Think cryptocurrency is bad? NFTs are even worse.
Mashable’s new series Don’t @ Me takes unpopular opinions and backs them up with…reasons. We all have our ways, but we may just convince you to change yours. And if not, chill.
Cryptocurrency is a mess. The amount of energy required to generate and keep records of it is staggering, with Bitcoin mining alone generating around . Its carbon footprint is absolutely enormous, on par with that of entire countries.
Yet there is nothing terrible in this world that humans cannot make worse, and it seems cryptocurrency is no exception. Please welcome to the stage: NFTs. They are awful, and I hate them.
Put simply, a is a unique type of cryptocurrency. Whether crypto or not, currencies are typically fungibles, meaning they’re identical and interchangeable with one another. One dollar bill has the exact same value as another, so it doesn’t matter which one you have.
In contrast, a non-fungible is unique and cannot be interchanged. While both “The Starry Night” and “The Birth Of Venus” are paintings, you can’t simply swap them because they’re two very different, unique artworks. Similarly, every NFT is unique and immutable, created on the blockchain and tied to a singular object such as a digital artwork or photograph (or a GIF, or a tweet).
A recent surge of interest in NFTs has seen a huge rush to tokenise non-fungibles, with even Taco Bell jumping in with some taco GIFs. However, having an NFT doesn’t give you exclusive use of a work. It doesn’t add any improvement to it. It doesn’t bestow any worthwhile rights you can exercise, beyond the right to sell it.
An NFT is merely the very costly, environmentally disastrous, tech bro equivalent of peeing on a hydrant.
to anybody wondering why we’re telling ALL creators on this site to block NFT-related accounts right now, think of NFT twitters/replies telling bots to tokenize your content as the “i w*nt th*s on a t-sh*rt” thing but a million times worse for you and the environment
— charlesbian (@alterego) March 9, 2021
Sure, Ethereum, the platform where most NFTs reside, is planning to switch its model from proof of work to proof of stake, which would make it more environmentally friendly. But it’s taking an awfully long time, and the actual change over may not happen for years.
And even setting aside the fact that NFTs are actively accelerating our already sound barrier-breaking race toward climate catastrophe, they are also completely and utterly meaningless.
What are you purchasing, really? This isn’t like comparing an original oil painting to a print, where the copies are very clearly different to the original. Your tokenised artwork is exactly the same as every copy ever made of it, and every copy yet to be made. You don’t have some unique version only you can enjoy.
The only thing you have is bragging rights. And really, who cares? Who do you imagine you’re impressing with that? Maybe Elon Musk, if you ever actually encountered him and he deigned to speak to you. But then you’ll have done something to impress Elon Musk and will have to live with that for the rest of your life.
I imagine you stumbling through a post-COVID, post-apocalyptic party, gripping a half-empty beer and shouting in strangers’ ears over pounding EDM.
“You can’t own someone else’s tweet,” replies your unimpressed victim as they subtly scan the room for friends. “It’s text on the internet.”
You falter. “No you don’t get it — I tokenised it. I got the original. All… Everything else, the retweets, they’re all just copies. They don’t… Mine has value.”
You can’t explain what this value is, but you paid so there must be value. The thudding song blasting over the speakers drops its beat. The beat is always dropping. The beat has never dropped. The beat dropped 13 years ago.
Before you can untangle your reasoning your target’s roommate intervenes, assimilating them back into their faceless, ageless collective of friends. You can’t tell if they’re wearing masks due to disease or pollution or aesthetic. You return to your apartment alone and lie awake in your cold king-sized bed. You stare at a “no” typed out and published in 2008. You paid $2.5 million.
There is the argument that NFTs are good for digital artists, as they enable them to be paid for their work. Currently, images are easily taken, duplicated, and spread online, often with no credit given to their original creator. NFTs enable us to hold one up as the one true original, giving it value and stimulating the arts industry by enabling collectors to collect. Surely this is a good use of cryptocurrency?
To that I say: If you want a unique artwork, then commission an artist. If you want to ensure creators are properly compensated for their labour, then commission an artist. If you’re concerned about the viability of the arts industry, then commission an artist.
More than this, NFTs don’t even guarantee any money goes to the person who created the work. As it currently stands, there is nothing stopping people from simply tokenising other people’s work, claiming it and profiting off it. There is even a regardless of whether or not you yourself wrote it — all you have to do is tag it.
NFTs are not a boon for struggling artists. They are a plague facilitating art theft. Numerous creators are having their content stolen, with artists angrily speaking out and setting their Twitter accounts to private in an attempt to curb the soulless free-for-all. Unfortunately, right now it feels like building a lean-to in the path of a tsunami.
Artists, content creators, and shitposters on Twitter aren’t the only people NFTs are curb stomping into the ground either. (I mean, assuming we aren’t counting the fact that their is screwing over everyone in the entire world.) Artist RJ Palmer noted NFTs also have dangerous implications for anyone who has ever taken a nude.
“The art community has been so preoccupied with art theft and copyright NFTs, the realization that someone can attach a nude to an NFT is truly horrifying,” “Someone can just sell a photo of your body without permission. What the fuck do we do about that?”
Somehow, NFTs can make even the nightmare of revenge porn more hellish. And there is absolutely no plus side to any of it at all.
NFT art: the worst parts of capitalism + the established exclusionary practices of the fine art world repackaged and disingenuously touted as revolutionary for independent artists—all while techbros buy them to diversify their cryptoportfolios & recklessly expedite climate change
— Jen Bartel (@heyjenbartel) March 8, 2021
NFTs are capitalism gone wild. They’re the ugly result of the destructive desire to own things that don’t need to be owned, purely for the sake of owning them. They’re tech bros planting flags just because they can, and demanding of themselves no further justification, reasoning, or reflection. They’re pure unadulterated ego crystallised, digitised, and monetised.
We don’t need NFTs. We don’t benefit from NFTs. The only anemic value gained upon purchasing an NFT is the ability to truthfully say, “I own this NFT” — a sentence with so little significance it’s laughable.
Yet to provide that scant, meaningless, disgusting privilege, NFTs are poisoning the Earth and everyone upon it.