When is an NFT not an NFT?

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There’s been an explosion of NFTs in the past few months, with news every day that some celebrity or someone has bought an ape, penguin, cyberpunk or other such nonsense. It seems every fool and their mum wants to get involved, including me… but with a difference.
When is an NFT not an NFT?

Before we get into what isn’t an NFT, let’s quickly get into what is an NFT. 

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are a load of crap. Next question.  

Ok, ok, let’s really give a quick rundown. 

NFTs are essentially digital proof-of-ownership certificates that say you possess a piece of digital art. The art can be a video, an image, or even a tweet, your imagination is the only thing holding you back. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be digital, people have used NFTs to sell rights to physical items, but that’s clouding the matter, let’s move on.

A lot of NFTs are for generative art. Images that have been procedurally created by a computer with minimal input from a human. It’s this aspect which we’ll come to later. 

These certificates are sold using cryptocurrencies, mainly Ethereum. The transaction is stored on the blockchain (a digital ledger) and once there it can’t be altered. 

That all sounds ok, doesn’t it?

Yes and no. In principle, it’s a good concept. Artists can sell their work, people can support the arts, and collectors can, well, collect. Artists can even get a commission each time the piece is sold on. 

However, there are a few problems with the whole thing. 

One of the biggest troubles is the contribution to climate change. 

Cryptocurrencies love chomping up energy. Millions of computers all over the globe ‘mine’ crypto, essentially solving calculations to uncover the next block. These computers are all trying to do the same calculations, all at the same time, until they’re solved and everyone moves onto the next one. Every time a transaction is made on the blockchain, it is updated on all these computers. 

With a single Ethereum transaction consuming the same power as an average household in a week, the network is estimated to produce nearly 10 million tonnes of carbon a year. 

That’s a lot.

Ethereum is currently looking to alter the way things are done, with the effect of reducing the power consumption by 99%, but that’s been in the pipeline for the past few years, and the launch date is being pushed back all the time. Originally set for release in 2019, Ethereum 2.0 is currently scheduled for 2023. Let’s not hold our breath.

Another problem, is crime. 

Aside from the usual money-laundering implications, which is also rife in the physical art world, a lot of people are regularly scammed, either paying money for NFTs that never materialise or having their NFTs stolen. 

When is an NFT not an NFT?

“But it’s all on the blockchain!” I hear you cry. And I’d say, don’t cry, it’s not worth it, because it’s actually not. 

The transaction is on the blockchain, but the art itself isn’t. Normally, it’s only a reference to the piece of art on a website in the form of a URL. This leads us to a third problem – digital rot. 

It’s all well and good owning a URL until that URL ceases to exist. The websites where all these NFTs are bought and sold will only continue whilst it’s profitable. As soon as these companies start losing money, poof, it’s all gone and you own nothing. 

Aside from all those serious problems, an issue with image-based NFTs is that if someone wants a particular picture, they can simply right-click and save it, then use it wherever they want, just like any other image because that’s what they are. 

And that brings us full circle… when is an NFT not an NFT? 

The answer is, when it’s a NANFT

‘What the hell is a NANFT?!’ you might ask, but you don’t really need to because I’m about to explain. (Also, you pronounced it wrong, it’s ‘nan-eff-tee’ and I should know because I’m pretty sure I made it up.) 

As a kind of protest against low-effort NFTs flooding the market, I decided to create my own, except… they’re free. Yep, you too can ‘own’ a piece of digital art, just like the cool kids, and for absolutely nothing.

A NANFT (Not An NFT) is a piece of generative art created by a twitterbot, and posted every hour to @NotanNFT1

To claim one, all you have to do is reply to the particular twitter post that features an image you like, with “I stake my claim!” Then right-click and save.

Boom! It’s yours!

The images are released under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA licence. That means you can do whatever you like, copy it, redistribute it, adapt it, even commercially, but… you must give credit and anything you create also has the same freedoms applied.

So you could take the image, stick in on a t-shirt and even sell that t-shirt if you wanted, and the police won’t even care. Cool, huh?

Someone could even mint them as NFTs but what would be the point?

What makes this great is that anyone and everyone can do the same. Multiple claims can be made against each NANFT and anybody can make claims for multiple NANFTs.  It’s digital communism, baby! It all means nothing in the end, but the replies act like a receipt, just like that blockchain thing everyone talks about.

@NotanNFT1 is a work in progress, new things and features are being added frequently (as least, that’s the plan), so if you have any suggestions, why not let me know.

At some point, I may do a write-up of how I created the code that in-turn creates the images. In short, it’s digital fuzzy-felt.

What are you waiting for? Follow @NotanNFT1 and snap up all the NANFTs you can eat!

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You could add beards and moustaches to the NANFTs.