Fireside Chat With Tim Cook

This Wednesday, 8th February, our University had the pleasure to welcome the Apple CEO, Tim Cook. As part of his European tour, Cook came to Glasgow to have a “fireside” chat with the students and staff in the crowded Bute Hall. The evening was opened with a few words from the Principal Muscatelli, followed by the graduation ceremony in which Cook was awarded an honorary doctorate. It was a symbolic gesture with the purpose of aligning ourselves with Apple and its values, which are “the best of human endeavour”, as our Principal put it. Often referred to as one of the most influential people on the planet, Cook is truly a treasured addition to our University.

Then came the part for a chat. “So, Dr Cook,” the interviewer said and the whole room lightened up. Apple CEO took the opportunity to express his gratitude for the award and said he is privileged to be here. As a community that shares most of Apple’s values, he considers our Uni as one of the best in the world. Some of those include diversity, inclusiveness and equal rights, and indeed, our Uni does stand for them heartily. Continuing to talk about Apple’s all-inclusive philosophy, he touched on the recent executive order issued in the US. Apple officially condemned the travel ban just days later in an open letter Cook sent to his employees. Often stressing that “Apple would not exist without immigration”, he said that the free movement of talent is America’s history and surely its future. He even quoted Martin Luther King saying that not only are the actions of the bad people the problem, but also “the appalling silence and indifference of the good people” whose inertia essentially says they are agreeing.

Moving on from the world’s injustice, Cook mentioned Apple’s policies concerning environmental issues and the desire to protect the planet. He confirmed their ambitious plan to achieve 100% renewable energy consumption and stated that they are currently at 93%, which is rather impressive for such a large company. Apple is also affiliated with Product Red, a brand that raises awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV and AIDS in Africa. Additionally, since Cook became the CEO, Apple is actively promoting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and promoting marriage equality worldwide. Cook talked about these matters with zest, and thus showed that Apple isn’t just another tech company, but primarily an empowerment business that tries to do the right thing. Clearly, the support of human rights is in the very core of Apple and, unlike with their technology-related choices, they will never compromise in this respect.

Offering some advice for the students of our Uni, Apple CEO said we should chase something we’re passionate about which also benefits others. He considers this to be the best way of achieving happiness, and opposes working for the sake of gathering money. That is, he believes, a commodity that’s easily lost and doesn’t provide a real fulfilment in life. He also claims that we are currently living in the best time in human history, even though it may not seem like it at times. His tangible positivity and an optimistic view of the future truly are an inspiration to a generation, as recognised by our Principal.

The other half of the evening was dedicated to questions from the audience. The first one, very simply, asked “Can I have your job?”. Tim Cook responded with a laugh, and then a serious “Submit your resume”. He also added that Apple are always hiring all around the world and that there are opportunities for everyone. Next couple of questions mostly focused on the future of this Cupertino-based company, to which Cook responded with joy. Addressing the claims that Apple is essentially an activist company, the CEO admitted that he doesn’t consider his company an activist per se, but rather a community that is not shy to use its influence as a standing point to voice out the beliefs they hold. They will always fight for equality, diversity and human rights. Regarding the future technological advancements, he mentioned some plans to incorporate medical data with our devices. They plan to take advantage of the many sensors their products have for closely monitoring our bodily functions. He also noted that they always strive to make their products accessible to people with disabilities, using the example of the iPhone which can already be used by blind people.

The last question asked was to give some more advice for students and the University. Cook replied that more emphasis should be put on developing students’ critical thinking as we live in the age of technology where everyone is telling the news. He claims that this poses a new danger of being easily misinformed and that we all have the obligation to present the truth, but also to question everything we read. He also thinks ethics should be taught more in every area of human enterprise, and he named the people he looks up to. Some of them are Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy and the most important one – Steve Jobs. Talking about Jobs, the current Apple CEO nearly had tears in his eyes and his voice softened as he remembered some instances of their long friendship. He said that Apple celebrates Jobs’ legacy and his life philosophy, which is that we should always strive to do the right thing, even though it may not be the easiest. He proved, once again, that Apple isn’t just a successful tech giant, but also a far-reaching community with a heart of a giant as well.

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