AI won't replace human intelligence, says BCG senior tech expert

21 February 2018 3 min. read

A Senior Advisor with The Boston Consulting Group and expert on tech strategy has reassured Koreans that artificial intelligence in its current state is not the ‘beginning of general intelligence,’ saying that he highly doubts the technology will develop human-like intelligence for the time being.

In an interview with the Korea Herald, Philip Evans, who is a Senior Advisor with strategy giants The Boston Consulting Group and founded the firm’s Media and Internet practices, told the paper that contrary to common perceptions AI is not on a course to replace humanity. “There is a widespread perception that AI is converging on human intelligence, that there is a process of progress by which AI will become like human intelligence in the foreseeable future,” Evans said, “I’m frankly quite skeptical of that.”

A leading global expert on technology and strategy, Evans holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and has been with BCG since 1978, advising on, among other areas, community-centric marketing, network-based strategy, infrastructure economics, big data, and privacy for government organisations and corporations operating in the consumer goods, healthcare, financial-services, media, and high-technology sectors.

Further clarifying his position on the prospects of AI with the paper, Evans added; “There are some things that machines are inherently incapable of doing and the most obvious one is emotion. They don’t feel emotion, and we know that they’re faking, but we don’t care ... my own view is that it’s certainly great to be a data scientist, but it will be human emotional intelligence that will become more important in the future as the purely cognitive skills become less important.”

AI won't replace human intelligence, says BCG senior tech expert

His proclamations follow recent reports that the South Korean government will embark on an ambitious expansion project for the nation’s robotics industry, seeking to boost industry sales to over $6 billion by 2022 (from the current $4.1 billion figure) through its “Intelligent Robot Industry Development Acceleration Strategy,” with 7,000 additional employees to be added in the sector over the same period – taking the total employment number to 36,000.

Coming on the back of a previous $450 million investment announcement from the government into the sector for the next five years, the latest development strategy will see industry join with academic and research institutes to advance the collaborative robot market, while local telecoms, manufacturers and research and development agencies will work together to develop AI platforms for robots.


According to figures from the International Federation of Robotics, the nation already has the highest concentration of industrial robots in the world, with 531 multipurpose industrial robots for every 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. But rather than a simple substitute for the human workforce, Evans said that businesses needed to understand the distinctions in AI capabilities.

While AI offers advantages in certain areas, such as detecting fraudulent credit transactions in real time, the technology still lags behind humans in terms of sensory motor functions and cognitive abstraction. In this respect, Evans says; “You really need to start from the business, not from the technology. It is fundamentally wrong to say, ‘How can we use AI?’ That results in silly applications.” Yet, for South Korean tech companies themselves, developing and incorporating AI is a necessary component of business competitiveness.

“The major Korean electronics companies are fighting a continuous battle to maintain product differentiation and avoid becoming a mere commodity,” Evans said, “And AI, from their point of view, is a key way to do that. Therefore they are trying to put AI in as many products as they possibly can… If it works, and they don’t do it, they have a huge downside. If it doesn’t work, they’ve just added some unnecessary features, which is something that companies have been doing for decades. ”