spend...
INSKEEP: Assuming the American is still getting paid for the hour, I suppose.
COOK: Well, of course - because it's a productivity pickup, right? And so I think if that's where we wind up, that's pretty good. That's pretty good.
(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "DIVISION")
INSKEEP: That was part of our talk with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, which we're hearing through this morning.
(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "DIVISION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.