UKRAINE – 2021/02/21: This photo illustration features an Elon Musk Twitter webpage on one … [+]
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I recently bought a Disney movie for $ 30.
Actually, I haven’t really “bought” anything. With the Disney + app, I only rented the digital code for a certain period of time. And even if I “buy” a digital film, it’s not my job to keep it forever. I don’t own it, I’m licensing access for a while.
Ownership has a whole new meaning in the digital realm.
Over the past few weeks I’ve heard the NFT market explode. People can “acquire” ownership of a house, tweet, or video clip.
In some cases, they bought the rights to a single image. An NFT stands for “non-fungible token” and the best way to think of it is to have a digital ledger on the blockchain that authenticates you as the original owner.
Like that Disney movie or an NFT, this idea of digital ownership is complex and nuanced. For example, I technically don’t own any of my Tweets. So if I sell an NFT for one of them, it’s more like I have the official signed copy. Do you know who the tweet really belongs to? That would be Twitter itself.
Even if someone pays millions for the tweet, it is mostly only “parked” in the blockchain, a digital authentication. Is that a good trend?
I recently spoke to two book authors who told me that the idea of having signed copies of digital bits and bytes is actually quite a chore.
Michael Heller and James Salzman both teach property classes and have the wonderful book Mine! Written: How the Hidden Rules of Property Control Our Lives, which just came out this month. I recently included the book in a synopsis.
According to Heller, an NFT authenticates the original digital artifact, and what makes it so trendy isn’t the technology itself, but the passion for buying those digital seals.
“It’s tulip bulb mania and it may take a while, but at some point it will likely come to an end. I’m skeptical that it will take time, ”says Heller. In the meantime, Salzman called it “Ownership Engineering” and wondered if there was a sustainable market for virtual artifacts. At the moment he argues that there is.
Both authors seem to view the NFT explosion as a lightning bolt in the pan and a worrying sign.
“In my opinion, an NFT combines the absolute worst of both worlds. It combines the worst from blockchain and the worst from the art world, ”says Heller. “It takes online art, which has been one of our most democratic mediums, and makes it a ruthless speculative game for the tech brothers looking for places to park their extra cash.”
Heller argues that the entire exercise appears to be a waste of resources and does not serve the community (e.g. those on the blockchain or those collecting art). Salzman agreed that there is some cultural aspect where people try to show off their wealth in new ways.
“We are in the middle of an ethical transition,” says Salzman. “We have always seen property as our tangible stuff. In the past two decades, that has changed very quickly to having or relying on a sequence of ones and zeros. What do I have on my iPhone? I own a brick. I don’t own the operating system. I don’t own the apps. It’s not like owning a horse before. We are now in a digital economy where we license access. “
“What does it mean to move to a world where we stream everything and own nothing?” asks Heller. He does not believe that it is the end of property, but rather the overconcentration of property. Uber and Lyft are just two examples of what this looks like, he says. Ownership still exists, but we may not own the LeBron car or GIF, resulting in a spectacular slump.
However, there is a risk.
“I worry that as we move to an online world, we will lose the tangible and spiritual connection to physical property that has been so important in human history,” says Heller. “I don’t know if I want to live in a world where people rent their engagement rings or lease their dogs.”
I’m not sure either. I told the writers I could choose to sell a couple of Tweets as NFT, but since then I’ve wondered if they mattered that much to me at all. A social media influencer I know named Shay Rowbottom recently commented: Tweets are a series of digital codes on a screen. It’s not worth falling in love with too much.
I am curious what you think. Post on my Twitter feed if you think NFTs are legitimate.