I have no interest in digital art, nor in collecting it, and I especially don't have any interest in anything connected to cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless.
Recent usage seems to suggest the verb "collect" being used to describe the purchase of NFTs. Possibly
only some purchases, I don't know. Anyways, the verb is in play. That's interesting. It suggests to me
that people who "buy" NFTs are generally coming to the conclusion that they're not buying the, uh, "art"
that the NFT describes in a way that confers anything that resembles ownership. The don't own the art, they... something else the art. It's not clear what. They're settling on the word "collect" as far as I
This makes a lot of sense, actually, and seems to more accurately encapsulate the off-kilter quasi-but-not
ownership concept the crypto shills keep hammering on about.
One "collects" experiences as well as artifacts. One might reasonably "collect" baseball players in the form
of baseball cards. In this sense, to "collect" means something like to add to a list of things I am
personally invested in. Baseball cards are particularly apropos, they are an essentially worthless piece
of heavy paper with a picture and some words and numbers on it. They gain social value by their reference to
a popular athlete. They gain monetary value through a combination of social value, and scarcity.
NFTs, by and large, are not backed by anything as meaningful as baseball, but whatever. Baseball is also
just a social
thing anyways, albeit one that employs a bunch of people.
This suggests that NFTs are insanely overpriced. They should default to a dollar, or a pound, and only
special ones should reach high prices, and then only temporarily.
More to the point, though, it points out the absurdity of NFTs as currently designed. There is no ledger, immutable or not, for baseball cards or for experiences. The "blockchain" plays no important role here
(as usual: all "blockchain" applications can be improved by removing the blockchain part, and NFTs are
no exception. What's interesting is that, when you remove the blockchain, arguably there is something left.)
There is no reason in the world to have NFTs "on the blockchain" at all. If we want to generate a concept
of "collecting" art as distinct from "owning" art, well that's fine and dandy. There's a lot of ways to
do that, ways that don't involve any blockchains. You can get fancy with crypto, or the artist can just send
you a friggin' email.
Obviously if you constructed this in a sensible way, there would be no opportunity to make vast sums
of money doing basically nothing, so that's an issue for a lot of people involved in the space. But, if
you're one of the few people who actually think it's about something other than taking a shitload of
someone else's money and sticking it in your own pocket, there are other ways to do those other
things that don't involved hanging out with a bunch of criminals.
All this stuff is just socially constructed anyway, right? Do you want bragging rights? Do you want a
public record that you personally bought a thing? You can do this, it's not even hard, and you don't
need a blockchain to do any of it. I'm not even a cryptographer and I can rough out the algorithms you
could use to do all this shit cryptographically, "digitally native," without a ledger of any kind. You can do this entirely with self
describing free-floating objects that you could encode as a QR code and print out on an index card.
Or the artist could just send you an email.
Blockchain shills tell you that things on the blockchain are permanent records, but they're not. They literally cease to exist
when the miners stop generating them, and the miners will stop the moment the cryptocurrencies drop to
zero, which they are guaranteed to do some day. A QR code on an index card will be readable in 500
years if you don't
get the paper wet. Your NFT will literally cease to exist in your own lifetime, unless your time
is very short indeed.
I think the idea of "collecting" as separate from "owning" is potentially interesting, in all its social
ramifications, but by lashing it irrevocably to crypto-currency, the idea loses any chance of long term
survival. Holding tight to the anchor is a fine until the ship goes down.
This is a problem.