I’ve drafted and re-drafted this post
many times and it always turns out
waaay too long, so if you’d just like
“NFTs – If you don’t like the game,
you don’t have to play the game.”
Now, onto the torturous extendo-crux
that’s sure to please absolutely
NFTs: The Gathering
(of my thoughts)
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.
I’m no longer religious, but the above scripture keeps coming to mind when I consider my relationship with digital collectibles.
I worry that I’m lukewarm, but ultimately, I think I’m cold. I mean, nobody wants to be a waffling hypocrite. Perhaps I’d say ‘aloof’ is a more apt description, as I think being truly cold on NFTs requires a sort of active denigration or some such. I just can’t marshal that sort of energy to fight a non-battle, for reasons I’ll get into.
In truth, this post is just me organizing my thoughts and seeking clarity on how I really feel about a topic that takes up a TONNE of oxygen. Maybe someone else will find it of interest. SO, here we go…
- Everything, it seems, boils down to this single fact: The collector mindset is just inherent in some people and it’s not something you’re going to change anyone’s mind about.
- The exact opposite is also true: if you don’t have that collector’s mindset, you’re not going to be drawn to NFTs.
- I don’t have the collector’s mindset, and so I don’t collect (although I do own a few NFTs from a commission I did several years ago — more on that later).
- The only thing I collect is fat around my belly. My actual hobby is tropical fish.
- When you loudly rail against NFTs – who exactly are you trying to convince? Because it ain’t NFT fans. If it’s to please your in-group then you’re just being smug, which isn’t a great look. If you feel the need to ‘save’ people from NFTs, well, read bullet #1 again.
- I’m not saying I don’t have issues with NFTs (we’ll get to that) but arguing that someone’s hobby is stupid is a) pointless, and b) unproductive. They’re probably going to ignore you.
Right Click, Save As
- Bitcoiners often say that bitcoin is a bit of an IQ test (and I tend to agree, or at least I get the gist here), however, the same can be said for people who still make the ‘right click, save as’ joke.
- If you’re still making this tiresome joke then you’ve entirely missed the point, and you look kind of…eh, dumb. Maybe not to your friendz, but you really don’t get it, lol. OF COURSE YOU CAN’T OWN A JPG, but that’s not the fucking point.
- Let me make it a bit clearer for those right-click cluckers reading this: you may also be interested to learn that the actor who plays Superman in the movies can’t actually fly.
- Crazy, right? I can’t believe DC expects us to just accept this completely obvious scam.
- Maybe go hang out at some board game cafés and scream at the customers. They love it when you do that.
If you don’t want to play the game,
you don’t have to play the game.
Room to Chill
- Aaaall that said, and as someone who works in and around bitcoin all the time, the irony is not lost on me when I say this: if NFTs are all you talk about, then it can get to be a bit much. I can see why it attracts detractors and cluckers. It’s an all too easy target. It’s not quite like this Shatner moment from the old SNL sketch, but it’s darn close:
NFT as Distraction
- It’s argued that NFTs distract from a larger purpose. Bitcoin’s earth-shattering profundity should easily outweigh the fascination with NFTs by orders of magnitude — it seems obvious to me, but obviously not to others. Why do people spend their time on anything other than bitcoin? Good question! Go ask Twitter and I’m sure everyone will weigh in politely.
- I get a weirdly off-putting feeling in my stomach when I see all the NFT mania and hype at scale – and it’s basically because the more sincere collectors get drowned out by opportunists, influencers and naive, money-hungry, awestruck noobs.
- “But phneep, surely there’s room to fix the money AND play with NFTs, isn’t there??” <insert sideways glancing emoji>
- The right click cluckers will generally tell you that the energy poured into NFT culture would be better spent improving access and understanding for bitcoin in order to more quickly “liberate the world from corrupt central planners via a censorship-resistant, decentralized, cash-like, digital bearer instrument with a finite supply.” I get it. And, you know, I pretty much agree.
- While I don’t collect, I do appreciate the implied value of embedding information on an append-only data structure in perpetuity. It’s a way of saying “I was here”.
- We can’t go back. We can never go back. But we can mark the moment. I get it. It’s frozen in time, and time is the most precious thing we have.
- The further into the future we go, the past can seem more and more meaningful. It’s very personal and metaphysical. Acknowledging and commemorating these feelings is only natural. I could never hold this desire for time travel against anyone.
- The long-term integrity and immutability of one’s chosen blockchain factors in here, of course, and that also bugs some bitcoiners. However, if you don’t care about the collector pastime in the first place, then just…I dunno, fuck off, maybe? haha
- It’s fine if an artist has a following and is able to monetize their work with NFTs. If the fans are on board, then why not. Go for it. Live and let live.
- But in a world where online content is king, and you have to constantly pump stuff out to stay relevant, that’s a bit at odds with the scarcity aspect of good art. So I guess what I’m trying to say is: just be mindful of your reasons for fawning over what might, in a non-blockchain context, be seen as just a ‘cool drawing, bro!’ Adjust your bids accordingly.
- Maybe if ‘art’ is going to be digital, you should take advantage of that medium beyond just hashing an image into a blockchain? I mean, digital is limitless — get creative. Really use this supposed ‘tech’. Make a non-collector feel something. Now THAT would be a fascinating artistic accomplishment.
- Hhhh, I dunno, maybe I’m just too old and too analog.
Money Money Money
- I tire of the obscene grift, degen and status games – such a sudden interest in art for $ome Rea$on! It’s no wonder that mainstream folks stay the @#%$&* away. The stigma is quite palpable. Your community is different of course 😉
- Would be great if everyone just collected for collecting sake, and certainly there are plenty of folks who claim to be in this camp. Good for them. It just concerns me when I see people talking about finding ‘grails’ and expecting to retire in 5 or 10 years.
- Again, it’s possible the ‘normie class’ will rampage onto the scene en masse and throw billions of dollars around, but I’ve just seen too many ‘digital assets’ bleed out slowly over and over and over and over again without a proper raison d’être.
- Risk appetite, position size, blah blah blah…you know the deal. I don’t have time to parse out all the potentialities. I do feel bad for the younger gens who are hobbled by the current system to build a secure future — just promise me you’ll come up for air once in a while and honestly try to discern whether you’re one of the true investment geniuses or the greater fool. /Lecture over.
Respect for the Chain
- For those in the NFT in-group, much of the ire hurled at them has to do with the out-group’s level of respect for the various blockchains and image hosting schemes.
- I personally can’t get past the probabilistic incentive & sustainability issues with IPFS and Arweave – so there’s that. Direct on-chain inscription schemes seem better, but again, that’s separate from my other feelings and concerns outlined here.
- For the record, I have serious reservations about ETH, for all the reasons that have been debated ad nauseam (scaling, centralization, POS, privacy, censorship etc.). I find it very peculiar how difficult it is to resolve the debate. I don’t have any novel insights here and am not going to convince anybody to change their mind, so…plant your flag tribe member! Let’s meet back here in 20 years and compare notes!
- I do find that being negative in my art has always left me feeling a bit hollow, so I’ve evolved to just focus in positive ways on solutions that I believe in (i.e. run a bitcoin node). In this way, maybe I’ll set an example.
Innovation / Utility
- If your concern is that NFTs are being sold as something they’re not, well, then I can definitely sympathize, but it also gets really convoluted really quickly. Everyone is operating on different wavelengths, so nothing gets resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DON’T LIKE CORNFLAKES! YOU’RE TERRIBLE! BREAKFAST IS ESSENTIAL!!!
- Is there ultimately some utility for NFTs beyond collectibles that I’m missing? Again, totally possible. I just personally don’t have an obvious problem that NFTs solve. Maybe I’m flaunting my ignorance here – but count me off that bandwagon for the time being.
- Will I miss out on ‘sick gainz’ or ‘first mover status’ or some other incredible privilege? Perhaps, but I also need to focus my energy. Bitcoin is an endless grind, and it gives me enough satisfaction and reward. It really does. What could be more rewarding than being a part of such a fundamentally liberating global paradigm shift? Do you see? Do you see!?
On the Art
- My most popular art tends to be the stuff that I spend the most work on. Funny that!
- Look at anything FractalEncrypt has created and tell me that it’s not gorgeous. That stuff takes serious effort.
- Programmatic / generative art is mildly interesting I suppose, but again I have to ask – if any of this wasn’t on a blockchain would you care as much?
- My non-collector brain thinks that hashing your image onto a blockchain doesn’t make it very special. What’s special are the reasons it needs to be there in the first place. Most NFTs I see are… fine …in the same way that everything on https://www.deviantart.com/ is … fine. Which comes first, the meaning or the minting?
- It must be the combination of the two, but now I feel like I’m talking in circles. Subjectivity ftw.
- And of course you can just be silly and whatever – that’s not really what I’m talking about. I get a proper kick out of Rare Pepes and similar efforts, but you can easily lose that irreverent attitude that made it special in the first place. Tread wisely.
So much of the magic of art, be it cave paintings, Rare Pepes or a Cézanne, is that the artist was most likely doing it to just express themselves. The adulation is secondary. Commissioning art muddies that view a bit, but you get what I’m saying. And the legacy commercial art market has certainly become distorted and ugly.
I guess my point here is that artists and collectors alike should strive for the humility to be here for the right reasons, or you risk debasing everything, including yourself.
I’m well aware that I’ve missed a lot of edge-case and edge-opinions above – impossible to be comprehensive and also not boring. So much of this issue boils down to personal priorities and investment of energy. I feel very similar to when I sold my last bleeding altcoin – it was a relief because I could just focus on what engages my intellect most: bitcoin.
I mentioned at the beginning that I’d talk about the one NFT commission I did do, but this post is already too long, so I’ll save that for another day. For now, I bid you a fond adieu.