My deal breakers for NFTs
Updated: Apr 17
TL;DR Don't mint PoW, climate change is bad enough, mint PoS
This weekend I finally pulled the trigger, minted and sold my first NFTs on the blockchain. It’s been a crazy ride for crypto art and Non Fungible Tokens are the talk of the town in the generative art community. I researched for hours before pressing the mint button, and have since then received tons of questions, comments, agreeing or disagreeing on my stance on the subject so decided to share my current point of view here. Feel free to challenge me.
NFT stands for Non-fungible token. Minting means creating an NFT. In a nutshell, NFTs are smart contracts on the blockchain that say: if you send money to my digital wallet, you will receive ownership of my artwork, automatically. NFTs can be used for lots of things, not only for art. If you want to dive in depth, read Wikipedia.
A quick recap on which problem NFTs are solving:
Digital files like photos or videos can by nature be copied an infinite amount of times. They are "fungible". A painted canvas in the real world is unique aka "non-fungible". There’s only one exactly like this. An NFT basically pairs a digital file with a unique traceable address on the blockchain. So you can’t copy it like you could if it was just the file. This gives it the value that an original artwork has in the physical world.
Why does it matter for generative artists?
Most of us in the GenArt community don't sell enough artworks to make a living. When we sell a plotter drawing or a print it's usually to a generative art enthusiast. Only a fraction of the top digital artists are receiving interest from collectors in the art market because of four main reasons:
1. It’s hard for them to find a buyer to resell on the secondary market
2. It’s hard to prove that the artwork was really made by you, the artist
3. It’s hard to show that the value of the artwork is growing over time
4. In some cases it’s hard to prove that the collector is the rightful owner of the artwork
In the pre-NFT world, art galleries solve #1. Experts who can certify masterpieces solve problem #2 and #3. Thieves mess around with point #4.
All the stakeholders above essentially take a big cut on what the artist initially created.
NFTs offer a completely new solution to these 4 challenges, removing the need for all these intermediates and giving an unprecedented amount of control to the artist over their creations.
By giving an innovative way to own a unique digital file, NFTs are an amazing opportunity to apply the rules of physical artworks to digital creations. There are a lot of good things with the technology that powers NFTs. Being stored on a blockchain, it’s decentralised, so it is virtually impossible to hack, cheat or steal a token. It removed middlemen in the art world and empowers the artists to sell their creations directly to collectors. In theory, it’s solving the provenance question removing the need for experts. Marketplaces like OpenSea have created a very simple way for artists and collectors to trade NFTs and the prices have gone through the roof. Crypto art is breaking records, Christies first bid for an NFT is currently standing at $4m. Cryptopunks, cryptokitties and lots of other Internet culture-inspired digital artworks are seeing their value grow 10 fold in a matter of weeks as they get sold again and again. All of this without anyone taking a cut...
BUT at the moment, NFTs are powered almost exclusively by the Ethereum blockchain which is extremely polluting, because it requires Proof of Work (PoW) aka the solving of billions of math equations every time a transaction is placed on the ledger. The electricity used by these computers all around the world mostly comes from fossil fuel (coal, gas, oil), and where renewables are available, they put additional pressure on their still limited capacity. My main project being all about impact, it was a clear no go for me to jump on NFTs knowing that each minting can release as much as 200kg CO2 or as much electricity use as an EU resident for 1 month.
As Joanie Lemercier puts it:
"It will take a tree 12 years to offset the minting of a single NFT"
I even asked what the community was thinking of NFTs a few weeks ago and about half of the answers were about the unnecessary energy burdon of PoW blockchain. BTW I don't judge artists who choose the ETH way, we all have different priorities. That was just too out of sync with my values.
Luckily there is an alternative to Proof of Work: Proof of Stake. It doesn’t require any heavy intensive computing and therefore has the same kind of footprint as more common internet activities like tweeting or posting on Instagram. Some estimate PoS is 99.99% less energy and carbon footprint than PoW. One of these PoS blockchains is Tezos.
The limitation, for now, is that there isn’t a PoS blockchain as developed and established as Ethereum, so things are a bit less fancy for now. No neat marketplace for NFTs or easy to use website, but it’s a start. And recently OpenSea, the leading NFT marketplace has announced it will soon support NFTs minted on Tezos.
These reasons have convinced me that it’s now ok to start using NFT and explore the possibilities of decentralised crypto art. I hope things will continue to develop and that long term most of the blockchains will switch to PoS.
For now, I’m going to start dropping more NFTs on Hicetnunc (the minter for Tezos). If you’re interested in collecting, here's my gallery.
So really, how does it work?
To mint, you will need two things: some XTZ coins and a Tezos wallet (Temple).
Step 1: Download Temple chrome extension.
Step 2: Buy some XTZ coins, I used Coinbase. It costs about 0.08 XTZ to mint 1 artwork.
Step 3: Send your XTZ to your Temple wallet (receive button).
Step 4: Go to https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/mint, click on sync (top right) and connect.
Step 5: Fill in the boxes, and upload your digital file
Step 6: Savour the moment, you're about to hit that mint button.
Step 7: Hit that mint button.
Step 8: Confirm the transaction
Step 9: After a couple of minutes, visit https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/sync and sync to see your freshly minted NFT
Welcome to the future of generative art…
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