The next big fad that has been a prominent part of the cultural zeitgeist in the past year or so is the phenomenon of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Like many topics that are talked about to death like a dead horse, the actual definition of “NFT” has been fluid, at least metaphorically. In the same way Republicans call anything they don’t like “socialism,” people have called anything and everything an NFT. However, the concept of the NFT is much more sinister than at first glance.
Firstly, let’s agree on a definition of the non-fungible token. An NFT is a digital signifier that denotes that someone owns a digital item. An NFT doesn’t mean that person has that item in their possession, merely a receipt that they own it. You can see where the confusion already lies. An NFT from the get go is nothing more than a piece of paper (a digital one mind you) that says you own something, like a certificate that you adopted a highway or bought a star. It is virtually meaningless. There has been a slew of internet citizens who take pride in screenshotting the digital artwork an NFT represents to demonstrate how paper thin the logic of the digital phenomenon is.
You might ask, “Wait, what’s so dangerous about some poorly drawn monkey pictures?” The rabbit hole goes down infinitely I’m afraid. So, NFTs are a similar concept to various digital currencies lauded in recent years such as Bitcoin. They function in very much the same way by being registered on what’s called the “blockchain.” The blockchain is essentially a group ledger that records who owns what. The only rub is that if you have enough money, you’re able to alter it, and if someone catches you, you can pay more to hire just the right adjustor to side with you rather than the other party. The blockchain as a concept was intended to reduce corruption from capitalism, not exacerbate it.
So, apart from a monetary failure, what else could be so dark and damning about NFTs? Well, you have to buy them with digital currencies that have to be “mined.” Without getting too into the weeds, it takes an exorbitant amount of energy to mine these currencies. People wanting more and more of them stitch together huge computer rigs that allow them to mine these currencies at a destructive rate. The resources and technological waste created by these linked computer networks is horrible for the environment.
There’s also the matter of the commercialization that is encouraged by NFTs. One might say, “Isn’t it great that artists can get directly paid for work?” That’d be great if that were happening. Many artists have had their art minted as NFTs with absolutely no compensation because they were stolen, and, because of the blockchain, there is no recompense for these artists.
NFTs are a phenomenon that needs to fade. Hopefully, the go by the wayside like the dodo or the VHS player.