Is it on the Chain yet? 🤔
The impact of NFTs on the nature of ownership, the crumbling facade of 'capitalism', and India's wavering position on crypto. This is Issue #009 of Forward.
Do you remember Nyan Cat?
If you’ve been on the Internet long enough, chances are you’ve encountered some version of this on social networks or online message boards. 👇
Last week, its creator Chris Torres sold a GIF version of the original video (like the one represented above), for 300 Ether (the cryptocurrency linked to the Ethereum blockchain). That’s about $590,000.
You’ve got questions? Don’t blame you.
NFTs and the redistribution of power 💪
Nyan Cat is just one public example of the rapidly expanding phenomenon called NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), the latest application of blockchain tech.
Allow us to explain with a commonly used (but extremely effective) example: The Mona Lisa.
If you think about it, nothing is stopping you from picking up a print of the Mona Lisa for a few bucks and hanging it in your living room. Or even visiting the Louvre in France and taking a picture of the original preserved there. Yes, you technically own a copy, but you can’t sell it for any significant value. The original, however, has significant value for its historic and cultural significance.
Until NFTs came along, works like Nyan Cat did not have a way of becoming like the Mona Lisa. Anyone could copy a GIF or download the original video and distribute it, rendering the original file on Torres’ hard drive worthless, and making any attempt at selling it for value… pointless.
Unless, he created a version and minted it on to a blockchain, which cannot be altered, and can reliably track any change of ownership of said asset and provide its history all the way back to the time it was minted. Digital assets, usually worthless or low value due to their ease of replication, could now become unique and traceable.
Nyan Cat just entered the big league. As more people share it and write about it (like we just did) the cultural significance of the one GIF Torres put on the blockchain grows, and so does its value. Its current owner can then sell it for a higher price, just like a real work of art.
And people are going crazy about the possibilities.
Digital assets are now collectors items, and people are already cashing in on them. The NBA is releasing packs of ‘Top Shots’, allowing users to buy highlights of legendary moments featuring their favourite players, forever preserved as NFTs.
Here’s a highlight someone paid $208,000 for:
The crypto art marketplace is seeing significant interest too (digital artist ‘Mad Dog Jones’ sold a set of animated artworks for ~$4 million). In fact, marketplaces and crypto art NFTs are getting so popular that there’s even a token ($WHALE) whose value is linked to an underlying collection of crypto art.
The NFT revolution is also stirring debate about ownership of our digital creations and taking power back from platforms. Imagine if YouTube creators could just turn every video into an NFT, and not be beholden to platforms for ascertaining the monetary value their content can earn?
This might the beginning of something big, and we’ll ensure Forward keeps you posted as the narrative develops.
Bitcoin to the moon 🌙
$50,000. Just like that.
Every time someone says Bitcoin’s price is too high, the cryptocurrency makes another rally. Helped along by the likes of Elon Musk and a clutch of other wealthy tech influencers like Chamath Palihapitiya and Naval Ravikant, Bitcoin’s surge is showing no signs of stopping. And it’s not just retail investors who’re buying into the boom either.
After major institutions like MasterCard and PayPal began buying Bitcoin, the latest entrant is none other than Tesla, as Elon Musk backed his words with actions. The automaker bought a cool $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin recently, stirring up the news cycle all over again.
And for people who’re still on the fence thinking the rally has probably peaked, JPMorgan estimates that the currency could even break the $100,000 barrier, though underlining that prices at those levels could prove ‘unsustainable’.
The moon doesn’t seem so far fetched, as Bitcoin continues to be a rocketship. A volatile one, but a rocketship nonetheless. 🚀
The crumbling facade of capitalism
Why do we talk about alternatives to fiat money? Why are some of the world’s most knowledgeable people creating a hue and cry about deteriorating economies and ‘money printing’ when countries are posting healthy GDP growth and banks provide great interest rates?
It’s a complicated topic to be sure, but not one most of us (who’ve lived through multiple economic shocks in a few short decades) can afford to ignore anymore.
We’ve highlighted this in previous issues of Forward, about the danger of ‘hollow economies’. In this scathing, but extremely illuminating essay (30 min read) Allen Farrington details how all the things we are fed to be normal aspects of capitalist ideology are in fact dangerous — and in the long term — unsustainable practices. The equivalent of ‘kicking the can down the road’.
It’s a road that has a definite dead end if some current economic policies are not re-evaluated, as this documentary explains (56 min watch).
A digital future?
In most of our cautionary tales about money printing, central banks are the unwitting, or uncaring, antagonists. That said, as the world begins to increasingly adopt digital currencies without their participation, central banks are beginning to understand the advantages of having Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Not as volatile as conventional cryptocurrencies, backed by the State, and programmable according to government policies.
Unsurprisingly, China is already innovating in this space, having launched a ‘digital yuan’, or as the Chinese government would have you call it, a Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP).
India, an island?
The world maybe adopting cryptocurrencies en-masse and figuring out ways to integrate them into the societal fabric, but the Indian government has so far been anything but supportive. While India’s traditionally conservative economic policies have often helped the country escape the brunt of past financial shocks, the government’s decision to consider an outright ban on holding or trading in cryptocurrencies has led to uproar among investors in India and abroad. Technologist and former CTO of Coinbase Balaji S Srinivasan wrote a detailed piece on how the country can benefit from launching a digital rupee backed by digital gold (aka Bitcoin).
The article has gained traction in India, and many prominent influencers and companies in the crypto space in India are now petitioning the government to reconsider going down this route via the India Wants Bitcoin campaign.
Will the government relent? Keep watching this space for updates.
“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.’”
Stuff we loved this week
As a society, we’re prone to underestimate the role played by the simple concept of trust in our daily interactions. The greatest products and experiences are not great because of their individual components, but for the feeling of trust they inspire. In this TED talk, Dan Ariely talks about the unseen yet profound benefits of creating an ecosystem high on trust:
(Want early access to an organisation built with these very principles in mind? Visit www.neo-bank.com)
To understand the future, it’s helpful to decode the past. The Prize is an epic, daunting, 150-year history of the world told through the lens of oil and gas. If you’re invested in oil and gas, or just want to draw cues for the future of the energy industry by looking at stories from its past, this is the book for you.
Food for thought
Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, and has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the online world we live in today. But as we move to a decentralised future where the focus is on individual autonomy, the company could also become one of the primary inhibitors of progress.
Attention is hard to obtain. But once it’s achieved it can take on a life of its own, becoming self-sustaining and able to morph into something you never imagined.
That’s it for this issue of Forward. If you’re enjoying our content, please help us reach more people by sharing this newsletter. If someone sent this to you, join our list by dropping your email below, and we’ll make sure the next issue of Forward is delivered straight to your inbox in time for Sunday morning ☕.
Until next time,
Your friends at NEO.