Tusinski: NFTs are stupid; just screenshot them

There are a near endless amount of reasons to despise NFTs — and just as many reasons to go ahead and screenshot them.

%28Graphic+Illustration+by+Falyn+Sebastian+%7C+The+Collegian%29

(Graphic Illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Dylan Tusinski, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The internet has been home to an innumerable amount of stupid crazes, challenges and fads over time. While most people probably consider either the cinnamon challenge or the Tide Pod challenge the dumbest social media-fueled trend of all time, they both pale in comparison to the stupidity that is nonfungible tokens, commonly known as NFTs.

Ad

First, let me explain what NFTs are. NFTs are essentially unique digital images, audio files or other forms of data that are stored online on the blockchain. The blockchain is a way to record and monitor digital transactions. It’s what allows cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to run, and it’s what determines who owns an NFT or who owns an amount of cryptocurrency.

“It’s hard to fully comprehend how much energy cryptocurrencies and NFTs use.”

That’s a lot of meaningless jargon, I know. Essentially, NFTs are lines of code on the blockchain that determine who owns particular data. If you buy an NFT, you’re not buying a JPEG of a monkey, you’re buying the rights to a line of code that says you own that specific image of a monkey.

Got it? If not, that’s OK. In fact, that’s probably a good thing. The fact that NFTs are so unnecessarily convoluted is one of the primary reasons they’re a dumb idea. NFTs are supposedly about art. The entire reason many artists were initially drawn to create NFTs was to utilize the blockchain to create cyber art. There’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is that NFTs have transformed from legitimate pieces of digital art to glorified investments. Art is meant to be experienced and enjoyed, not treated as a stock portfolio.

By creating unnecessary jargon about the blockchain, creating generic, templated drawings with very few truly distinguishing characteristics and establishing a cult-like narrative around your art, NFTs exclude people from enjoying them.

This art has been transformed from something that’s meant to be openly enjoyed into an exclusionary, templated mess.

On top of devaluing the entire concept of art, NFTs are proving to be an outright scam over and over again. There have been numerous cases in which NFT artists mint a bunch of NFTs, put them up for sale, make hundreds of thousands of dollars and then delete everything.

“There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies out there, each with their own blockchain that must run continuously. Add NFTs on top of each of those cryptocurrencies, and we wind up with an almost incalculably large environmental impact.”

Take the case of Blockverse, a line of NFTs that were inspired by and centered on Minecraft. It allowed Minecraft players to shell out hundreds of dollars for NFTs of Minecraft skins that also allowed players entry into an exclusive Minecraft server.

The Blockverse team put the NFTs up for presale, and once the sale went public, it sold out almost immediately. They sold about 10,000 Minecraft skins and received about $1.2 million in cryptocurrency. Shortly after, they deleted their official website, Discord server and Minecraft server. The Blockverse founders issued a statement on Twitter claiming that issues involving harassment, threats and doxxing caused them to “panic” and “(delete) the Discord server on impulse.”

Of course, they didn’t offer any refunds.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, NFTs are also leaping from the digital blockchain into the physical world — and not in a good way.

Ad

Cryptocurrencies, namely the blockchains that empower them, are creating an increasingly large environmental footprint. Mining Bitcoin, one of the world’s most infamous and well-known cryptocurrencies, consumes an estimated 121.36 terawatt-hours per year. That’s more electricity than the entire nation of Argentina as of early 2021 and more than Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google combined, according to Columbia Climate School’s State of the Planet.

There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies out there, each with their own blockchain that must run continuously. Add NFTs on top of each of those cryptocurrencies, and we wind up with an almost incalculably large environmental impact.

It’s hard to fully comprehend how much energy cryptocurrencies and NFTs use. To scale it down, consider the analysis from environmental activist Joanie Lemercier, who calculated that the sale of just two NFTs used over 176,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, which emits about as much greenhouse gas as a little over 22 average United States households do in a year.

So, to all the crypto-bros and the crypto-curious: Don’t go out and buy NFTs. There are no JPEGs of cartoon monkeys that are worth as much electricity as a skyscraper, no PNGs of lions that are worth three months of rent and no GIF of a cat that’s worth ruining the entire concept of free, accessible art. There are a near endless amount of reasons to despise NFTs, and there are just as many reasons to go ahead and screenshot them.

Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.