Jon Stewart Confirms Apple Wouldn’t Let Him Do Show on AI With FTC Chair

Jon Stewart interviewed Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan on Monday night’s episode of The Daily Show, alongside a segment on how artificial intelligence is taking jobs. Stewart says Apple wouldn’t let him do either on his Apple TV show The Problem with Jon Stewart, which was canceled roughly six months ago.

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“I wanted to have you on a podcast, and Apple asked us not to do it, to have you. They literally said, ‘Please, don’t talk to her,’” Stewart said in an interview with Khan. “They wouldn’t let us even do that dumb thing we did in the first act on AI. What is that sensitivity? Why are they so afraid to even have these conversations out in the public sphere?”

Stewart came down, unsurprisingly, as critical of artificial intelligence in an earlier segment of the episode. He focused on how AI is taking jobs and tore down Big Tech’s all-too-familiar claims that people will simply be retrained into new jobs such as “prompt engineers.” Stewart drew comparisons to similar claims made around the fall of the coal industry, where politicians and industry leaders claimed miners would simply be retrained as electricians and programmers. A quick visit to coal mining towns across America shows that transition never happened, and Stewart is skeptical of this AI transition as well.

The Problem with Jon Stewart was canceled in October of last year, reportedly due to the veteran TV host’s views on AI and China, according to The New York Times. Apple reportedly informed him that Stewart needed to be “aligned” with their values, a proposition that the seasoned host balked at.

Apple has been silent over Jon Stewart’s canceled show. They did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on Tuesday.

“I think it just shows one of the dangers of what happens when you concentrate so much power and so much decision-making in a small number of companies,” said Khan in response to a question about Apple’s monopoly power.

Khan and Stewart spoke for over 20 minutes about Big Tech’s greatest monopolies today, naming Apple, Facebook, and Google as some of America’s greatest offenders. They also spoke about how algorithms have allowed tech companies to externalize accountability, and blame these black-box technologies for everything that’s wrong with their products.

Stewart also criticized Apple and Microsoft for buying up dozens of AI startups and putting them behind paywalls. Apple has bought out roughly 32 young AI companies in 2023. Google has bought more than 20 AI startups, while Microsoft and Meta have bought more than 15.

Apple is expected to give a huge AI announcement at this summer’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The company is reportedly in talks with Google and OpenAI to power the iPhone’s generative AI experience, which could revamp Siri to be much more useful. Simultaneously, Apple is facing a historic antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice.

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Maxwell Zeff