Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

NFTs will not enhance art

Blockchain technologies fall short in terms of actual value
Parker Peters / Daily Collegian

Last week, the article “Cryptocurrency will make the world greener” by Kaiji Uno was published by The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. The article talks of the “amazing innovation” of non-fungible tokens, the “magnificent” reduction in fees and “the unlimited possibilities” of blockchain technology. Ultimately this description of cryptocurrencies and NFTs is too optimistic.

The article addresses the power consumption of Bitcoin and carbon emissions. It is not a problem, it claims, that Bitcoin uses primarily renewable energy. How wonderful for Bitcoin to solve the problem it itself created! Rather than using arbitrary formulas to calculate energy reduction with non-renewable sources, renewable energy could have been used instead. Admittedly, many renewable energy sources have problems with surplus, but I doubt that the cryptocurrency entrepreneur would wait for a surplus, or let their massive computers idle during the night, when no light falls upon solar panels.

It is also important to note that the tendency for cryptocurrencies to use renewable energy is mostly due to the low cost of hydropower and not some ethical motivation in cryptocurrency entrepreneurs to make the world greener. The only way they will ever make the world greener is by contributing to the hypothetical resurgence in the nuclear energy industry.

Additionally, the fact that Bitcoin is hard-coded to be deflationary is a bad thing. Firstly, inflation is not inherently bad as it can help stimulate an economy. Secondly, the reason Bitcoin takes so much energy lies within the deflationary model. Bitcoin was made to require more energy to mine as more bitcoin is in circulation, and that has not stopped the cryptocurrency entrepreneurs one bit. Proponents claim the immense “use” of energy by bitcoin, however, is justified by the “the unlimited possibilities” of blockchain technology.

But what are the so-called unlimited possibilities of the blockchain? One possibility is the use of NFTs. But what even are NFTs? NFTs are a waste of time, energy and money. I do not claim that NFTs do not have value. I agree with Kaiji that NFTs have value; it is a social fact that they do. People will indeed pay thousands so that they can inscribe on some public digital ledger that Alice transferred a token to Bob.

What is ridiculous is the notion that art or even society can be enhanced by a more efficient way of exchanging property without middlemen who charge fees. The article’s focus of how little fees one needs to transfer large quantities of money really feels like rich people problems.

NFTs will not enhance art because art is more than a financial exchange, (though some rich people do like to launder money that way). For example, the dadaists, who were practitioners of an artistic movement founded in reaction to the horrors of World War I, conceived art as doing, rather than something to be sold. This can be seen in dadaist art and poetry. To make a dadaist poem one only requires a scissor and some newspaper. The most (in)famous dadaist art piece is one of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade, ordinary manufactured objects that he slightly modified (i.e., with a tilt or a signature). Said readymade was one of a sculpture of a urinal. By choosing to declare everyday objects as art, the dadaists emphasized how creation is art, while at the same time challenging the notion of traditional aesthetics. The dadaist did not espouse the view of art for art’s sake, a vapid statement that strips the ritual of art, they instead held art as a way of social criticism and certainly not something to be sold. Hugo Ball said that, “For us, art is not an end in itself… but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.” It was the dadaists, who after the trauma of World War I, would reject the very bourgeois reason and logic that would lead millions to a slaughter none had seen before.

Art is more than a financial exchange. To hold the view that art can be enhanced by the strengthening of copyright and property rights through the use of NFTs is absurd. We must understand art neither as something to be sold, nor as “for art’s sake,” but as something we can criticize and create. That is not to say that all art should have social criticism, as art is multi-functional. I believe, though, that using art to sell NFTs shouldn’t be one of them.


Benjamin Zhou can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *