Blag

I minted an NFT of A Mind Is Born

I've just minted a non-fungible token of A Mind Is Born on the Ethereum blockchain.

It can be viewed here: 0xA7702E0769c5D408EbF2B056d7C3Cc0a054fd5f7. On that page, you can also track who the current owner is.

I hereby announce that I will not create any more NFTs (on Ethereum or any other platform) linked to my demo A Mind Is Born.

This is my first adventure into blockchains and cryptocurrency, so bear with me while I try to explain this confusing new territory in my own terms.

A non-fungible token (NFT) works a bit like a commemorative coin; a limited-issue collector's item that can be bought and sold.

This NFT also represents the exclusive right to display A Mind Is Born (as a self-contained piece of art) inside virtual reality worlds that support the ERC721 token standard.

Outside such VR worlds, I still retain all ownership rights (e.g. copyright) for the demo itself. As before, in the real world, A Mind Is Born is free for anybody to view, download, and distribute for non-commercial purposes. Anybody can download and thus own a copy of the demo; the commemorative token exists in a single copy on a blockchain, where its ownership is tracked.

Every NFT is linked to some digital content, such as a document, picture, or in this case a C64 demo. Usually, the link is a cryptographic hash of the document, or a URL pointing to it, or both. But in this case, I actually stored the entire demo in the blockchain—it's just 256 bytes after all. This did increase the minting cost (transaction fees) somewhat, but it's nice to know that a downloadable copy of the demo exists inside the Ethereum general ledger, and will remain there in perpetuity.

The promise in boldface at the top of this page is what makes the token valuable. Not to everybody; most people couldn't care less about commemorative coins or art as investment, digital or otherwise. But for the ones who do, this NFT is now a unique artefact. The blockchain ensures that it cannot be forged, and I acknowledge that it's legit and give my word that it will remain unique, so its value won't be diluted.

The NFT is already sold and paid for. For Conrad Barski, who suggested the deal in the first place, this was an attractive combination of patronage and investment. For me, it was a way to explore blockchain technology while earning a bit of money on my hobby. And for almost everybody else, it is perhaps best filed away as wizard-level crypto-navel-gazing of very little consequence. =)

Posted Tuesday 23-Mar-2021 08:02

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Anonymous
Tue 23-Mar-2021 13:05
Disappointed in this, I have to admit. The environmental, social and economic impact of cryptocurrencies in general and NFTs in particular are, by now, pretty well documented and spread over the internet, and while it is possible you're unaware of it, it is not entirely likely.

I hope this is a case of idealistic, naive curiosity, fed by grifters selling you on the blockchain and NFTs (because it's all grifters, all the way down) and that it stops here.
lisperati
Conrad Barski
Tue 23-Mar-2021 17:02
(Note: I'm the person who purchased the NFT)

I think this is a understandable perspective to hold, it's good to have it stated here as a counterpoint. For what it's worth, Ethereum is currently in the process of switching to "Proof of Stake", which has dramatically lower energy costs (somewhere in the order of 1000x less energy cost) https://ethereum.org/en/developers/docs/consensus-mechanisms/pos/
Anonymous
Tue 23-Mar-2021 22:59
What I don't get is this: "I hereby announce that I will not create any more NFTs" It seems to be a bunch of characters, not a blockchain, it's not a guarantee at all.
Don't get me wrong, I do not doubt your word at all! But what's the point of the blockchain thing?
lft
Linus Åkesson
Wed 24-Mar-2021 18:23
It seems to be a bunch of characters, not a blockchain, it's not a guarantee at all.

That is an excellent point. The blockchain doesn't protect every link of the trust chain. Here is my understanding:

When somebody buys, say, an expensive painting from the 19th century, they need to take steps to ensure that it's genuine. This is done by gathering evidence, certainly from the object itself, but also from its provenance (ownership record). For instance, if a newspaper clipping from 1885 says that Mrs. So-and-so, the well-known art collector, bought it from the artist, then that's evidence for it being the real thing at the time. If every subsequent ownership change is documented, and every buyer and/or auction house along the way seems trustworthy enough, then it's probably still the real thing. And having passed through all those owners and auctions also confirms, and sometimes increases, the value of the object.

But if there's a perceived weakness in the chain, or some suspicion that the painting was replaced somewhere along the way, its value would be reduced. The blockchain solves this problem by keeping a perfect record of the provenance. The record is even timestamped; art forgers sometimes create elaborate fake documents to confirm the history of an object, but this isn't possible on a blockchain.

Unless, of course, a parallel history of a forged item is started right about now, and then meticulously maintained and updated in realtime, bought and sold by shills along the way, so it would look as genuine as the real object at some point in the future. To prevent that possibility, my announcement also included a reference to the genuine NFT (in the form of a cryptographic hash).

Next, we have to consider the possibility that the announcement was forged. Like you say, the contents of the announcement are just a bunch of characters, easily faked. But they appear on this website, which is evidence (but not proof) that they originate from the same person who created the demo. The buyer has paid good money for the artefact (this is documented in the ledger), which is evidence (but not proof) that they considered it genuine at the time. Many have witnessed the public announcement, I have not gone on record denying it, etc. All of this is evidence.

Finally, I could go back on my word and create more NFTs of the same artwork, or deny that this was a legitimate trade. That would of course be immoral and ruin my reputation. Furthermore, there is no immediate economic incentive for me to do it, since any later NFTs originating from me (regardless of artwork) would lose much of their perceived value if I can't be trusted. Meanwhile, the identity of the original NFT would still be established (as per the previous paragraph) and considered canonical. The controversy might even cause it to increase in value---but I wouldn't benefit from that.

In conclusion, the buyer and I had to build up enough trust between us to go through with the initial trade. Then, each new buyer would have to evaluate the evidence that this initial exchange was legitimate. Part of that evidence is in the provenance: "If all these earlier owners had a large stake in this being a genuine article, after reviewing all the evidence available to them, then it probably is." And the provenance is guaranteed by the blockchain.
lft
Linus Åkesson
Wed 24-Mar-2021 22:37
Disappointed in this, I have to admit. The environmental, social and economic impact of cryptocurrencies in general and NFTs in particular are, by now, pretty well documented and spread over the internet, and while it is possible you're unaware of it, it is not entirely likely.

I hope this is a case of idealistic, naive curiosity, fed by grifters selling you on the blockchain and NFTs (because it's all grifters, all the way down) and that it stops here.

Thanks for being frank about these concerns. There are indeed ethical aspects of blockchains, and I take them seriously, but I humbly acknowledge that I may have missed some things. But I also think the matter is more complex and nuanced than you make it appear.

First, the environmental impact. I know that crypto-mining uses lots of electricity worldwide, and that is indeed a problem. The mining will continue as long as the cryptocurrency is considered valuable. So there is a sense in which I'm contributing to the perceived value of Ether by participating in the network. Proof-of-work is like an arms-race; there's no easy way to back down. Proof-of-stake would solve this problem, and I was happy to see that Ethereum was moving in that direction. I was disappointed to learn (from your comment) that it's been "just about" to happen for several years, which suggests that it may never happen. I admit that I could have been more prudent there.

I am unsure about the social and economic impact you refer to. Money laundering? Blockchains appear to be more transparent than international bank transfers. Consumer rights and the inability to reverse transactions? But nobody is forcing consumers to pay with cryptocurrency; it's opt-in. Again, I could be wrong, so please elaborate.

Yes, I did this partly out of technical curiosity, but I'm not convinced that it was naive, or that blockchains are run by "grifters, all the way down". Grifters flock to money, of course, but staying away from blockchains because grifters are attracted to money seems to me like staying away from democracy because sociopaths are attracted to power. Besides, I would expect the Ethereum userbase to have its fair share of idealists (the ideals being decentralization and transparency) and technology buffs (understandably fascinated by a distributed Turing-complete virtual machine, built from cryptography primitives, running on top of a loosely-knit network of adversaries). And I know I'm not a grifter myself. I agreed with a buyer to sell a digital object for a sum of money; everything is above the board, and I'll obviously pay tax on the income.

UNICEF, American Red Cross, and the UN World Food Program accept donations in cryptocurrencies. Of course, I can't just point to somebody else and say "they're doing it so it must be okay"; I am responsible for my own actions. But you seem to imply that these aid organizations are morally corrupt, and I say it's probably a little more nuanced than that.
Anonymous
Sat 27-Mar-2021 14:40
The basic problem of blockchains is that they try to impose scarcity into a domain that _by its very nature_ resists it. This takes either an enormous amount of effort (PoW) or some trusted party (PoS) to uphold. It is also completely unnecessary, since the things people want to make scarce are all social constructs in the first place. The only change is who the trusted party is (and it's also mostly not a change - it's all rich people).

Everything done using blockchains, from money transfers to lotteries to contracts, are already achievable without using something like 1% of the worlds entire energy use to accomplish it. They solve no problem, fix no social ill, and impose significantly worse conditions on the world, not just now, but for decades or centuries to come. Conditions that the world's poor will bear the brunt of.

NFT's in this context, is a skewed lottery where mostly already wealthy people will be paid enormous amounts of money (which will be written off as tax-deductible) for literally nothing. This is not dissimilar from the traditional art market, but has the added detriment of burning up the planet.

In terms of the social impacts of blockchain research, from my view it's been an enormous drain and waste of resource that could have been spent on actual, useful progress in decentralisation, federation, and scientific research (supercomputers are more expensive because blockchain mines buy up a lot of stock). If _half_ of the people duped into dumping their efforts into some doomed blockchain project instead had been working on, say, torrent-based live streaming, or strong software support for better, federated social networks, trading sites, chat protocols and so on, I think we could have had real, major competitors to the big five.

For the economic side of things, blockchains serve very much as contradiction heighteners in existing late capitalism, where those With are continually getting more than those Without. Despite whatever anyone tells you about blockchain, these are no different. By having some money and doing lucky speculation, you can get some more money, but it is entirely arbitrary when and how each individual project goes up and down, and the only constant thing is that those with _lots_ of money (who can hedge risk, buy mining equipment, participate as stakeholders in PoS) are the ones getting out on top.

Now, all this being said, if you need to hustle to survive or live comfortably, I won't judge anyone for jumping into the grift and trying to grift with the best of them. Chances are against you unless you're already rich, however.

In terms of you, Linus, and you, the buyer's relationship, I would encourage you to, if you want to do similar things in the future, to instead solve things using traditional assymetric key crypto. Set up a certificate for "Dibs on <whatever>", link it to an announcement page on here, sell that, and send an update on each sale. I'm sure you can figure out how to do this reasonably.

And you have a trusted party (linus) who can be contacted, generate a new key in case the old gets lost, etc. same as it would have to be on the Ethereum blockchain anyway. Just with less burning of fossil fuel.
Anonymous
Thu 1-Apr-2021 13:02
The problem with this is the legal license.

If you buy this NFT and that means a transfer of the ownership then yes it's valuable, but that is not what you are selling is it?

Because then you would lose the legal right to "A Mind is Born" and have to remove it from csdb f.ex. (good luck with that btw, not from a it's impossible point of view but more what the community will think about it).

As the legal construct is now NFTs are only valuable if the platform is a monopoly and then we have the same problem we allready have with Facebook, Google, Apple etc.