There has been a BOOM of interest in recent months towards NFTs, also called “Non Fungible Tokens” due to some digital goods sold, through the most prestigious auction house in the world (Christies), for exorbitant amounts of money.
To be precise, during late 2020 and 2021 the NFT market has reached incredible levels of monetization in different areas including arts, music, memes, tweets and all kinds of NFT. One of the most notable ones was the Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days sold for more than 69M$
Until then no one thought that a digital work of art that could be easily copied, cloned, reproduced and shared thousands or millions of times on the internet, could have such value. Many also downplay digital artwork for the simple fact that it can be easily created using any advanced, automated design tool.
Why did these digital goods acquire this sudden value? If these digital objects are infinite on the internet, they are easy to copy, modify or thousands of versions can be generated with any automated software.
The first answer is that collectible digital goods through the block chain would allow to certify that the ownership of such digital object belongs to a certain person. Anyone could say:
- “but if I want to copy an image I’ll do it and that’s it!” or worst than that..
- “It is so easy to obtain a digital copy exactly the same as the original, that the concept of unique object should not exist!”
This is also true, but we will see things step by step. In the world we live in today it will surely be like that, but collectors who are always one step ahead projecting the future of their economies, understand that in the future, not too far from our present, it will probably not be so easy to copy any image and use it, but we will have to buy it or pay a royalty for its use with specific conditions.
You surely have noticed that when we use the Chrome or Firefox browser on the phone we cannot even use the screenshot because we get a message similar to this: “You cannot copy, blocked by security policy”. You may also have noticed that Youtube can easily recognize sounds, videos or video excerpts that were uploaded without authorization from the copyright “owner” or “creator” of those digital materials. What happens next, is that Youtube will notify the “owner” or “creator” of those materials that you are using without authorization and him, or Youtube could block the content of your video stopping you to be online. We can also find several platforms like shutterstock where digital photo artists can sell their work, but they can’t fully protect it from copying or duplication over the internet.
All these details indicate to us that all companies undoubtedly take the protection of copyright for commercial purposes very seriously. It is also unquestionable that the biggest technology companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are working to create what they call the metaverse. A virtual universe, where physical interactions among humans will no longer be necessary at all, and where people can “go out” and have “meetings” with their friends to talk, walk, go shopping at digital malls, digital museums, digital parties, events, etc. Digital worlds developed by these big companies to control each one of your “steps”, “movements”, “interactions”, “purchases” and “desires”, etc, in order to commercialize all those activities. Terrifying isn’t it?
It is in this context where NFTs acquire relevance and importance. Simply because in the future having digital goods in the virtual worlds will be as important as having material goods in the real worlds. You can show your friends and share with them, you can maybe have your own art gallery and invite your followers, etc. Actually the possibilities are truly endless.
So, we return to the initial question, because it is the question that we all ask ourselves:
Are NFTs really worth it? Is it worth paying for them? Should I buy NFTs?
First of all, it would be necessary to classify and divide the NFTs that are artistic and the NFTs that may have some use in the digital world, such as an “avatar”, the skate of that same “avatar” or a simple digital “footwear” that can be used in some digital world.
Let’s start with digital artwork
The recent euphoria of NFTs caused many people to start buying digital items without even knowing or understanding what NFTs are, what they are worth, how important they are, and whether these items are worth paying huge sums of money for.
If you are looking for NFTs that are artistic digital objects, I must tell you that according to the concept of Art, none, or at least most of these so-called artistic NFT works, are not Art. As long as an automation system, such as a digital design tool or some software, generates or produces the whole work, that work cannot be considered artistic in any way. Therefore its artistic value and its price in the market should be zero (0). Yes, you read well ZERO!
Please, take a look to this ridiculous example and the mind-blowing prices of each one of this images generated by a computer: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks
However, many of the first NFTs, fell into the whirlpool of trends, quickly became viral, and people began to buy desperately, causing the demand to explode the prices for simple and extremely very basic digital objects without any artistic value, generated automatically by software, enriching the pioneers within this market. God is generous!
If you want another example to understand how absurd could be social trends, please take a look these “artistic works” as well: https://opensea.io/collection/chromie-squiggle-by-snowfro
THE CONCEPT OF ART
If you know something about the history of Art, you will understand that a work of Art, for example the Monalisa or the Sistine Chapel, are admired and revered throughout the world:
- for the extraordinary techniques using the classic tools
- for amazing creativity to imagine and reproduce incredible scenarios and worlds
- for human talent to master physical and immaterial resources, and a superhuman effort, (hours, days, weeks and months of hard work) to complete works with a level of detail and artistic expression without comparison.
If you give the same tools that Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo used to create their fabulous works to any person or even painter, no one will be able to create and even reproduce beautiful artistic works of such a high expressive and symbolic level.
But if you give the same software tool that created the most popular NFTs to anyone (painter or not, lawyer, housekeeping, babysitter, US president, pizza’s guy, etc!), surely that person could create thousands of NFTs with a single click, without even having any talent or creativity, without making any effort because everything will be done by the computer, not for you!
Worse than that, those “artworks” can be easily replicated or cloned, so your uniqueness falls down the stairs.
THAT’S THE BIG DIFFERENCE !
Things get even more complicated from the concept of Art, simply, because those automatic “creations” cannot have any expressive and symbolic level, because computers do not express themselves, and with great difficulty, even through Artificial Intelligence, they will not be able in the future to create Art using symbolism, or subliminal messages that are talents of the essence of the human being.
When the artist creates something, even if it is a work of extraordinary beauty, he will always have some irregularities, or slight imperfections typical of the human nature of being alive and breathing. Those little details will give it its unique character, this means that even if another artist wants to copy or reproduce it, they will surely do so by adding or creating new differences, giving this new work of art its unique character again.
Super talented artists capable of copying a Rembrandt (for example) sold their replica for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But let me ask you something, would you buy a print copy of a Rembrandt for hundreds of thousands of dollars? Surely not, even a child with his phone can take a picture of it and print it at his house.
Does this mean that Digital Art cannot really be considered Art? Not really.
If you could follow the explanation of what Art really is, you will understand that a digital work should be considered artistic, for example, if the person (creator or artist) made an effort 90% greater than the computer, and just 10% using digital tools. But if the person made only a few clicks (10% or 5% of work), and the computer finished creating the whole work automatically (90% of binary work), it means that the human factor and human soul and expressiveness were not present, then that work is not really Art, so, what we have as final “product” is only the result of technological automatisms of what the “creator” or “artist” (in this case the computer) was not even aware that he was capable of creating.
We can use human effort as a measurement factor, because if a creator spent 90% (or 80%) of his (physical and psychological) effort working on an artistic project, and only 10% (or 20%) using digital tools (for example, Beeple’s work took 5000 days of his own life to finish his art project), we can say without a doubt that during that enormous effort he added various purely human faculties:
Like creativity and expressiveness, like their experiences and life history, and their feelings, passions, emotions, intentions, consciousness, will give an identity and personality to their artistic work, transmitting and representing different messages, symbolisms and ideas from the artist to you! To make you really feels and live its creation!
Which is something that computers even if they tries to imitate us in the future, they will never be able to do so, because they don’t have all our human faculties, and they will never have our nature as living and conscious beings with the talent to create incredibly unique and original things.
It is also the difficulty, complexity, originality and effort to create something that gives the character of rare and unique to a work of art created by a human being. But we will talk about this later.
Please take a look what we considered a real digital NFT artist: Prince Jacon Osinachi
Igwe . He was the first NFT african artist who auctioned their works and also created this NFT platform: https://www.socialstack.co/
So, we can say that buying a piece of digital art (such as NFTs) where the artist only used the digital tools to help create it, could be very worthwhile as collectible art for the galleries of the future. But buying automatically generated images with a single click through software (where the creator has the audacity to call himself “artist”), can be a ridiculous investment in the future.
Because these digital goods have nothing “rare” or “unique”, which is what gives its value to a digital and even physical item. It is simply a copy of the previous one with some slight modifications, and its value as a digital asset should be ZERO! (0).
So now that we better understand the concept of what art really is. Why do people pay huge amounts of money for a JPG image created automatically by a computer? The answer is simple: trends and ignorance.
The entire economy works as follows: If we, as society, don’t give psychological value to money, it won’t have it, and we won’t be able to use it to buy anything. So let’s say that the appearance of this NFT market arose because some millionaires decided to give value to some NFTs. Then other millionaires decided to imitate that behavior by buying other NFTs (without even knowing why they were doing it), increasing the price of these digital goods by demand, making non-millionaires begin to participate in the purchase, sale and auction of these digital goods as well, causing the economic flow of values to give rise to the mercantile industry of sale-production of NFTs. Crazy don’t you think?
Then we have digital goods that may have some utility in the digital worlds of the future, such as a weapon or a vehicle for a video game, clothes for virtual characters or even characters. These digital goods, which may even have some artistic expressivity, are consistent in terms of their value because they have a functionality, they do something, they can be useful, or they could even have been previously used by some famous person, further increasing their value in virtual worlds.
These types of digital goods with some function or utility, are they worth being acquired as NFTs? Surely yes, and probably in the future their prices will compete against those of any digital artistic work.
Understanding the Concept of “Unique” and “Rare”
Finally based on a deeper analysis, even though digital goods increased their prices so noisily, their “unique” character could always be debatable, because the digital world is easily reproducible and copyable if you have the necessary tools to do it. The total composition of all these objects is and always will be pixels and bits. That is, simply range of colors and 0 and 1.
While any object from the real world, such as Tutankhamun’s dagger that was forged with material from a meteorite, is purely and exclusively irreproducible and truly unique, since it belonged to one of the most powerful Egyptian pharaohs of the largest and most mysterious empire in the Ancient world.
Even if there are blacksmiths capable of forging a similar dagger with a similar shape, they will never be able to give it 3000 years of history, they will never be able to obtain materials as unique as that obtained from that specific meteorite, which even has its own history of billions of years traveling the entire universe to reach our planet earth in a ball of fire lighting up the sky of our ancestors. Beautiful isn’t it?
It is at this moment, when we compare the richness, beauty and history that physical objects in the real world can have, we understand how ridiculous it can be that a digital object generated in its greater percentage by a machine, acquires exorbitant values having crazy people paying for it, but the tendencies of the market dominate the economy and many determine the value of things, whether consistent or not.
The bits cannot have a history, because they are timeless, they do not age, as long as there is an electronic system to reproduce them, they will always be the same, now and in 10,000 years. They are just electrical pulses. They are 0 and 1, again, which means that they are always the same. They are mathematical, linear, too exact and perfect, and that is the opposite of human creativity and artistic expression to be considered art, or to be able to give it a 100% “rare” and “unique” feature.
A digital artist could copy another digital artist and make exactly the same copy, yes! Exactly the same copy! Even if it is a very complex job. But, in the real world this is not possible, even the copy created by the artist will always be different and unique from the original one.
It is curious to see how computer scientists try to imitate many of the human faculties that they themselves do not have and take pride in being able to generate such imitations through algorithms. For example Google created a software that composes music by itself. Obviously this software was trained by analyzing thousands of successful songs, in order to generate “new” and original songs and in the end it generates a product that has all the characteristics of a musical hit. Is this art? Just no.
Simply because it copies the fragments that most attract or like the listeners as they were made, and combines them giving priority to the trends of people’s preferences, to create a “new song”. But there is no creativity or talent in this task.
Although we can say that this resource is used in most commercial music created today. For that reason they do not provoke any emotion, they do not like or attract enough, but they achieve their objective, which is to sell.
But without a doubt everyone can recognize when a song was created with true inspiration and creativity by the artist, because it penetrates to the depths of the psychology and emotions of the listeners, who can enjoy it and absorb it as part of themselves. Do you agree? Surely yes.
How to explain to buyers that a simple object that can be infinitely cloned cannot be considered unique in any way. In the future we probably won’t be able to copy and clone a digital object so easily, that’s the trick. But the digital world offers so many tools accessible to everyone, that the artistic objects created by “artists” can also be infinite, again losing their unique character and lowering the value of works of art.
For example, if suddenly one day you decide to go out disguised as a duck and go to work, do the shopping, etc. That first day you will be the most “original” person in the world, you will be “unique”, and even “weird” (“rare”) because of your very funny behavior. But if the next day everyone decides to go out disguised as some other animal, you will lose any original, unique and weird character, because there are simply too many people doing the same thing, that you are not the “star” anymore.
In the past, Art was for those who handled sophisticated techniques and knowledge, added the expressiveness to their creations that we explained above, but in the present, with all the digital tools available to everyone, and the artistic movement of “Contemporary Art”, where basically anything can be considered Art and be valued for thousands of dollars, everything is much easier today. But! with so many people creating Art so easily in the future, the prices of those digital items could drop dramatically.
In a theoretical future, only the pioneers will be able to sell anything as art for unimaginable prices, then there will be those who followed after the pioneers, who will be able to sell their creations for great prices, and finally there will be you (if you don’t start today), that even if you are an incredible artist, you will have a hard time selling your artwork in the ocean of creators of the future.
In any case, the big technology companies dominate market trends, and can sell, impose and even create the type of society they want. It’s sad, but true.
Our recommendation? Just try to use your own analysis and judgment before paying huge sums of money for digital objects useless for the virtual world, or without any real artistic value or easily reproducible and created by a machine with almost no human intervention. If the machine created most of the entire product, it cannot have any “rare” or “unique” feature that we can consider as “value”. So, Good luck!