Invisible Chains

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

Their futures.

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,

To play.

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.