OPINION: NFTs are pointless


Hannah Renton

Photo illustration by

Artie Bennett, Managing Editor for Print

Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush. NFTs are stupid. They’re a product of late-stage capitalism and proof that the rich are willing to do anything to become richer. But, I don’t need to tell you that. If you’re a decent person who has some morals and any coherent thought, hopefully you’ve already recognized NFTs for the money-laundering scheme that they are. But, maybe you’ve decided to ignore NFTs, never really understood them, or don’t see their harm. So let’s break it down.
NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” which is stored on the blockchain. That means that it is unique and can’t be replicated or replaced by something else. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is fungible. You can trade one bitcoin for another and have the exact same item, but you can’t trade an NFT for another one and get the same thing. NFTs allow you to tokenize anything digital — whether it be digital art or just a really cool tweet.
In theory, I could see how this seems kinda sweet. If you’re an optimist, you could argue that NFTs allow digital artists and other content creators to sell their work more securely and accurately value their pieces, but this isn’t the case. The issue with NFTs is that they’re attempting to boost profits by creating artificial scarcity — but there is none. Anyone can create an NFT for any digital asset, so it’s not like there’s a short supply of NFTs making them valuable. NFTs’ value comes from the idea that the digital certificate of ownership is valuable itself. The digital asset, like a piece of art, isn’t valuable. The sole value of NFTs comes from the hope that one day, you can sell it for a higher price. It’s an asset that exists to just make more money.
When you buy a physical piece of art, you’re purchasing the materials and craftsmanship. No replica of the piece will ever be exactly the same as the original piece. But, with digital content, the replica will be exactly the same. You’re literally paying for a certificate of ownership, even though an exact replica of the piece is just a point and click away.
In addition, NFTs often screw over digital artists. Many artists and digital content creators have reported having their art stolen and sold as NFTs without their permission. For something that was supposedly designed to help artists, it seems to just be a convoluted way to steal art and make excessive amounts of money off of a JPEG.
Art theft aside, NFTs are just awful for the environment. NFTs are responsible for millions of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, choking our already fragile planet. Minting (converting the file to be stored on the blockchain) a single NFT has the same carbon footprint as powering a home for almost five days, and that’s not even taking into account the energy spent in the sale.
So now, we’re fucking over digital artists and the environment.
Someone, please, explain to me how a certificate of ownership is worth that level of environmental destruction. It is unjustifiable to spend thousands of dollars on a poorly drawn art piece (see Bored Apes) and destroy the environment while you’re at it.
Now that I’m running out of print space, I’ll close with this — NFTs exist so rich people can spend their money on something. They’re just another form of fake money being given real value (just like stocks!), so the rich can become richer while the rest of us struggle to pay our bills. Next time you struggle to pay your $700 rent, remember that someone out there paid $91.8 million for a glorified JPEG.