Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are NOT an absolute disaster for the environment or for artists.
If the above looks familiar, it’s because it’s an unapologetic riff on Everest Pipkin’s clickbait article on NFTs.
Before anything else, if you are bothered by the environmental impact of Ethereum then you can mint NFTs on 5+ other platforms which have no impact. If this was just about the environment then the fix is that trivial. But it isn’t about the environment, it’s about people scared of a new technology and not taking the time to understand it because it’s really complicated.
Everest’s post has directly lead to an influx of bullying and hate to fellow artists to the point that someone lead a campaign to get crypto artists banned from twitter. If this is you, sort yourself out. You’re damaging people’s careers, causing severe mental distress to fellow artists, and many of you are proud of it. You don’t understand NFTs, you’re not basing this on facts but on really poorly written articles and your own preconceptions designed to make you hate on others. How have you let this happen?
The rest of this post is in two parts. Just read the first part if you don’t want comments on Everest’s post.
It’s all about rich peopleYou’re reading headlines which are naturally about the newsworthy sales. Go to Rarible or Opensea — these are not rich artists and not rich buyers, but they are thriving marketplaces full of collectors, artists, and traders. Besides, the real art market thrives on rich collectors — so what? That money is going to artists, much more so in crypto markets than physical ones.
It’s bad for artists I fail to see how establishing an international marketplace for limited edition, multi-form media which is 100% open to innovation and not controlled by corporations, galleries or anyone other than communities can possibly be bad for artists.
You know what’s bad for artists?
- Galleries and agents taking 75–80% with little or no sell on fees.
- Artists and buyers having tiny, illiquid markets with a high degree of fraud
- Little or no access to markets, particularly for minorities and the poor internationally, both for artists and buyers
You know what’s good for artists?
- A completely open platform that fixes all the above and supports new innovations.
The art is terribleYou’re taking your preconceptions on good and bad art then only finding what you are looking for. The crypto art scene has more variety than any gallery you will ever go to in the physical world x100. The fact that some memes or frogs aren’t your cup of tea is neither here nor there, nor is that some of those buyers are weird or valuations nonsensical at times. You can find fine art, paintings, sculpture, toys, music, short films, generative art, illustration, playful economics, and so on.
No one cares about the art Your preconceptions again. Sit in any of the art communities and you’ll quickly see this is not even remotely true. People care a great deal about the art. Of course people are buying and selling and flipping and collecting. We just made it super easy to do so. The market will calm down and after a period of time find the right balance. However, this is also no different to the real world but it’s on steroids. That’s what crypto has always done.
NFTs are what you make them and what you bring to them. If you bring fear and loathing then you’re not going to get very far. If you bring open eyes and an open mind then you can even give away an infinite number of NFTs on a non Ethereum platform and experiment with the more playful and live aspects instead, thus avoiding pretty much all of Everest’s criticisms.
The problem is not NFTs. The problem is what you’re expecting them to be.
You can leave it right here if you want because now I’m going to address more detailed points.
Everest Pipkin’s article
Firstly, as much as I dislike the article I am sure Everest wrote it in good faith.
Cryptocurrency is never going to be ecologically just / are pyramid schemes What does ‘ecologically just’ mean? May I suggest researching Regen?It’s an immense attempt to provide major benefits for the environment and makes critical use of blockchain (and cryptocurrency) tech.
As for a pyramid scheme — there is no top-bottom structure. There is an early adopter bias for sure, that does not make it a pyramid. A thriving market of creators, buyers, sellers, traders, stores, games, financial projects, etc is an example of the non pyramid structure in action.
They push financial scarcity onto the vulnerable In fact it’s extremely freeing as it removes numerous economic obstacles for the poor, subject to societal issues around technology. What it does not do is stop the rich getting richer or magically fix economic or societal problems. It’s not designed to do that, it’s not going to do that, so that’s a strawman.
It is worth noting that there is nothing in place within the technology of an NFT to guarantee that they respect existing copyrightTrue but also a strawman since this isn’t what NFTs are designed to do. Hardly a fair criticism.
Plenty of people horrified to see artificial scarcity imposed on digital objects I make digital content for a living, have done for 25 years, and anyone telling me this isn’t a good thing to be in the hands of artists is absolutely wrong. You can choose not to do this and I totally respect that. To say the writer and others are horrified shows a complete lack of understanding of digital markets. Where, by the way, this has existed for years anyway but controlled by large corporations to the detriment of users and sometimes creators in almost every case.
Something about digital lack of scarcity is all we’ve got as artistsIn the very same article as blaming NFTs for not solving copyright and copying issues, Everest decries NFTs for stopping people duplicating files! Firstly, just don’t use NFTs if you’re against them. Secondly, NFTs have nothing whatsoever to do with the entire section on digital longevity and duplicability. People can still copy the file. Once again, this is a total strawman.
Digital artists have media that can proliferate over a network and be held by many people at once without cheapening or breaking the aura of a first-hand experience. It is the one true benefit to working in digital space.In what way does an NFT stop this? You can even use NFTs yet allow infinite issuance because NFTs can do way more than all the new people realise, and they will. That makes this whole section irrelevant anyway.
NFTs are replicating the problems in the traditional art marketsFirstly NFTs aren’t designed to fix problems that technology cannot fix. Don’t get angry at them for that.
Secondly they do fix some major problems in traditional markets including a massive increase in the artist take, a massive increase in secondary sales royalties, a massive increase in available market, can reduce costs to zero, and the ability to bypass all curators and do everything yourself. Oh, and numerous new creative opportunities. Accessibility and freedom is exactly why open platforms will succeed where closed ones failed.
Apart from that, we just replicated the traditional art markets! Yeah no, this is not a good argument.
However, every single one is made from the outset to be liquidated- an asset first, artwork second. They are images attached to dollar figures, not the other way around.It’s hard to comment on this because Everest is basically saying everyone is in it for the money (no they aren’t) or artists should be selling (yes you should, if you’d like to try to make a living). NFTs do provide a way to monetise and there is nothing wrong with that, but you can also give away NFTs and many projects have done that too.
If you don’t like art being combined with money that’s totally fine but NFTs don’t have to have money attached, they can be free. Also, good luck making a living.
Cryptoart smart contracts offer no legal protection, and any talk of contracts baked into the NFT “requiring resales to cut in the artist” or “compensate gallery workers” depend entirely on the goodwill of the purchaser. NFTs aren’t anything to do with legal protection, strawman again. As for the royalty depending on the good will of the purchaser, no once again. You can (almost) always bypass a royalty if you want to (private sales) but since most purchases will be on marketplaces then royalties will be automated through future smart contracts. Private sales are trickier, riskier and have very low liquidity.
The value system a fully functioning NFT marketplace creates is reprehensible. We cannot let it get there.This is just a ridiculous statement and highly personal value judgement. It’s completely unfair on the 1000s of artists and collectors in the sector. I may as well say the regular art market is reprehensible because of the financial model, let alone high end warehousing, and all artists who comply with it are equally reprehensible.
However, we must get there through collective empowerment and strong social programs like universal basic income, universal healthcare, divestment from warfare and policing, a regulated real estate market that does not capitalize on housing scarcity and rent, worker unions, food programs, environmental protections, and actual, functioning income taxes on the wealthy. I’m with Everest on pretty much all of this. It has absolutely nothing to do with art markets or NFTs. Not. One. Bit.
I will not be taking any questions on this or any platform because I’ve never been more bored of a topic that I’ve written 5000 words on in my entire life. Thank you.So Everest will write an inflammatory and hugely ill-informed hit piece then show no interest whatsoever in dealing with the awful effect it’s had or understanding how much they have got it wrong. That’s not a good look.
Environment (a little more)
Read my take down here but here is a little more.
I don’t believe ethereum has any desire or push to change. There are 4-5 years of documented history, discussions, conferences, deep academic research, and github repositories. It’s in the process of migrating and has been since late 2020 but it’s a complex process.
Using Ethereum promotes Proof of Work (PoW)This is a fundamental misunderstanding of blockchain technology. PoW is a highly technical aspect of ethereum and is holding it back. The more Eth is used, the more this system holds it back and hurts users.
Ethereum is a big corporation and doesn’t care about the environment Ethereum is an open source technology developed by its community and a foundation. There is no incentive to keep PoW except for miners, and they don’t control anything in this respect. You aren’t attacking corporations, you’re hurting the very thing corporations hate, the one thing that takes on big corporations.
NFTs use years worth of energyNope. I mean, does that even make sense to you? Of course not, because it’s a wildly inaccurate interpretation of the data designed to be clickbait. However, it is accurate to say that the platform many NFTs are on uses a lot of energy. Minting on eth will not add to climate change, that’s a misunderstanding of how the technology works.
If NFTs are not for you that’s totally fine but this is no excuse for the behaviour on social media this week or the NFTs are ‘bad for the environment’ meme.