NFTs: Crypto Craze or Cultural Canon?

Pat Lewis
5 min readMay 5, 2021

--

NFTs Are Much More Than An ‘Art Fad’

It’s been a few months now since NFTs started making big headlines; sending various cultural factions into a frenzy to mint their own meme, gif or even their Tweets. Artists, entrepreneurs, musicians and brands have all gone full steam ahead in an effort to create and mint their own NFT; exploring the possibilities and potential applications of this new ecosystem and capitalising on the latest technological trend.

But this was months ago, the dust has settled and the hype has finished, right?

Wrong.

NFTs are now part of our cultural narrative. They are, for better or for worse: here to stay. What we have witnessed in the last six months was something of a cultural explosion. Something we haven’t seen since the Dot-Com boom of the late 1990s which, for those who weren’t there or aren’t aware, was a big moment. Large sums of money changed hands quickly, huge investment and speculation circled around new companies as big brands and the savviest of tech heads bought and sold into new companies; all when a new thing called the internet started to become mainstream. Let’s not forget that back then the internet seemed just strange and ridiculous too.

The full potential of the NFT is yet to be explored, which is part of what makes this such an exciting space to watch. For digital artists or trading card companies, the application of NFTs are obvious, but almost every day a new player is entering the game and offering up something exciting. Big brands are finding valuable uses for NFTs, with Nike positioning themselves to use them as a counterfeit measure to guarantee the authenticity and rarity of their shoes. Entertainment companies are creating NFT games such as CryptoKitties or Delta Time, allowing players to play with and earn cryptocurrency whilst they breed kittens or race F1 cars around custom courses. Musicians are also quickly filling the space: Kings of Leon, Deadmau5, Aphex Twin and just last month, American rock group Weezer released their own line of NFTs. The limited edition series of digital artworks inspired by their album ‘OK Human’ sold out within half an hour of going on sale. Some cards could be redeemed for real world prizes while others are now trophy pieces in the digital wallets of Weezer fans around the globe.

The Weezer NFTs created by Rarez sold out in thirty minutes of going on sale.

But why?

Now I know that for many people the hype around these sort of collectible NFTs might be confusing or even sound down right ridiculous, but believe me: you will understand.

To give you some background of my own, I was perfectly placed for the Pokemon craze that swept the world in the late nineties. I vividly recall the excitement that a brand new pack brought along with it. The rush! What was I going to unwrap? What treasures lay inside? Now, fast forward some twenty years and here I am opening my first pack of NFTs cards; a pack of limited edition Deadmau5 collectibles. A series of animated cards, each inspired by the iconography of the famous Canadian born music producer. As a music fan and geek at heart, it was a match made in heaven. Not only that, the nostalgia was real. The excitement was real! Among my ten cards was even one rare card: a limited edition Deadmau5 helmet, shining spectacularly; the first pride of my very modest collection. Not only that but if I wanted to expand my set and collect some more, I’m no longer limited to the school yard to trade my cards, there’s a whole world out there of eager buyers looking to trade, swap and sell their cards. With hundreds of market places catering to every niche, don’t expect this to be on the fringes for too much longer. In the same way that the internet revolutionised, well: everything! NFTs have the potential to do just the same and for your children, they will be the norm.

But are there any negative impacts?

For some, NFTs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and have warned that there are a number of down sides to having a wallet full of digital artwork. The most debated topic when it comes to the potential negative impact of NFTs is the impact that they’re having on environment. Most NFTs sit on the Ethereum blockchain, which some have argued is outdated and inefficient. It is no secret that blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum use huge amounts of energy, which in turns leads to a large carbon footprint. This carbon footprint is due to the process through which cryptocurrency is ‘mined’ and not a result of NFTs themselves. It can get a little complicated to say the least and anyone wishing the dive into that rabbit hole to learn about the technical side can do so here, but to help put this into perspective, let me use the analogy of an aeroplane:

Each time you buy a ticket on an aeroplane you are in part, responsible for the carbon that that plane is emitting. That said, that plane is going to take off whether you bought that ticket or not, right? Now you can make the argument that an increase in demand naturally requires an increase in supply: the more plane tickets they sell, the more planes they’ll need in the air. The NFTs themselves don’t require any ‘mining’ to be done however, they are simply hosted on the same network as the cryptocurrency. Think of NFTs like the staff on board the plane. They’re using the network, or in this case the aeroplane, as their place of work. It isn’t the fault of the steward for the carbon emissions of that plane, in the same way that an artist putting an NFT on the blockchain isn’t to blame for the energy consumption of that blockchain.

Ethereum is making moves to change their design model to ensure that their carbon footprint is dramatically smaller than it is today, which would be a huge leap forward for the blockchain, but Ethereum is just one of the blockchain networks through which NFTs are hosted. Other blockchain networks are already operating at carbon neutral. WAX, the blockchain network through which I was able to get my own Deadmau5 cards, is one such carbon neutral network. They’re also the same network responsible for Topps, Capcom and Weezer’s NFTs, which is probably the reason the WAX network has the second highest amount of transactions globally.

WAX is a carbon neutral blockchain network and the second highest when it comes to global transactions.

What’s next?

As more and more people flock to the market and the technology behind them becomes more sustainable and user friendly, the demand and application of NFTs will only increase. There are already plenty more exciting projects on the horizon, with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck tipped to be one of the biggest names set to release his own line of NFTs in May.

Make no mistake, this isn’t some flash in the pan fad that will fade away, this is only the beginning.

--

--