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Old 10th March 2021, 07:17 AM   #1
Bikewer
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NFTs

I get a couple of “art news” sites in my news feed, and the latest fad in the art world is the “NFT” or Non Fungible Token.

This is (as I understand it) rendering an original work of some sort into digital form, and destroying the original... The digital file is then “authenticated” through some sort of block-chain service and sold, usually at auction.
For a lot of money.

One that made the news is the “first tweet” by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey:

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture...rency-1138401/

One of Banksy’s works has been so treated as well. Interestingly, it was the one that showed an art auction with a framed captions... “I can’t believe you morons buy this.”
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Old 10th March 2021, 07:44 AM   #2
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It’s an interesting idea and I suspect it is going to work, the issue with anything digital is how to prove to your peers that you have the “original”, that’s of overriding importance to many snobs and “collectors”.
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Old 10th March 2021, 07:48 AM   #3
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Seems like one of the few really good applications of blockchain technology.
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Old 10th March 2021, 08:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Seems like one of the few really good applications of blockchain technology.
I've been saying for ages that cryptocurrency is one of the least interesting things that can be done with blockchain.
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Old 11th March 2021, 06:09 AM   #5
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I’ve seen a lot of artists on Twitter calling this a Tulip-mania scam.
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Old 11th March 2021, 01:25 PM   #6
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I saw some recent news stories about an artist who drew Wonder Woman for DC back in the 1970s and 1980s making nearly $2 million selling Wonder Woman NFTs.
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Old 11th March 2021, 04:50 PM   #7
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There is some concern (I'm engaged in a discussion on this matter on another forum) about the carbon cost associated with NFTs. My opinion is that a) the cost is much smaller than that of cryptocurrency mining, which is larger than that of some small countries, b) there are much bigger carbon emitters that little is being done about, c) blockchain is an undeniably useful technology that should not be stifled at this time, and d) with the transition to more sources of renewable energy the problem will go away.
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Old 12th March 2021, 07:41 AM   #8
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I'm not sure of that last.

Even during the transition process, any portion of renewable capacity that is used by cryptocurrency mining, is fewer KWh in renewables used for other purposes, worsening the balance.

The only "green" cryptocurrency mining I can think of is if the person that uses the device supplies a dedicated renewable power source that would not otherwise be creating electricity for the power grid.
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Old 12th March 2021, 08:17 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I've been saying for ages that cryptocurrency is one of the least interesting things that can be done with blockchain.
Indeed. The biosecurity applications are more interesting.

Originally Posted by kookbreaker View Post
I’ve seen a lot of artists on Twitter calling this a Tulip-mania scam.
Like Bitcoin?
Actually the tulip-mania is a terrible analogy; these "artworks" (regardless of your opinion of their worth) are actually unique and not able to progenate.
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Old 12th March 2021, 08:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Indeed. The biosecurity applications are more interesting.


Like Bitcoin?
Actually the tulip-mania is a terrible analogy; these "artworks" (regardless of your opinion of their worth) are actually unique and not able to progenate.
Why not? They can’t be copied and passed off as the original but can’t see why they couldn’t be copied.
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Old 12th March 2021, 08:33 AM   #11
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Jokes on them, my PrtScn key still works just fine.
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Old 12th March 2021, 10:21 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Indeed. The biosecurity applications are more interesting.


Like Bitcoin?
Actually the tulip-mania is a terrible analogy; these "artworks" (regardless of your opinion of their worth) are actually unique and not able to progenate.
Something I'm on the verge of understanding.

Is having an NFT a little like owning a portal in Ingress? The portals mark public locations (usually) and are part of the virtual assets a participant has in the game. It's interesting to "own" a portal for an iconic location, though unconnected with the location's real life ownership.

Is that what is going on here? Someone set up a "token" representing something in real life, and it can be traded back and forth?
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Old 12th March 2021, 10:48 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Actually the tulip-mania is a terrible analogy; these "artworks" (regardless of your opinion of their worth) are actually unique and not able to progenate.
But the artwork isn't being bought and sold. A token representing the artwork is. That is, the scarcity created isn't for the digital creation itself (which is neither unique, nor rivalrous, nor excludable) but just for a proof-of-ownership token that can be traced back to the original creator.

Why anyone would want that, I don't know. But then it's not much crazier than the real world art market, which is also run for the "benefit" of people who have run out of things to buy. Probably more harmful, though.
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Old 12th March 2021, 11:01 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Why not? They can’t be copied and passed off as the original but can’t see why they couldn’t be copied.
The point is that the copies can't be passed off as the original.

But now that you mention it... It's a digital object anyway. Other than the accompanying NFT, every copy is identical to the original. If I print out a copy and hang it on my wall, I have exactly the same thing you have, if you print out the original.

So maybe this isn't such a big deal after all, and the "tulip mania" folks are right.

Originally Posted by gnome View Post
Something I'm on the verge of understanding.

Is having an NFT a little like owning a portal in Ingress? The portals mark public locations (usually) and are part of the virtual assets a participant has in the game. It's interesting to "own" a portal for an iconic location, though unconnected with the location's real life ownership.

Is that what is going on here? Someone set up a "token" representing something in real life, and it can be traded back and forth?
Correct. Blockchain is a kind of distributed transaction ledger, where multiple copies of an object's transaction history are stored by different people and [computer magic] is used to keep them in sync as a true record of the object's provenance and ownership.

Cryptocurrencies use it to keep people from just copying the digital file that represents a "coin", and basically printing their own money. If your copy of the file isn't properly recorded in the blockchain, then it's not the real coin.

This application is to allow people to pass along an original artwork in digital form, using blockchain to keep a record of where the authentic original has been and who has it now.
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Old 12th March 2021, 11:26 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
This application is to allow people to pass along an original artwork in digital form, using blockchain to keep a record of where the authentic original has been and who has it now.
Not exactly. The digital artwork isn't being transmitted on the blockchain. A token representing the artwork (a hash) is transmitted on the blockchain. The artwork itself is just copied via ordinary means.

The way to think of it is like the certificate of authenticity that you might get with, I dunno, a letter written by Charles Dickens. The NFT is the certificate, acting as proof of authenticity and ownership. You don't actually get the original letter, because there is no original letter. It's just a file, indistinguishable from any other copy of that file. (Typically, you'll get a license to display the work as well, so you can use Nyan Cat as your clan banner in Wage of War VI or whatever.)
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Old 12th March 2021, 11:35 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
Not exactly. The digital artwork isn't being transmitted on the blockchain. A token representing the artwork (a hash) is transmitted on the blockchain. The artwork itself is just copied via ordinary means.

The way to think of it is like the certificate of authenticity that you might get with, I dunno, a letter written by Charles Dickens. The NFT is the certificate, acting as proof of authenticity and ownership. You don't actually get the original letter, because there is no original letter. It's just a file, indistinguishable from any other copy of that file. (Typically, you'll get a license to display the work as well, so you can use Nyan Cat as your clan banner in Wage of War VI or whatever.)
Thanks for the clarification.
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Old 12th March 2021, 01:25 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
Not exactly. The digital artwork isn't being transmitted on the blockchain. A token representing the artwork (a hash) is transmitted on the blockchain. The artwork itself is just copied via ordinary means.

The way to think of it is like the certificate of authenticity that you might get with, I dunno, a letter written by Charles Dickens. The NFT is the certificate, acting as proof of authenticity and ownership. You don't actually get the original letter, because there is no original letter. It's just a file, indistinguishable from any other copy of that file. (Typically, you'll get a license to display the work as well, so you can use Nyan Cat as your clan banner in Wage of War VI or whatever.)
Ok--so it is supposed to be matched to the item it marks.
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Old 12th March 2021, 04:07 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
Not exactly. The digital artwork isn't being transmitted on the blockchain. A token representing the artwork (a hash) is transmitted on the blockchain. The artwork itself is just copied via ordinary means.

The way to think of it is like the certificate of authenticity that you might get with, I dunno, a letter written by Charles Dickens. The NFT is the certificate, acting as proof of authenticity and ownership. You don't actually get the original letter, because there is no original letter. It's just a file, indistinguishable from any other copy of that file. (Typically, you'll get a license to display the work as well, so you can use Nyan Cat as your clan banner in Wage of War VI or whatever.)
Then this token really has little to do with the artwork itself. If I have an artwork displayed in a digital frame and the token owner has the same art in the same frame plus an invisible token . . . we basically have the same thing.

Essentially, it's a unique cryptocoin that is somehow magically tied to a non-unique digital file. I really don't get it.
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Old 12th March 2021, 07:31 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Then this token really has little to do with the artwork itself. If I have an artwork displayed in a digital frame and the token owner has the same art in the same frame plus an invisible token . . . we basically have the same thing.

Essentially, it's a unique cryptocoin that is somehow magically tied to a non-unique digital file. I really don't get it.
That's how I understand it. The only thing that you're buying is bragging rights, but that relies on the idea that anybody cares enough for the brag to matter.

I don't get it either, but then I don't get most of the hype for blockchains.
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Old 12th March 2021, 07:40 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Then this token really has little to do with the artwork itself. If I have an artwork displayed in a digital frame and the token owner has the same art in the same frame plus an invisible token . . . we basically have the same thing.

Essentially, it's a unique cryptocoin that is somehow magically tied to a non-unique digital file. I really don't get it.
The token isn't really invisible, though. It's a certificate of ownership, much like any owner of an original work of art might have, that the owner of a counterfeit would not have. What's more, it's a certificate of ownership that's impossible to counterfeit.

Over the past few years I've electronically signed a lot of electronic documents. Guess what? Those documents are just as valid as physical documents would be. A digital certificate of ownership is just as real as a physical one.
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Old 12th March 2021, 07:41 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
That's how I understand it. The only thing that you're buying is bragging rights, but that relies on the idea that anybody cares enough for the brag to matter.
A lot of people care about owning original artworks, and not copies or fakes. A lot of people like to see documents certifying provenance and authenticity, when they are taking ownership of artworks (especially at great cost).
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Old 12th March 2021, 08:49 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
A lot of people care about owning original artworks, and not copies or fakes. A lot of people like to see documents certifying provenance and authenticity, when they are taking ownership of artworks (especially at great cost).
Sure. What people tend not to care about is the certificate of authenticity independent of the work itself. If you photograph the letter from Charles Dickens and then burn it, and try to sell on the certificate of authenticity plus the photo, you're probably going to be disappointed by the offers you get.

The NFT is necessarily independent of the work when it comes to digital art, and there's simply no such thing as an original file in that context. So there's a fair amount of handwaving that has to go on before you can even get the bragging rights you're paying for. The staying power of the market will depend entirely on the degree to which people are willing to let the handwaving slide.
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Old 13th March 2021, 01:10 AM   #23
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Don’t think the RIPs that buy art at such silly prices really care that much about the art, it is only for the bragging rights and/or investment.

If it was truly the artwork that was important to them they would be happy with a very good copy, one that is indistinguishable from an original. (Even if you wanted a genuine oil painting there are many artists out there that can fool the best experts in the world.)
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Old 13th March 2021, 01:12 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
A lot of people care about owning original artworks, and not copies or fakes. A lot of people like to see documents certifying provenance and authenticity, when they are taking ownership of artworks (especially at great cost).

Sure.

I’m somewhat of an art collector. I can buy a physical piece directly from an artist- say a painting. She sells me the painting along with a Certificate of Authenticity. The COA establishes provenance: “xjx388 took possession of this painting from me, Artista DelValle.” So, I have an actual piece of framed canvas that she has actually applied paint to, along with a piece of paper that certifies the piece she sells me is authentic.

The COA is very nice to have, but it’s not the physical painting itself. The painting is unique. No one is going to pay me merely for a piece of paper -a COA- without the unique piece itself.

How can you possibly separate the the art from the COA?
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Old 13th March 2021, 06:11 AM   #25
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There was a piece about NFTs in the Grauniad yesterday. One issue with them is that anyone can create one out of someone else's work.

Quote:
But while the very technology of NFTs prevents them from being duplicated without permission, there’s nothing inherent to the sector that controls who can make an NFT in the first place – a fact that has caused dismay to some artists, who have found their work ending up in the “control” of people who had nothing to do with its creation.

Simon Stålenhag, the Swedish illustrator whose Tales from the Loop has become an Amazon Prime original, is one. On Wednesday, he found that one of his artworks had been turned into a “MarbleCard”, a type of NFT that allows users to make and trade tokens representing web pages. “I guess we must do a daily google if we’ve been NFT:d from now on,” he said. “Thanks Silicon Valley!”
I sort of understand NFTs in general terms, but what is there to stop more than one person creating an NFT from, for example, the same web page? And what happens if the web page content changes?
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Old 13th March 2021, 06:58 AM   #26
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I just saw someone on another forum compare NFTs to the "star-naming scam". You don't buy a piece of art, you buy something that says you own a piece of art, just like you buy a certificate that says a star has a name you gave it.
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Old 13th March 2021, 08:18 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
There was a piece about NFTs in the Grauniad yesterday. One issue with them is that anyone can create one out of someone else's work.



I sort of understand NFTs in general terms, but what is there to stop more than one person creating an NFT from, for example, the same web page? And what happens if the web page content changes?
The point of blockchain is that the token includes a history of its transactions. It's that history that makes the token. Two tokens created at different times will have different histories. They won't be the same token.

Using the same paper, the same ink, and the same printer, you could create a counterfeit certificate that was identical to the original. On a microscopic level, you could perhaps determine that one was a few weeks or months older than the other, and that they're not actually the same. But two blockchain tokens are obviously and entirely different at first glance, even if they refer to exactly the same source object.

So yes, anyone could create another NFT. But none of them would embody the same transaction history, as recorded in the blockchain ledger.

You'd have to hack the ledger itself, which is more like taking over the Mint, in order to print counterfeit money that will pass inspection. Many copies of the ledger exist, converging on a consensus of valid transactions. Once the early consensus has been established, it's a fixed part of all the copies of the ledger. You can contradict more recent transactions with a bogus copy of the ledger, but sooner or later convergence will catch up with you, and your ledger entries will be discarded.

In theory, you could hack the ledger early in its life, and control the formation of that initial consensus. As a way to generate counterfeit cryptocurrency, for example. But that would involve guessing ahead of time which cryptocurrencies are going to take off, and which ledgers will have been worth hacking, ten or twenty years from now.

But simply generating a new NFT won't be sufficient. One of us would have the certificate of authenticity that contains the record of its own creation at the time of authentication by the owner of the work. And one of us would have the certificate of authenticity that contains a record of its creation by someone else at some other time. The two certificates would be obviously different. Reading each one would tell us immediately which one had the blockchain consensus on its side.
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Old 13th March 2021, 08:24 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The point of blockchain is that the token includes a history of its transactions. It's that history that makes the token. Two tokens created at different times will have different histories. They won't be the same token.

Using the same paper, the same ink, and the same printer, you could create a counterfeit certificate that was identical to the original. On a microscopic level, you could perhaps determine that one was a few weeks or months older than the other, and that they're not actually the same. But two blockchain tokens are obviously and entirely different at first glance, even if they refer to exactly the same source object.

So yes, anyone could create another NFT. But none of them would embody the same transaction history, as recorded in the blockchain ledger.

You'd have to hack the ledger itself, which is more like taking over the Mint, in order to print counterfeit money that will pass inspection. Many copies of the ledger exist, converging on a consensus of valid transactions. Once the early consensus has been established, it's a fixed part of all the copies of the ledger. You can contradict more recent transactions with a bogus copy of the ledger, but sooner or later convergence will catch up with you, and your ledger entries will be discarded.

In theory, you could hack the ledger early in its life, and control the formation of that initial consensus. As a way to generate counterfeit cryptocurrency, for example. But that would involve guessing ahead of time which cryptocurrencies are going to take off, and which ledgers will have been worth hacking, ten or twenty years from now.

But simply generating a new NFT won't be sufficient. One of us would have the certificate of authenticity that contains the record of its own creation at the time of authentication by the owner of the work. And one of us would have the certificate of authenticity that contains a record of its creation by someone else at some other time. The two certificates would be obviously different. Reading each one would tell us immediately which one had the blockchain consensus on its side.
Thanks, that helps a bit.

I'm still confused as to what authenticity there is in a particular NFT. Sure, you can identify each NFT uniquely, but what makes the attachment to something else valid? For example, the first tweet has been made into an NFT, but that was done years after the actual tweet was made. What is actually being sold?

Quote:
One of us would have the certificate of authenticity that contains the record of its own creation at the time of authentication by the owner of the work.
The creator of the NFT need have no connection with the work it's being connected to.
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Old 14th March 2021, 10:05 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by gnome View Post
Ok--so it is supposed to be matched to the item it marks.
Exactly.

Gold is fungible - it doesn't matter which actual piece of gold you have, it's still worth the same. If you have a digital item with a non-fungible token, you can make as many copies of it that you like, but since none of them will carry the NFT, they are verifiably not the original.

It seems a good idea to me, but the energy footprint of blockchain is well known to be massive, and while a majority of the world's energy still comes from non-renewable sources, that's a problem.
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Old 14th March 2021, 10:59 PM   #30
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I don’t know...the more I read about this, the more I think it’s crazy. What you are really buying is a unique token, not an artwork (or other digital asset). This token is not, as far as I can tell, attached to the digital asset you are supposedly buying; they are completely separate entities. One is a unique token using blockchain to validate and track it; the other may have millions of copies or is easily accessible by anyone. If you own the NFT, you may not even have a copy of the file itself, you certainly don’t need to. Also, AFAICT, the token itself is just a unique hash generated by the blockchain that is then transferred into a wallet owned by someone, just like any other cryptocoin. It has literally nothing to do with the digital asset.

I mean, WTF am I missing?
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Old 14th March 2021, 11:54 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
I don’t know...the more I read about this, the more I think it’s crazy. What you are really buying is a unique token, not an artwork (or other digital asset). This token is not, as far as I can tell, attached to the digital asset you are supposedly buying; they are completely separate entities. One is a unique token using blockchain to validate and track it; the other may have millions of copies or is easily accessible by anyone. If you own the NFT, you may not even have a copy of the file itself, you certainly don’t need to. Also, AFAICT, the token itself is just a unique hash generated by the blockchain that is then transferred into a wallet owned by someone, just like any other cryptocoin. It has literally nothing to do with the digital asset.

I mean, WTF am I missing?
You are missing the mind of a snob or collector!

If there were 20 original Mona Lisas do you think it would be as valuable as the original is? It’s value is based partly on its scarcity. Yet in a similar way to digital copies we can make copies of the Mona Lisa, indeed copies that would fool the experts, yet those copies will never be worth the same as the Mona Lisa because they are known to not be the original even though their intrinsic worth as “artwork” should be the same. All this “token” does is show to everyone you have the original.
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Old 15th March 2021, 08:34 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
You are missing the mind of a snob or collector!

If there were 20 original Mona Lisas do you think it would be as valuable as the original is? It’s value is based partly on its scarcity. Yet in a similar way to digital copies we can make copies of the Mona Lisa, indeed copies that would fool the experts, yet those copies will never be worth the same as the Mona Lisa because they are known to not be the original even though their intrinsic worth as “artwork” should be the same. All this “token” does is show to everyone you have the original.
I'm still struggling with this bit. All the token shows is that you own the token. What is tying the token to the original? For example, the first tweet being sold, how is that linked to the NFT being sold?
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Old 15th March 2021, 08:40 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
You are missing the mind of a snob or collector!

If there were 20 original Mona Lisas do you think it would be as valuable as the original is? It’s value is based partly on its scarcity. Yet in a similar way to digital copies we can make copies of the Mona Lisa, indeed copies that would fool the experts, yet those copies will never be worth the same as the Mona Lisa because they are known to not be the original even though their intrinsic worth as “artwork” should be the same. All this “token” does is show to everyone you have the original.

I am an art collector but not too snobby. I value owning and displaying original pieces of art but I don’t have the money for big names. I like finding up and comers.

I was intrigued by a site: sedition.com. Basically, you can pay $15 a month to display their entire collection on any device. You can’t download it, you have to view it from the website or in the dedicated apps for Android or iOS. I assume they use a proprietary format to ensure the files themselves aren’t copyable. You can also purchase individual pieces, sold in lots of various sizes and price points and then, when the lots sell out, you can resell them on the platform

This idea I understand. I need to be in their walled garden to view what I’ve purchased and I understand that I’m only really purchasing the rights to display the art through the app/site. But not everyone can display the piece. There is some degree of exclusivity to the piece.

It seems to me that the NFT is like trying to do two things at once: make art freely available and also ensure artists are paid for their work. While I fully support the latter, I think it works better in a walled garden model.
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Old 15th March 2021, 09:22 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
I'm still struggling with this bit. All the token shows is that you own the token. What is tying the token to the original? For example, the first tweet being sold, how is that linked to the NFT being sold?
Presumably a hash of the digital artifact is included in the token. You can then later rehash the object and validate it matches the token.
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Old 15th March 2021, 11:22 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by BowlOfRed View Post
Presumably a hash of the digital artifact is included in the token. You can then later rehash the object and validate it matches the token.

This is where I’m a little confused. My understanding is that there is no connection to the digital artifact -the NFT is generated off the chain like any other crypto.

I’m thinking I’m going to buy one for myself and see if I can grok it by experiencing it myself. I’ll buy the new Kings of Leon NFT for their new album.
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Old 15th March 2021, 01:09 PM   #36
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Penny Arcade weighs in.
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Old 15th March 2021, 02:21 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
This is where I’m a little confused. My understanding is that there is no connection to the digital artifact -the NFT is generated off the chain like any other crypto.
On Ethereum, which seems to be the most popular network for trading NFTs, the standard defines optional associated metadata that can be set when the token is minted and queried afterwards (https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/blo...IPS/eip-721.md). Notably, a token URI. The standard practice seems to be to upload the work to a permanent location somewhere on the internet and then point the token URI to it.
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Old 16th March 2021, 07:37 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
On Ethereum, which seems to be the most popular network for trading NFTs, the standard defines optional associated metadata that can be set when the token is minted and queried afterwards (https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/blo...IPS/eip-721.md). Notably, a token URI. The standard practice seems to be to upload the work to a permanent location somewhere on the internet and then point the token URI to it.
And anyone can access that URI (leaving aside the issue of whether such a thing as a 'permanent location' can exist on the internet).

This Twitter thread seems to agree with my current understanding. I'm yet to be convinced this is anything but the Emperor's new clothes.

Quote:
THEM: so what's the point of buying it when it's free and you don't have any control over it?
YOU: it's non-fungible, no one else can buy it, it's mine
THEM: what is
YOU: the record of the event of me having paid money for having a record of the event
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Old 16th March 2021, 07:52 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
And anyone can access that URI (leaving aside the issue of whether such a thing as a 'permanent location' can exist on the internet).

This Twitter thread seems to agree with my current understanding. I'm yet to be convinced this is anything but the Emperor's new clothes.
Isn’t that pretty much that the definition of art - a “in the eye of the beholder” type of deal? A painting may apparently be worth £100 until someone notices it is signed by a certain Leonardo and suddenly it is worth millions. Nothing about the artwork has changed but now it is known to be a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci it is worth more.

What will establish this as a way of “collecting” digital art will be if people can sell on the token for more than they’ve paid for it. If they can’t be sold their value will plummet and no one will be interested.
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Old 16th March 2021, 10:21 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
And anyone can access that URI (leaving aside the issue of whether such a thing as a 'permanent location' can exist on the internet).
Sure. I'm just pointing out the connection to the digital artifact--there's a link.

Quote:
This Twitter thread seems to agree with my current understanding. I'm yet to be convinced this is anything but the Emperor's new clothes.
Yeah, it's trash.
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