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NFTs and Climate Change; Technometria - Issue #3
This past week, two different friends (and former business partners) contacted me for a discussion on NFTs. Clearly, this craze is getting the attention of communities beyond the traditional crypto crowd. We’re on our way to the top of the hype cycle!
In both cases, I started the discussion by explaining CryptoKittes and their relationship to self-sovereignty. I start there because the case for ownership and control is very strong for CryptoKitties. That case is harder to make for some of the recent NFTs where the keys are less tightly bound to the actual digital artifact.
Self-sovereignty is an important concept for NFT creators and buyers to understand. For an NFT to be meaningful, it has to be something beyond what we could build with decades-old (now) web tech in a platform play. I can “buy” all kinds of digital goods on Amazon, Apple Music, and others. But, in truth, I’m just renting these since my “ownership” rests on the grace of the company who sold it to me. That’s not property in the way we’ve come to understand that term.
NFTs are one way we can claim ownership of some digital good. But the strength of that ownership depends wholly on implementation details that most are unable to assess. People are being offered gold coins, so to speak, with no way to assay them and determine their real value. I’m sure there will be some exciting twists and turns in the coming months.
NFTs, Crypto, and Climate Change
I’ve been digging in this week on NFTs and the continual drumbeat of crypto’s impact on the climate. The facts are hard to come by and the comparisons are difficult get right. These articles are a few of the best I’ve read on these topics.
You may not find the “bitcoin vs centralized financial systems” parts to your liking, but this post goes a long way in explaining why straightforward comparisons to credit networks like Visa might not be the right way to look at the problem.
The question of bitcoin’s energy footprint is riven with misconceptions. Firstly, it’s a mistake to compare bitcoin to payment networks, and comparisons relying on relative energy use are spurious.
Second, metrics like the “per-transaction energy cost” are misleading because transactions themselves do not cost energy; nor does bitcoin’s CO2 footprint scale with transactional count.
Bitcoin supporters and critics alike should understand how the protocol works, so the energy costs and externalities of the system can be honestly appraised.
A useful look at the way energy is used in minting NFTs and the overall impact that has compared to other uses in the art world.
Climate change is real, and it’s being caused by humans. My aim here is not to discredit climate change, or downplay it. But some conversations happening in the crypto art space are disingenuous and misinforming people based on headlines alone, and I want to share what I’ve found. I was also outraged and fascinated at crypto’s energy use, but I’ve found the truth seems less hyperbolic than the headlines.
Total CO2 and distribution by sector from 2017
How do we reconcile crypto and climate change? Wenger lists six factors we need to consider.
Crypto/blockchain is a fundamental innovation that addresses an important problems facing us in the world today: too much power concentrated in the hands of a few corporations and governments. To be clear, this technology is not a panacea and decentralization contains both good and bad use cases. But it is important and foundational, something that I have been writing about for a long time.
There’s lots of hype in the NFT space that will obscure their real value for a long time. This isn’t new. All new tech inspires hype.
The value of the artworks that are now being sold as NFTs have acquired value thanks to marketing, FOMO, and a massive pile-on of unwitting minters and buyers trailing eagerly after celebrities and huge brands.
Identity, Privacy, and Security
Lessig makes a useful comparison between the fight over copyright and how we frame privacy discussions. Specifically, Lessig things consent may be the wrong formulation.
For many years now, I’ve been convinced that we’ve been thinking about the privacy problem in the wrong way. This talk is my first effort at framing the alternatives. The contrast I want to draw is…
This article is a real eye-opener. If you’re using SMS for 2FA and thinking all is well, this ought to disabuse you have that notion.
A gaping flaw in SMS lets hackers take over phone numbers in minutes by simply paying a company to reroute text messages.
Indicio recently reorganized as a public benefit corporation. They’ve run a Indy-compatible TestNet for a while. Now they’ve launched a MainNet for credential issuance.
Professionally-staffed MainNet supports mission-critical, enterprise-grade decentralized identity market solutions
Long on high-level architecture (what) and short on implementation details (how), this is a great starting point for imaging how we decentralize all the things.
Centralization of social media networks has led to a host of problems for social media platforms and their users. These include systemic, ongoing privacy violations and the impossible task of moderating the content of billions of users.
Censorship in India
India has commanded attention in the identity space with their bold, but flawed Aadhaar identity system. They are also at the forefront of governmental wars on encryption and crypto currencies as well. Other governments are contemplating moves on encryption and crypto, so understanding the moves of the “early adopters” like India may provide insight.
Activists are warning that India’s sweeping new Internet regulations could lead to “digital authoritarianism.” Here’s a close look at their potential impact.
Cryptocurrencies typically operate independently of a central bank. These are essentially digital currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of their units and verify the transfer of funds.
News, analysis and comment from the Financial Times, the worldʼs leading global business publication
The idea of micropayments is perhaps as old as the internet itself. There have been lots of attempts. This article focuses on the HTTP 402 return code and why it never came to be used.
As the world wide web soared in the 1990s, many of the systems envisioned by its early architects saw rapid development. But micropayments, which had once been described as an essential nutrient for…
Reading Doc’s article reminded me of Jonathan Zitrain’s compelling and prescient examination of the generative capacity of the Internet and its tens of millions of attached PCs . Zittrain defined generativity as a technology’s overall capacity to produce unprompted change driven by large, varied, and uncoordinated audiences.
This development—the worldwide adoption of TCP/IP—is beyond profound. It’s a change as radical as we might have if all the world suddenly spoke one common language. Even more radically, it creates a second digital world that coexists with our physical one.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading.
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By Phil Windley
I build things; I write code; I void warranties
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