Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Shares His Thoughts on Free Speech, Artificial Intelligence and Building Factories in Space

Jeff Bezos has become a household name in the retail and tech industries for his ability to anticipate trends and his willingness to take risks.

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, holds the Kindle Paperwhite at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Paperwhite devices. (Photo: AP/Reed Saxon)
Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, holds the Kindle Paperwhite at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Paperwhite devices. (AP/Reed Saxon)

When the Amazon CEO spoke at Recode’s Code Conference eight years ago, the online retail giant had just recently launched its Kindle e-reader, which has since proven to be a tremendous success.

Bezos attended that same conference Tuesday evening in Los Angeles, but this time, his goals were even more extravagant and future-focused than ever: In his talk with Recode editor-at-large Walt Mossberg, he discussed artificial intelligence and his ideas for saving the planet.

During their conversation, which was recorded and published by Recode, Bezos claimed that the way to protect the planet is “by going into outer space.”

Bezos told Mossberg that high-energy production should take place in space in order to preserve the Earth as a clean living space.

“Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial,” he explained. “You shouldn’t be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space.”

He also said that futuristic developments like natural language processing, AI and machine “learning” are going to be “gigantic.”

“It’s probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it’s going to have on society over the next 20 years,” Bezos said.

Sharing his optimism, the CEO told Mossberg, “I think we’re on the edge of a golden era.”

Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, also commented on the importance of protecting the press from moneyed adversaries who don’t like what they publish. Bezos himself has been targeted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over the paper’s coverage of the Trump campaign.

“The best defense to speech that you don’t like about yourself as a public figure is to develop a thick skin. It’s really the only effective defense, because you can’t stop it,” he said. “If you’re doing anything interesting in the world, you’re going to have critics. If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.”

When asked about PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s funding of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, Bezos was careful to phrase his response as generally as possible.

“It’s the ugly speech that needs protection,” he noted. And for those who dislike someone’s “ugly speech,” Bezos said, “You don’t have to invite those people to your dinner parties.”

When Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader almost a decade ago, there were rumors that the company, which started off selling only books, was trying to put bookstores and publishing companies out of business. Now, with Amazon’s sophisticated shipping process that offers customers the option free two-hour shipping via drone delivery, there is new speculation that the company is trying to put the U.S. Postal Service out of business.

But Bezos put these fears at ease, saying that Amazon isn’t so much interested in taking over the “last mile” of the delivery trek, as it is in making the process more efficient for the company and its partners.

“We’re growing our business with UPS, we’re growing our business with the U.S. Postal Service and still we’re supplementing it,” he said.