Oh, the dilemma (or trilemma, or even n-lemma, with as many horns to choose from as you want, if you prefer). SO rich, so bored! Having more money than I could ever possibly spend in my lifetime, what can I buy next?
Here’s your answer: an NFT. That, to clarify, stands for non-fungible token. You are purchasing something digital, usually spending cryptocurrency to do so. It might be the first ever tweet on Twitter. Clips of NBA slam-dunk highlights. Digital art jpegs, whether photographic in origin or not. And so on. What you buy may well exist in countless (literally) copies which are all identical and available online for $0.00. But only your copy is uniquely joined to the blockchain, and uniquely identified as such.
This is the Next Big Thing unfolding now. Christie’s Auction House in the USA just sold an NFT 5000-image compiled jpeg for $69 million. More: the artist, who goes by the name Beeple, gets 10% of every future resale of it, too. If you have something worth selling in this manner, you too can Get Rich Quick!
The catch? Is there one? Only if you have a conscience. You see, the entry of the thing you are spending your millions on into the blockchain will generate, as all such online transactions do, a ridiculously large amount of waste heat. Cryptocurrency “mining” and the blockchain process are the worst things of all for the environment. The computers which perform their calculations are not your average desktop or laptop, no, not at all. The calculations are very time- and energy-consuming, and huge cooling efforts are necessary to keep the speeding computer banks from overheating.
I looked into this with simple curiosity a couple of years ago just to see what kind of computing power is necessary to mine cryptocurrency. Multiple thousands of dollars required. This, I am told by numerous sources, is being done in Svaneti by millionaires (who have the money for start-up costs), using our free electricity, and paying their hosts to look the other way and get free home heating into the bargain! This is a story into which I cannot dig at this point, though I hope someone not based here can.
There are efforts being made to make NFTs available in ways which use about 1% of the current typical blockchain process. This would thus render them not bothersome to the conscience of someone like me who might have something noteworthy to sell but cannot stand adding anything unnecessary to Global Warming only for, you know, money. For the moment, little is being said about the irresponsible side of the standard processes, and a lot of wow is being pronounced about the bucks to be made.
I suppose we all dream of finding a piece of Great Art in the attic or behind the wallpaper; I know I do. I never even tried to let my father lend me the $20,000 or $50,000, whatever sum it was, to buy a mint-condition copy of Action Comics No. 1 as a 13-year-old. He’d only laugh me away. I would be doing the snickering now, however, as I carefully held my item which now, 41 years later, sells for upwards of $2 million.
I’ve made a shortlist of works which I might consider to offer as NFT sales when doing so becomes reasonable, something I can live with. Until then, I shall continue to follow the story with interest, hoping things improve. It’s a strange moment. The bubble which has blown up only in recent weeks might just as suddenly burst, leaving a lot of tears. Van Gogh had his 100-million-dollar sale (in Japan, decades after his death) but that market also was unstable. So you just can’t tell.