NFTs are the latest reprise of the Internet's original democratizing promise -- and the gold rush that follows when there's money in the air. In this case, out of thin air.…
So, @Williamjmarks5 and I sat down to work through the current NFT mania -- itself built on top of the cryptocurrency/blockchain mania -- and see whether there's a there there. (Below: is it soh-rawr-ey? oh: so-rare) NFT Valuation Report: What To Look For When Buying Sorare Ca
Pinning down the value of NFTs gets philosophical pretty quickly. But a first observation is that people might buy something because they think others might want to buy it for more, later. Classic speculation, doable without ever asking what makes something innately valuable. Investment vs. Speculation. Source attributed to "key d
If people buy things because they think others will pay even more for them later -- because those others believe the same thing about still later others -- you have the makings of a speculative bubble. See @StephMBuck's account of the Cabbage Patch craze:…
Of course, Cabbage Patch dolls have their own innate value in the sense that some kids *want* them. Kids can hold them, carry them around, etc.

NFTs aren't like that. They are ... digital tokens. On a blockchain, those tokens can be assigned to a unique wallet. Maybe yours! Cabbage Patch Doll
The first pic here documents one kind of Ethereum token,…. The token goes on a blockchain, but the art(ifact) it ... represents? ... is typically stored elsewhere and merely linked (second pic, from @jonty's wonderful thread at ).
To be sure, intangible things often have value and are sold, even when no one can hold them or carry them around. A song can bring joy, and copyright creates forms of ownership under law where physics falls short. E.g., copyright holders can license the right to copy that song.
But!: NFTs today typically don't convey rights like that. They could purport to do so, just as selling them could include sending a physical gift to the buyer. But then we're not talking about the NFTs' value, but rather the value of extras the buyer gets and others don't.
No, the value of a standard NFT is more like the value of Honus Wagner's signature on a baseball card. Now just imagine taking away the card and leaving the signature, and you've got it! Honus Wagner signed baseball card
Which brings us back to Cabbage Patch Kids. What made the dolls distinct -- valuable! -- before the speculative craze amplified prices further was a narrative about the dolls' origins, culminating in their "adoption" by real kids. (Second pic is from @StephMBuck's essay.) Cabbage Patch Kid "birth certificate"Excerpt from Stephanie Buck's essay on Cabbage Patch Kids, h
Its narratives like these that fuels romantic (as compared to speculative) buying of NFTs. A token originating from an artist or other famous person carries the meaning of an autograph without requiring anything physical, including ink. Which makes authenticating sources vital!
Add to that the times that people buy NFTs directly from artists simply to finance them and to publicly advertise that support, and some purchases really start to make sense. (Artists in turn have warmed to NFTs that pay royalties, ideally automatically, off downstream sales.)
NFTs hosted on a distributed blockchain like that of Bitcoin or Ethereum add to the sense of authenticity, precisely because no one "owns" those platforms. They are generic, public, collective hallucinations. Like the Internet. And the World Wide Web.
Which is how unowned platforms can be, fittingly, the vehicles for forms of ownership whose source of value is stripped down to the simple declaration of a relationship between a seller and a buyer who choose to be connected.…
Deepest thanks to @leppert and @jstn for sharing some of the technicalities and practicalities of today's instantiations of NFTs, and to co-author @Williamjmarks5 and @theatlantic editor @danteramos. Errors, of course, are mine. More to follow!

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More from @zittrain

28 Jan
Last year, just before the pandemic hit, I gave the @clarehall_cam Tanner Lectures on Human Values, reflecting on how tech has empowered humanity -- and yet it rightly feels like we have less and less control.…
That added power, for example, doesn't just make autonomous vehicles work without drivers. It means those cars can answer to, say, law enforcement authorities instead of the passengers -- locking the doors and driving them to the nearest police station if a warrant is issued.
Our 25 years of a mainstreamed Internet has seen three eras of (non)governance. The first is "rights" -- focusing on how to enjoy the new freedoms of communication without interference from governments who would surveill it and big interests (e.g., ©) who are harmed by it.
Read 9 tweets
19 Nov 20
This story has a strong lede and discussion about how unprecedented, and ill-grounded (indeed, groundless), the Trump campaign's efforts are to overturn voters' decisions in Michigan and elsewhere. But it slips a bit into casual horserace mode over attempted election-stealing. --
If reporters covered assassinations the way they're talking about current events: "Some in the campaign have floated plans to physically attack the winning candidate. However, most agree their clumsiness and existing police protection renders that approach a mere fever dream."
If reporters covered assassinations the way they're talking about current events: “Some in the campaign have floated plans to physically attack the winning candidate. However, experts believe this approach has little chance of success.”
Read 5 tweets
18 Nov 20
I think there's a key barrier to uphold, where players of hardball feel like they must deny it's a mere exercise of power they can get away with, and say instead that circumstances/principles compel them to their actions. Because then any hypocrisy will slow them down. ...
We saw this in the refusal to hold a hearing for Garland; it was couched as a rule about election-year Court vacancies rather than as "we won't seat him because we're Team R and you're Team D, and we have the votes." Seating ACB became: we have the votes. ...
And they did! At that point it opens the door to approval of future nominations being only when the same party holds the Senate. The shift from reasons (however pretextual) to raw power is even worse for elections. ...
Read 5 tweets
29 May 20
Lots going on here: Twitter labels this tweet for violating Twitter’s rules about glorifying violence; the tweet stays up because of its “public importance” test; Twitter further disables retweeting without comment so it can’t go viral so easily. RT with comment is OK. Screenshot of Twitter’s mod...
Then, the official White House account has repeated the words Donald Trump said as realdonaldtrump - “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” - perhaps to associate the full force of the office of the Presidency with them. I imagine Twitter rules will apply again.
Twitter has surely waded into a fraught zone. Good. One of the ways to try to break what is mad online behavior of even a (especially a?) President is to create rules to deal with it - rules that would have no place in normal circumstances. Then endure and respond to blowback.
Read 4 tweets
26 Oct 19
A+ analysis of debate over responsible disclosure of AI advances by @RebeccaCrootof.

What’s riskier for tech that could cause great harm: democratization where nearly anyone can abuse it, or hoarding by a handful of big companies/gov’ts?
For nuclear weapons, non-proliferation seems the strategy. (Though the non-proliferation is of physical materials like enriched uranium, rather than knowledge of how to build a bomb, which has ultimately proven hard to contain.)
Internet access is on the other end of the spectrum of desirable diffusion. “Internet for all” is the worthy, non-controversial rallying cry of the @internetsociety, even as particular apps, including social media, are increasingly scrutinized over what wrongs they empower.
Read 10 tweets
18 Jul 19
This is a compelling account of data leakage through dodgy but popular browser extensions. To do a small useful task -- like letting you easily zoom in a picture on a web page -- an extension will ask for full permissions to read and modify everything you see as you surf. ...
... Thousands of extensions ask for and get that access from users who have no reason to know that, say, the URLs they click on will be shared for "marketing" purposes, eventually finding their way to brokers like Nacho Analytics, who then sell the data to anyone who pays ...
It turns out a lot of private data ends up in a URL. Long, un-guessable URLs are ways of referring to private Google Drive or OneDrive docs. They contain record locators and passenger names for airline flights. And those extensions read it all and pass it along.
Read 13 tweets

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