Thanks to too-useful apps and gadgets I have managed to lose some basic skills, from map-reading to finding my phone. Is this the real threat from AI?

On New Year’s Eve I watched The Matrix for the first time. I appreciate I’m late to the party on this one but I thought it jolly clever. And a bit worrying, obviously. The fear of artificially intelligent beings turning on us – be it by taking all our jobs off us, or tearing us limb from limb, or both – is widely held. I think it will happen, but not quite in the way that’s been assumed. It will happen not so much because artificial intelligence becomes more and more intelligent, but rather because it’s making us more stupid with every year that passes.

I base this conclusion on a study I’ve been conducting. There is a cohort of one: me. It concerns an ostensibly indispensable function I recently discovered on my Apple watch. I had owned the thing for three years before I found this feature, which is evidence enough of my mental slowness. It works like this: if I’m unable to recall where I left my phone, I can merely press a button on the watch that makes the phone play a jaunty tune and reveal its location.

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