Tag: William Blake

Talkin’ Industry 4.0

Saturday, 5 November, 2016 0 Comments

Today, at the 29th IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference in Munich, I’ll be talking about the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its seven key components: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics, AI and cybersecurity.

As with the three preceding Industrial Revolutions, which were powered, respectively, by steam, electricity and transistors, the cyber-physical systems now driving this fourth upheaval will transform manufacturing and replace William Blake’s vision of dark Satanic sweatshops with that of a better, cleaner, cleverer place — the smart factory.

“And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

Jerusalem by William Blake (1757 — 1827)


The human heart and face

Friday, 12 August, 2016 0 Comments

On this day in 1827, William Blake died. The English poet, painter, printmaker and visionary was largely unrecognised during his lifetime, but is now considered a pivotal figure in the arts of the Romantic Age. When he was 14, his family decided that he would be apprenticed to an engraver, so his father took him to William Ryland, a highly respected master of the trade. The boy, however, resisted the arrangement telling his father, “I do not like the man’s face: it looks as if he will live to be hanged!” The grim prophecy came true 12 years later.

William Blake’s uncanny ability to expose the face that lies behind the mask resulted in some revealing and enduring paintings and poetry.

A Divine Image

Cruelty has a Human Heart
And Jealousy a Human Face
Terror the Human Form Divine
And Secrecy, the Human Dress

The Human Dress, is forged Iron
The Human Form, a fiery Forge.
The Human Face, a Furnace seal’d
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

William Blake - Nebuchadnezzar

William Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar is a print portraying the Old Testament Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. The story of Nebuchadnezzar tells of a ruler who through hubris lost his mind and was reduced to madness and eating “grass as oxen.”


Chariot of Fire, Cloud of Data

Wednesday, 24 February, 2016 0 Comments

Now that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway, one wonders how/if contemporary artists will rise to the challenge of depicting the great changes that are coming. These changes might lead to the ending of drudgery or to the ending of privacy; they might lead to the printing of human organs or to mass production of sexbots… The threats and opportunities are bewildering and what makes the concept of Industry 4.0 so exciting is that where we’re going doesn’t have roads yet.

The First Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century saw the development of new manufacturing techniques, including steam power, and this had a huge impact on employment, output and living standards. But it was hugely disruptive and the English artist William Blake portrayed the downside in his poem Jerusalem:

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

As smoke and ash belched across hill and dale, the Romantic poets railed against what they say as the ruin of Eden, but the same William Blake, who memorably pictured the “dark Satanic mills”, also said: “Nature without man is barren.” In other words, we are responsible for this world and we must embrace change:

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

Blake ended his poem on a defiant note. Let’s see if our modern poets can craft anything as inspiring as Jerusalem while the Cloud unfolds:

I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Two hundred years ago, William Blake urged people to join the fight to build a better world. To arm himself and his readers for the spiritual revolution within the Industrial Revolution, he called for bow, arrow, spear, chariot of fire, passion and imagination. These were the tools for the task. Despite the smoke and flames from the mills, nature could be preserved, he said, but only if people had the will and the wit to save it. Today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution promises great benefits, but its agents, robotics and artificial intelligence, could trigger mass unemployment and social chaos. Do we have the will and wit to cope with that?


Post-pub with Swill, Thirstie and Drizly

Friday, 20 March, 2015 0 Comments

“A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation.” So said William Blake (1757 – 1827), engraver, poet, painter, thinker and drinker. “Liquor when you want it, where you want it” was not a Blake slogan, but it is the motto of Thirstie, an on-demand alcohol startup that plans to dis-intermediate the pub by bringing the booze to you. Actually, Thirstie does not deliver the hard stuff itself. It enables customers to order alcohol from stores that already deliver, instead. In this way, it is following a familiar path: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” To which we can now add, Thirstie, the on-demand drink service, that doesn’t touch it.

But Thirstie isn’t the only runner in the race to change drinking habits. Swill and Drizly are in the same space, and BrewDrop dominates the market in Austin, where Thirstie announced yesterday that it had raised a $1.1 million seed round. Cheers!


The Year of the Caprinae

Thursday, 19 February, 2015 0 Comments

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people are celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday with their families. Today, they’re bidding farewell to the Year of the Horse but we’re not quite sure what it is that they’re welcoming. The New Year’s name is defined by the character 羊, which can mean either sheep or goat. Thing is, the goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are members of the subfamily Caprinae. That being the case, we’re going with sheep. For the occasion, then, this is from Songs of Innocence by William Blake.

The Shepherd

How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet lot!
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lambs’ innocent call,
And he hears the ewes’ tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their shepherd is nigh.

William Blake (1757 — 1827)

Year of the Sheep


Their innocent faces clean

Sunday, 13 April, 2014 0 Comments

Twas on a Holy Thursday The children walking two & two in red & blue & green Grey-headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow, Till into the high dome of Pauls they like Thames waters flow Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song Or like harmonious […]

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The smiling iron fist

Sunday, 11 August, 2013 0 Comments

The Smile There is a Smile of Love And there is a Smile of Deceit And there is a Smile of Smiles In which these two Smiles meet And there is a Frown of Hate And there is a Frown of disdain And there is a Frown of Frowns Which you strive to forget in […]

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