I’ve been trying to get my head around some of the crypto related stuff that seems to dominate certain corners of the digital landscape these days - inspired in part by conversations with a cabbie in DC and an Uber driver in New York who were all-in on crypto. Neither had any tech background whatsoever but one was investing heavily in one coin or another and the other thought NFTs were the future. Both saw it as their way out of driving for a living.
It is the NFT stuff that has had me most engaged - albeit from an almost totally sceptical perspective. The wider crypto conversations and generally the future of money stuff doesn’t really interest me - I’ve only just come to terms with not using cash for everything. I found Robin Sloan’s notes on Web3 really useful and especially the idea that it is a young person’s game. I get that. It seems new and shiny and I’m old and creaking. I’m soon to be 49 and in web years I am like 100. I am ‘pre-Web2.0, remember when all this was Netscape in grey and Geocities about cats, photos were a pain and video was a dream’ era Web.
[For the record I was no fan of the last Web3 as well :D The semantic web should be suing for copyright infringement if nothing else]
I’m uncomfortable with the monetisation of everything in general. I worry about the immense ecological damage of building a new ‘web’ on a system that seems intent on setting the world on fire. I suspect some of this will get resolved as the technology matures. How much I’m not sure as from what little I’ve read it seems anything not directly related to financial gain is a pretty niche interest in the community (but I haven’t read much and I might be off base.)
The thing I really dislike about the NFT stuff is the relationship it has with art. I am all for artists finding another way to make money - especially after the last couple of years - but so much of the noise around it just feels like speculation for the sake of speculation - with zero appreciation (or real interest) in the art other than the potential future value (and weird bragging rights). I also totally fail to understand the fact that you ‘own’ a version of a JPEG - so basically you are paying for the metadata? I suspect I will never really get it.
From my own history it feels like the crazy comic book speculation boom of the 1990s when people with zero interest in comics were buying up all sorts of nonsense because someone had said it was ‘collectable’ and would be a good investment. It wasn’t. More recently the trade in something like a Shepard Fairey limited edition print (let alone a Banksy t-shirt) brings out more ‘entrepreneurs’ whose ambition is to ‘flip’ the artefact for a massive profit than any appreciation for the work.
I suspect compared to most people I buy a lot of limited edition prints. I buy them because for one reason or another the art makes me feel something. I have zero expectation that there will ever be a monetary gain. The pleasure the work brings is what I invested in…and while I have certainly stumbled upon a few comics that ended up being worth a decent amount of money given all I have spent in general on them in the last 40 years I certainly am in the red!
I’m not sure why I care or why it annoys me so much. I fear I am in total Abe Simpson shouts at clouds territory. But it does so I own it.
I guess I am just destined to miss out on getting rich quick - but I still prefer my art on walls not in digital wallets.