What The Heck Is An NFT?

3d concept

By Cassie Kim

What the heck is an NFT? I asked the same thing after hearing about the NFTs! An NFT is short for a non-fungible token. They are a non-exchangeable type of token that is based on Ethereum blockchain, which is a type of decentralized currency, like bitcoin and dogecoin. They have recently come to light because of their usability to sell art and other types of media online. This was pretty hard for me to wrap my head around, but redditor u/Magelis86 made a helpful comparison- an NFT is like the paper certificate that guarantees originality for paintings. It is like the proof of originality and uniqueness is connected to the back of the piece of digital media, like a tweet or a gif. An NFT can allow artists to collect a commission every time the art is traded or sold among buyers. This benefits artists in a way that they weren’t previously able to benefit from their digital art. Unfortunately, that is where my appreciation for NFT ends and my issue with it starts. 

NFT media has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may seem strange that art can be sold online when the art is easily reproducible and can be viewed for free, but collectors have paid up to millions to add NFTs to their collections. With the elite wealthy paying millions of dollars to claim ownership over a piece of art, it seems like NFT gives the wealthy a way to show off all the ways they can throw away their money. Logan Paul sold a clip of his YouTube video for a whopping $20,000, which leaves me wondering who is spending that much money for ownership over a video clip. As I understand it, Logan Paul could attach more NFTs to other clips, thereby rendering the original clip worthless. I am not sure if the topic of NFts is just so convoluted that I don’t understand the purpose of them, but from what I have read, it seems that everyone for the most part is confused as to the practicality of being able to sell tweets. You would think that the absolute uselessness of NFTs would mean they are harmless, but really, they have horrific implications for the environment and the climate. 

The Ethereum network, which is the network that supports NFTs, requires extraordinary amounts of energy because of the fail safes in place to protect the data in the system. The system was designed to be inefficient; the inefficiency in itself is a large deterrent for people looking to hack into the system. “As a result, Ethereum uses about as much electricity as the entire country of Libya,”according to The Verge. The single NFT for the space cat gif results in a similar carbon footprint as the average EU citizen in two months. As if the uselessness and impracticality of NFTs weren’t enough, they have devastating environmental impacts, which leaves me wondering why they are still in use.