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Vox Media Wraps Kara Swisher’s Annual Code Conference, Featuring Interviews with Tim Cook, Andy Jassy, Bob Iger, Sundar Pichai, Jen Psaki, Issa Rae, and More

The Three-Day Beverly Hills Conference Focused on Tech Regulation, the Global Economy, The Future of Work, the Climate Crisis, and more 

Getty Images for Vox Media

Today Vox Media wrapped its annual Code Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Hosted and organized by Kara Swisher, the annual invitation-only conference convenes the biggest names in tech and media for Swisher’s signature red chair interviews, networking, and in-depth conversations. This year’s conference focused on what’s next in tech regulation, the global economy, the future of work, the climate crisis, and more.

Speakers included U.S. Security of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, Cost Plus Drugs Co-Founder Mark Cuban, Algorithm Expert and Advocate for Accountability and Transparency in Social Media Frances Haugen , former Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger, Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Governor Gavin Newsom,Google CEO Sundar Pichai, former White House Press Secretary and MSNBC Host Jen Psaki, Writer, Actor, and Producer Issa Rae, and more.

In addition, Kara Swisher announced On with Kara Swisher, her new interview podcast with New York Magazine and Vox Media premiering on September 26. With new episodes dropping on Mondays and Thursdays, the twice weekly show will help listeners make sense of the moment through agenda-setting conversations between Swisher and some of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley, Washington and Hollywood.

Highlights from Day 1: September 6

Mark Cuban, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mathias Döpfner, Frances Haugen, and Sundar Pichai took to the stage to discuss antitrust, TikTok, content moderation, and more.

When asked about a tax increase for the wealth Cuban shared “I don’t mind being taxed more. But the idea just soak the rich, billionaire tears that fill that cup. Screw you, Elizabeth Warren, you’re everything that’s wrong with politics.

On how pharma villain Martin Shkreli inspired Cost Plus Drugs:

“If he could jack things up 1,500 percent or whatever it was, why can’t we cut it, right? Because it shows there’s pricing fungibility there.”

Sundar Pichai commented on a hope to make Google 20% more efficient

“Across everything we do, we can be slower to make decisions,” Pichai said Tuesday. “You look at it end-to-end and figure out how to make the company 20% more productive… Sometimes there are areas to make progress [where] you have three people making decisions, understanding that and bringing it down to two or one improves efficiency by 20%.”

On when he imagines AI sentience could happen:

“I still think there’s a long way to go. I feel like I get into philosophical or a metaphysical topic talking about what is sentience or what is consciousness. The good news is we’re far from it and we may never get there.”

Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner on why TikTok should be banned:

“We are having a moment of naivete in dealing with China as a whole… In particular, in dealing with TikTok… We hand over personal data to the Chinese government….TikTok should be banned in every democracy.” Video here

Döpfner addressing “emails” asking employees to pray for Trump’s reelection:

“I wrote that text message – not an email – when I received the breaking news that the Trump administration was suing Google … that was a moment when, I think, probably most publishers around the world thought this is a smart way to give credit to Trump.” Döpfner clarified the emails were sent “before the denial of election results and before the storm[ing] of the capital… I would never try to influence journalists.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar on how the tech industry has stalled her anti-trust bill:

“What has slowed us down is this incredible onslaught of money. And that’s what happens with monopolies. That’s what happened throughout history and eventually our country got its act together.”

Algorithm Expert Frances Haugen on whether Meta has learned its lesson:

“They’ve invested less and less in Response AI. So I think there are things where they haven’t really learned the right lesson, which is, I know, because I’ve talked to these consultants. People were warning Facebook for years. If you hide the dirty laundry, eventually the dirty laundry will get aired and it’ll be worse than it will be if you just fess up to it now. And I think, instead of coming back and saying, ‘Hey, we’re running critical, vital infrastructure like we are the Internet for at least a 1 billion people online today, people who live in societies that make up 3 or 4 billion people, maybe we should be more participatory.’ I don’t think they’ve learned that lesson yet.”

Highlights from Day 2: September 7

Former Press Secretary and MSNBC Host Jen Psaki on why the transition from press secretary to MSNBC host feels like a natural next step:

“As I’m thinking about making this transition – which no doubt it is – I’ve thought a lot about what I enjoy doing or what really excited me about my last job, and it feels different for people. I was at the White House. I’m going to a media company. But the thing I loved the most was those days when you’d wake up, there was some story about some issue you knew nothing about. . . .When you wake up and you write a list of questions or things you want to know more about. . . .and then you go find out more about it because you want to know it to explain it to people well. I love that. That’s what I want to do. Yes, I’m a democrat. I’m not hiding from that. And there’s things I believe. But what I hope to do is bring that passion for explaining things, debunking things, calling out BS when you see it for sure, to my next job.”

Governor Newsom spoke to a technological approach to the current heat wave:

“Everybody has done their job. It’s been extraordinary how people have taken it seriously, including that alert. We put out last night about 2600 or so megawatts within 45 minutes of doing that alert coming out. It was conservation that saved us last night. Some 4000 megawatts that saved us and imports about 8000 megawatts of imports, which is part and parcel of what we do.

On running for President:

“I have no interest. Zero. Period.”

Getty Images for Vox Media

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on how the company feels about unionization within its workforce:

“I wouldn’t say that we oppose it so vehemently, and to your point it’s not our choice. At the end of day, our employees will decide. . . .We think our employees are better off in the structure they’re in right now.”

Getty Images for Vox Media

Issa Rae on the current wave of Black television

I think the waves are attributed to the new iteration of these platforms in a way…Like streaming platforms are like, “Oh, we need to get audience numbers, like let’s bet on black” until we don’t. Okay, we’re good now. Thank you. Thank you for your services. And I think we’re in the “thank you for your services” iteration right now. We’ll see. I think within the next five years, it will be very telling. I think now what’s different is there is more of an autonomy with these with black creators, like black creators are owning their own production companies. And, you know, hiring their own people, their execs, just have a bit more say, but it always comes down to the distribution.

Getty Images for Vox Media

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on whether he’s considering another run for president:

“You don’t run for an office (well maybe some people do) because you always wanted to. But I think you run for an office because you notice something about the office, and something about yourself, and something about the moment that adds up.”

“And that process has been one I have used to decide to run for office several times, and it’s a process I’ve used to decide to not run for office several times. So who knows what the future is going to call me.”

On the GOP’s resistance to making electric vehicles cheaper.:

“A number of politicians, all of whom happen to be Republican, voted No on making EV’s cheaper, stood in the way of allowing Medicare to finally negotiate prescription drug prices which will help lead not only to cheaper drug prices for families, but huge savings for the Federal deficit. They don’t want to be talking about that. They’d much rather have us in an argument over whether Donald Duck is going to make your kid gay, which is obviously not how that works.”

“If we get that right, we can optimize traffic in ways that will reduce vehicle miles traveled, or reduce the amount of time spent idle, in which there, even with an electric vehicle, is a benefit.”

On working with Elon Musk to promote electric vehicles…

“Look, I’ll work with anybody who can help us get this stuff done.”

“I’ve sat down with the CEOs of the big 3 Detroit automakers and extended the same offer to him. I hope we get the chance sometime.”

Former Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger on his decision not to buy Twitter:

“We enter the process immediately, looking at Twitter as the solution: a global distribution platform. It was viewed as sort of a social network. We were viewing it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, [and] reach the world. And frankly, it would have been a phenomenal solution, distribution-wise.”

“Then, after we sold the whole concept to the Disney board and the Twitter board, and we’re really ready to execute — the negotiation was just about done — I went home, contemplated it for a weekend, and thought, ‘I’m not looking at this as carefully as I need to look at it.’ Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a great global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before.”

On discovering that a substantial portion of Twitter’s users were not real:

“Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users — I guess they’re called users? — and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion — not a majority — were not real. I don’t remember the number but we discounted the value heavily. But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap.”

Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc.

On the Metaverse:

“We’ve been trying to figure out what it all means. It seems to mean virtual reality, putting on a headset and sort of escaping the real world and going somewhere else and that’s going into a totally different direction than our strategy which is about integrating into the real world.””

On whether he would consider selling the company:

“When I look at the long-term opportunity in our business, I really believe it’s enormous…I believe we’re far from reaching our full potential. And I believe over time, the stock price has gone up and down, and we’ve tried to stay focused on delivering real value for shareholders.” Recode coverage here

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and President, Emerson Collective and Jony Ive former Chief Design Officer, Apple joined to discuss the legacy of Steve Jobs

Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and President, Emerson Collective on the inspiration for creating the Steve Jobs Archive

“...Others who worked with Steve over the years came together as advisers, and we have a lead historian and archivist and a small group that has established the Steve Jobs Archive. And while we do have some artifacts and some actual real material, the archive is much more about ideas. As Johnny was describing it’s really rooted in Steve’s long held notion that once you understand that, outside of the natural world, everything in the built environment and all the systems that govern our life on the planet were built and designed by other humans. And once you have that insight, you understand that you as a human can change.”

Tim Cook shared more on Apple’s approach to privacy:

“[Steve Jobs] put it in such eloquent and simple terms. It means asking people’s permission, asking them repeatedly. And it has been at the heart of how we view privacy. And so you know, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right.

What we felt is that people should own their data and they should make their own decisions. And so what we believed is that people should be empowered to be able to make that decision in a really straightforward and simple manner. Not buried 95 pages deep in a privacy policy somewhere, and so that’s the way that we’ve looked at it and we continue as each year goes by - to try to give our users, to empower them to make those decisions for themselves.”