Nonfungible naïveté

FFFUTURES #18, Feb 9, 2021

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These days not many people remember the inception of using nonfungible tokens for art and artists. 

In the early '20s, there was a proliferation of articles and think pieces around nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as an idealized medium to store the value and ownership of a work of art.

The idea was to point to the blockchain as the source of truth of value and ownership. It would help artists create new opportunities for royalties payments. The promise was an alternative to old capitalist practices that permeated the business side of art.

You may be surprised to hear that, at that time, almost everyone was oblivious to the naïveté of all of it.

Yes, the blockchain did allow the creation of new markets for artists. But the result was far from the romanticized notion of "an alternative to Capitalism for artists." 

If anything, the blockchain fed and evolved the monster.

The idealist point of view: Help artists to be compensated for their work.

The real driver: NFTs for art became a way to cash in on the piece's virality.

The outcome:
The economic actions around NFTs created one of the favorite capitalist cocktails for Intellectual Property: monetization around artificial scarcity.

In a nutshell, the system is built to generate revenue from collectors who enjoy hoarding art pieces and/or the bragging rights of claiming to be the owner of them. And as long as they are getting paid a royalty on each future transaction, the artists are happy.

I'm following the case of Lemon Takeda and Ivan Boekhoudt, which is a prime example of the messiness behind transactions of ownership.

After 3 years of inactivity, Lemon Takeda returned to the music scene and created a series of 6 extremely hyped new songs, and minted NFTs for each one of them. All of which were bought by Mr. Boekhoudt, the Russian billionaire.

Boekhoudt did not make the songs accessible to the public. He is charging $75 per seat to get into his bar in Saint Petersburg, Untitled 56, where he plays one of the six songs at random, only once per week. So people practically gamble on whether the night they attend is the night they'll be able to listen to one of the six Lemon Takeda's songs.

Lemon is demanding royalties from this revenue. However, Boekhoudt claims he does not own anything to Lemon because the NFTs are not being transacted on the blockchain. The initial contract was: Lemon would receive a 10% cut for every future transaction of ownership of his songs.

The situation is messy. But it seems to be perfectly legal regarding the use of NFTs. The irony is Lemon is asking for regulation of a decentralized blockchain, and claiming shares of the revenue made from a classic capitalist move made by Boekhoudt. 

I'll keep you posted on how the situation continues to evolve.


👁️ Omnirealities

From Storytelling to Storyliving in the Metaverse

A conversation between Hexagram CEO Jamil Moledina, Vicki Dobbs Beck, executive in charge at ILMxLAB Lucasfilm, and Siobhan Reddy, the studio director at Media Molecule, about what the metaverse means for storytelling and the evolution into “storyliving.”

The metaverse is still this esoteric thing that both defies definition and requires it. For Dobbs Beck and Reddy, by redefining storytelling as storyliving, the player remains at the center of whatever that experience ends up being expressed as. While ILMxLAB may approach the metaverse in a completely different way than Media Molecule would, the ethos is still holistic: Let the player lead.


🔮 Future Scenarios

Nonfungible Tokens - The Quick Guide

NFT, nonfungible tokens, have been trending in many conversations and threads during the last two weeks. This article is a good primer to get into the premise of nonfungible tokens, learn about what they are, and what the community is proposing as their core use cases and applications.

Digital artists can have a nightmare protecting their copyright — and it can be difficult for talented creators to make a living. Through NFTs, someone can buy a creation and proudly showcase it in a virtual space, with blockchain offering proof of ownership. Artists can get a bigger cut of the payment, too... and even portion out a residual profit from future sales, to create a recurring revenue stream.

Some of the most recognized and successful projects using this approach are games. Unchained Gods is a free-to-play tactical card game that gives players true ownership of their in-game items. The team behind the game is very knowledgeable about gaming and trading card games (Riot, Magic: The Gathering) and they’re building something truly original.

Although this game is marketed as “the trading card game that pays to play,“ I’m much more interested in the exploration of digital “ownership” and how that idea scales and evolves in the near future.

When you buy in-game items, like a favorite skin for your character or a card for your deck, you don't own it – the game company licenses it to you. […] By minting cards and items to the Ethereum network, we’re changing this old practice to give players real ownership over the items they purchase or earn in games. This gives you the right to sell an item for real money, use it in Gods Unchained or even take it into a different game.


💀 Not a Cylon

Benjamin Lamingo, @benjamin_lamingo

Benjamin Lamingo, @benjamin_lamingo

Benjamin Lamingo, @benjamin_lamingo


🧠 Common Enemy

Why civic competence in AI ethics is needed in 2021

Abhishek Gupta details why civic competence, the ability of people from everyday life and from all walks of life to be able to meaningfully participate in discussions on a particular subject, is needed in the field of AI Ethics.

Meaningful participation here is showing up with a solution-mindset with a fundamental understanding of the issues, what has been tried before, and what realistic actions we can take to move the discussion forward in a productive manner.

5 Reasons Cobots Will Never Be Completely Safe

Collaborative robots, or Cobots, are not new, they’ve been a resource in the robotic automation industry for over a decade. Although the title of the article is clickbait-y, there are good observations the author makes regarding the pros and cons of utilizing collaborative robots, and the trade-off companies need to be aware of.


Are you hacking with futures and other realities? Do you have comments, stories, or suggestions? I’d like to hear from you. Reach out: heyfffutures@gmail.com

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