To #NFT or Not to #NFT — I
Buzzwords and trends are funny. On one hand, they are “buzzing” and “trending” with popularity. On the other hand, there is almost always some kind of opposition, some outrage and even outright hatred against them. Through 2021, NFT and Metaverse have been two examples of them so I decided to write about them. Starting with NFT, probably moving to Metaverse when I’m done here.
Please keep in mind that this is my understanding of things and I’d be more than happy to be corrected on whatever points I’m misinformed about or any points that I’m missing.
Online content about NFT seems to be divided into three types:
- Explaining what NFT is (It’s like an original Monet painting! It’s a rare baseball card!)
- Absolute NFT hype (The world as we know it has ended because NFT! Everything and I mean e v e r y t h i n g changes now!!!)
- Absolute NFT hate (NFTs destroy the planet, games, arts and also starve children in Africa if you really think about it!)
Me? I absolutely dislike absolutes. Whenever I see an internet hivemind forming to defend or attack something, I try and see beyond it, because there is usually misinformation or misguidance. So I tried to understand NFT and… to be honest, I haven’t seen any reason to be pro-NFT.
Currently, I see two main use cases for NFTs: Selling art and inter-product items. Let’s delve into both.
“Imagine if artists could make money selling art!” says NFT people and I say “Well, they have been doing that for a while.” Digital might not have had the same scene as traditional art but selling art happens. If it’s about being the sole owner, the artist might hand the only copy to a person. If it’s about royalties, they can sign a contract about that. If it’s about proof-of-ownership, that also can be a document. Granted, regulations on digital stuff has been slow but we’re getting there and meanwhile, there are generalist solutions. So the artist hands the file to the new owner and they sign a contract saying the owner now has all the rights to the file but the artist has the right to get loyalties for all commercial activities (or something like that) and there we go: Digital ownership for the person and loyalties for the artist. The owner can keep it to themselves or copy it to make money, paying a part to the artist.
With an NFT, this whole thing happens with a smart contract. Here are the arguments I hear and why I think they don’t make sense.
“Smart contracts allow loyalties to happen automatically, preventing the artist from being cheated.” — Sure, except if the person doesn’t use the block copy but another copy (Remember, this is digital art). Heck — they could even mint it. So each solution would require some security measure, NFT doesn’t automatically solve this.
“NFT ensures unique ownership.” except it doesn’t. There are a bunch of decentralized NFT markets/chains. What stops anyone from selling double copies? Heck, right now we see an abundance of selling someone else’s art. If markets don’t care/can not regulate ownership of the art in the first place, how can they ensure ownership for the buyers or the uniqueness of it?
“NFT creates a collection-like ownership.” Sure, but how is that different from doing it through centralized systems? In fact, we just mentioned NFT’s aren’t great in defining ownership in the first place.
Here is the most common answer I heard: “DAOs or similar organizations can create regulations for markets to prevent selling others’ art or duplicate copies”…which is pretty funny because that’s actually centralizing the systems and taking away one of the core features of NFT/block.
The same goes with dealing with the law. If NFTs stay completely “out of the system”, how are they going to be legit in defining ownership? If they join the system, are they *really* decentralized?
And honestly, the current ecosystem doesn’t help at all. People’s wallets get stolen, their art gets sold, most don’t seem to really know what rights are part of buying NFTs and NFT Markets and/or relevant DAOs seem to care little in most cases and in others, they just seem to be helpless to deal with issues. That’s one of the problems with relying on the rule of code: Not everything happens during smart contracts.
In summation, I don’t see NFTs being able to solve any issues they claim to or provide actual implementations for the utopia they say they are creating. At best, they are unable to. At worst, they end up doing the opposite.
Right now the only thing NFTs seem to do is make money through a number of shady ways or convincing people with money to get into it. The majority of the people getting into NFTs being “NFT-enthusiasts” and not artists speak volumes. This is not an art-focused movement. This is a money-focused movement that currently operates little differently than an MLM.
In fact, many artists have already suffered in a number of ways and I haven’t heard anything other than “No, you don’t understand”s, “Not for you”s or the completely vague “It will get better”s. Until I do, I’m not only not dealing with NFTs, I’m actively opposing them.
PS: Note that I didn’t even get into block issues, costs of minting and environmental impact.