They sat in even rows
Lake slaves in the galley
Attached to a screen by digital chains.
Compliant, obedient, dead-eyed
They stared at the glassy surface
Jumping through the hoops that would determine
Standardized didn’t just apply
To the test they took.
I felt the awful conformist dystopian wretchedness
Of the whole scene
As they became cogs in the system,
Slaves to the algorithm that determined their scores
Their value, their worth.
The brainwaves synced to a type of thought,
Where there is only one right answer
And the measure of a person
Is their cut-score.
I called time,
Happy to set them free
From the subjugation
Of their electronic oppressor,
Free from the screens that controlled,
Not just their minds for 90 minutes
(give or take),
But the span of their learning for nearly two decades,
Everything designed to please the algorithm,
Nothing designed to question it.
Happy to set them free,
I told them to relax, to chat,
To hang out, to joke, to laugh,
In short, to act like human beings again.
But then I had to hand back
Their own screens
And the room fell silent again
As they moved their eyes and fingers over the glass
As invisible eyes collected yet more data on them
And they became once again
Attached to a screen by invisible chains.