And so the trap:
CREATORS may rush to start minting NFTs as a way to get paid for what they’ve created. Unlike alternative digital currencies which are relatively complicated to invent and sell, it’s recently become super easy to ‘mint’ an NFT. I could, for example, turn each of the 8,500 posts on this blog into a token and sell them on the open market.
The more time and passion that creators devote to chasing the NFT, the more time they’ll spend trying to create the appearance of scarcity and hustling people to believe that the tokens will go up in value. They’ll become promoters of digital tokens more than they are creators. Because that’s the only reason that someone is likely to buy one–like a stock, they hope it will go up in value. Unlike some stocks, it doesn’t pay dividends or come with any other rights. And unlike actual works of art, NFTs aren’t usually aesthetically beautiful on their own, they simply represent something that is.
BUYERS of NFTs may be blind to the fact that there’s no limit on the supply. In the case of baseball cards, there are only so many rookies a year. In the case of art, there’s a limited number of famous paintings and a limited amount of shelf space at Sotheby’s. NFTs are going to be more like Kindle books and YouTube videos. The vast majority are going to have ten views, not a billion. It’s an unregulated, non-transparent hustle with ‘bubble’ written all over it.
THE REST OF US are going to pay for NFTs for a very long time. They use an astonishing amount of electricity to create and trade. Together, they are already using more than is consumed by some states in the US. Imagine building a giant new power plant just to make Christie’s or the Basel Art Fair function. And the amount of power wasted will go up commensurate with their popularity and value. And keep going up. The details are here. The short version is that for the foreseeable future, the method that’s used to verify the blockchain and to create new digital coins is deliberately energy-intensive and inefficient. That’s on purpose. And as they get more valuable, the energy used will go up, not down.
It’s an ongoing waste that creates little in ongoing value and gets less efficient and more expensive as time goes on. For most technological innovations the opposite is true.
The trap, then, is that creators can get hooked on creating these. Buyers with a sunk cost get hooked on making the prices go up, unable to walk away. And so creators and buyers are then hooked in a cycle, with all of us up paying the lifetime of costs associated with an unregulated system that consumes vast amounts of precious energy for no other purpose than to create some scarce digital tokens.