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Apple CEO Tim Cook On Why He’s Limiting His Screen Use

In a candid interview with Axios, Cook opens up about creating a healthier relationship with technology.

Photo Credit: Qi Heng/VCG/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Qi Heng/VCG/Getty Images

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook gave a candid interview to Ina Fried and Mike Allen on HBO’s Axios last night about the negative consequences of using technology unchecked, and — notably — the CEO admitted to reducing his own screen use.

When asked if technology was being used for evil, Cook said: “Technology is good or evil...depending upon the creator. Many times, it's not that the creator set out to do evil,” he explained, “it's that there wasn't an anticipation of these negative things [it] could be used for. ...Technology should amplify human performance and human experiences,” he told the duo. He also shared his thoughts on how he manages his own screen time, the way he de-stresses, and how Silicon Valley could do better by women.

He’s creating healthier iPhone habits for himself

The tech executive, who told Fried and Allen that he wakes up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to read user comments and assess what’s important to Apple’s users, admitted that his Screen Time stats were high. But he also emphasized that the time he spent with his screen was on the downswing. “If you look at my trends over time, my notifications are declining [and] the number of times that I pick up a device are declining.”  He attributes those positive declines to his increased awareness of how he’s been using his phone via Screen Time: “The only reason...is because we've built this functionality in our operating system and I now know what I was doing.”

He responded to concerns about tech’s impact on well-being

In response to whether or not Apple’s devices increase loneliness and detachment, Cook replied: “I don't think the products themselves do, but I think our customers and users...are worried about the amount of time they are spending on their device or the distraction level of it. What we decided our role was is providing people the information and the controls that help them change their behavior,” he said. Studies, in fact, demonstrate greater knowledge of a particular subject can inform better decisions and positive behavioral changes.

He uses exercise to de-stress

After he explores user feedback from 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., Cook exercises: “I go to the gym and work out for an hour because it keeps my stress at bay,” he said. Studies have, in fact, demonstrated that not only does exercise reduce stress, it can alleviate symptoms of depression, improve cognitive function and decrease risk of heart attack and stroke by between 40 and 70 percent.

He knows that improving the male-to-female ratio is key to Apple’s success

Cook said in the interview that he thinks Silicon Valley has done a good job of recruiting talent from all walks of life, but noted: “I agree 100 percent from a gender point of view that the Valley has missed it, and tech in general has missed it.” He assured the reporters that Apple is dedicating a lot of energy on how to balance the male-female ratio. “We are constantly asking ourselves: How can we improve more?” Cook said, also noting that he’s optimistic about the future of better gender representation in the tech force: “I'm actually encouraged at this point that there will be more marked improvement over time,” he emphasized. Apple and other tech companies stand to gain a lot by employing more women. Several studies indicate that companies with a larger pool of female employees and more women on their boards of directors outperform those with far fewer.

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