“NFT stands for non-fungible token.  Physical money and cryptocurrencies are “fungible,” meaning they can be traded or exchanged for one another. They’re also equal in value — one dollar is always worth another dollar; one Bitcoin is always equal to another Bitcoin.  NFTs are different. Each has a digital signature that makes it impossible for NFTs to be exchanged for or equal to one another (hence, non-fungible).”



I am not here today to argue whether NFTs are a thing or a non-thing, I am here today to discuss why they are being discussed as a thing or non-thing. Let me begin by suggesting the NFT is an imaginative transformation of existing art.

I say that because imaginative transformations do not take place in a vacuum. In my mind, NFTs are an unintended consequence of the decay of tangible value in people’s minds and the increase in intangible value. This decay has flattened value to a point where people question everything. I say that to point out things like NFTs are nonlinear outcomes of a variety of things and shouldn’t be judged solely on, well, they just shouldn’t be judged solely. They are a thing of things and to explain, or assess, an NFT one has to dive into the sometimes-difficult unseen stimulus which created the unforeseen elevation of NFTs to some status as a possible vehicle of real value <however you would like to define value>.

In addition. Things like NFTs are simply a new version of a “memory palace” <information spaces: stories turned into architecture or abstract concepts transformed into imaginary houses/palaces: Jonathon Spence: The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci>. Information spaces are vehicles in which we communicate narratives and stories. To be clear. These narratives are communicated with an intent in mind – create a mindset or create a value. In this case the stories <the NFTs> outpaced the existing media therefore created one of its own. This story should remind us all that an NFT is simply the interface between the medium and the message.

Anyway. It is quite possible that in the flattening out of society, and thinking, in society (generally speaking) that value and art have also flattened. A classic piece of literature or a Van Gogh has been bludgeoned by anti-intellectualism, or simplistic discussions of capitalism, to a place where the common person has flattened its narratives, stories and inevitably its value. And then along comes NFTs, and even the ‘metaverse’, in which there is a new dimensionality being offered which ‘unflattens’ value, art and thinking to a new generation. They are both “information spaces” in which to create stories. Aw heck. I don’t know. I am speaking in possibilities and the truth is NFTs may simply be the Netscape of our time. But the bottom line is we, society and people, get the narratives we deserve. Empty (or intangible) value just may be the narrative of the day. What I do know is that the exploratory spatial dimensionality of technology has always been of incredible importance in terms of value offered/value received. I also know that art, architecture, anything creative, has always been dominated by a sub culture which inspires a new innovation and mainstream plucks out the things it believes it can market and profit from to a larger audience. This has certainly changed from the past in its scope but, generally speaking, the Long Tail concept is still the Long Tail concept and a subculture which can identify a market has the potential to stay in existence for a healthy lifetime.

In the end.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. The rise of NFTs isn’t interesting in and of itself, it’s interesting in unintended consequences. What value eggs will it break along the way?

Within its ‘digital scarcity value’ looms a larger issue with consequences way beyond the NFT itself. Its not its ‘intangibility’ per se, its just that in the past anything intangible which has gained value has typically been an extension of historical tangible value. For example, a dollar, or fiat currency, has centuries of established exchange value as well as centuries before of value grounded in tangible ‘gold’ as a standard. In other words, the foundation of value, if you scan far enough back, has its roots in something tangible. But in a world where we have convinced a generation that ‘experience’, in and of itself, is value or ‘perception has value’, it is easy to see how a ‘non-fungible asset’ could simply be seen as ‘having value.’ We have flattened the dimensionality of real value to a point where value simply becomes ‘in the eye of the beholder’ untethered from anything tangible. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the similarities to ‘truth is in the eye of the beholder’ attitudes sweeping across the world. It reminds me of the thought “if no one is an expert, why can’t I be one.”

Look. I have no idea whether NFTs will become a real ‘thing’, but what I do know is a real thing is our understanding of what value is. To be clear, I say the same thing about Bitcoin. But. If I were a ‘fungible’ product, I would be eyeing ‘non-fungible’ value with some fear – not skepticism. If ‘non-fungible’ convinces people it represents real value, we have stepped onto the slippery slope of untethered value. Someone smarter than I will have to tell you whether this is good or bad, but it certainly feels like it has some basic bad consequences to a goods & service exchange economic world and certainly to capitalism economies. But that’s me.

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Written by Bruce