There were two stories on the BBC website today about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In one, a surgeon tried to sell the ‘ownership’ of a woman’s x-ray. It showed a bullet lodged in her forearm. He acknowledged it was a ‘mistake’ – also an invasion of privacy and a misuse of medical records. The other story was Julian Lennon selling the ‘ownership’ of memorabilia associated with John Lennon, including two guitars. These are both NFTs, i.e. you ‘own’ it, but can’t have it.
Now, I can see the point of selling digital items. Someone makes a virtual yacht, then it’s fair that they should be paid. Ebooks are digital items after all and I sell those. However, NFTs are insane! They aren’t things. And environmentally they are madness. Just like cryptocurrencies, all these computers need to be running to prove so-and-so owns this x-ray, guitar, coin, $908,000 virtual yacht, and that there’s only one of it, two, 18,925,000, as many backups as the owner made (’cos if I’d paid $908,000 for a virtual yacht, I’d back it up a few times).
It’s been suggested that authors supplement their meagre income by selling parts of their intellectual property. Not the publication rights, copyright, physical copy or virtual ebook, but the NFT ‘ownership’. So, you could buy Magdalene Chase from my Derring-Do Club series, a murder weapon from my next book, or a character. Hang on, wouldn’t selling Charlotte Deering-Dolittle make me a white slaver? And ‘ownership’ isn’t defined here in the same way as a dictionary would have us believe.
You’re buying bragging rights and nothing more in a get rich quick scheme aimed at parting the gullible from their money.
It really is the Emperor’s new clothes. Can I sell these as NFTs? You might argue that I don’t own them already, but I could write my version of the story and then sell the non-existent clothes featured as non-fungible tokens. In fact, in my version of the tale, not only can you buy the left sock and the right sock, but also the other 49 pairs of non-existent items that the Emperor kept in his sock drawer. It’s pushing non-fungible towards some sort of limit.
But they don’t exist, you might say.
Ah, but that’s the point.
P.S. If you wish to own this blog post as an NFT, please get in touch with your bid.