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On Thursday, my colleague, Kevin Roose, sold a cryptocurrency token of a newspaper for more than half a million dollars. (For charity!) Someone paid 69 million dollars for a digital collage file that anyone can view online.
These are part of the current euphoria in NFTs, aka unusable tokens, and they’re an example of people rushing to judge basically anything. new and novel.
I have some blunt talks: The rise of the NFT is probably not the world-changing revolution its proponents claim. And it’s probably not a completely ridiculous bubble. As with other emerging technologies, there’s a good idea somewhere if we slow down and fight the hype.
Let me explain to ordinary people what’s going on: NFT is essentially a way to convert a digital commodity that can be endlessly replicated into something unique. When someone buys an NFT, what they effectively get is knowledge of owning the official version of a Pop-Tart cat, a song, a basketball video clip or another virtual thing. Ownership records are maintained on a blockchain. (For more, check out this interesting explanation from Verge.)
Perhaps you find this confusing or silly. Push that aside for a minute.
For the most part, my opinion of the NFT is how people, especially those who live and breathe technology, talk about them and other emerging companies or concepts including blockchain, chat rooms. Clubhouse sounds and ultra-fast ships.
Almost immediately, people put themselves in camps to proclaim that THIS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD, or that THE TOTAL COMMUNITY WILL TAKE EVERYTHING. We will all benefit from more breathing and less difficulty breathing.
In life, most things are neither glorious revolutions nor doom. And behind most incredible new ideas is the possibility of something useful. Trouble is the hype and greed that often make it difficult to classify limbo promises from horse manure. So let’s take a step back.
The purposeful big idea behind the NFTs, as Kevin and Charlie Warzel, my colleagues at Opinion, explained this week, is to solve a problem the internet creates. With sites like YouTube and TikTok, anyone now has the ability to make music, a writing, entertainment, or another creative, and get noticed. But the internet hasn’t really fulfilled its promise of allowing the public to make a good living out of what they love.
The NFTs and related concept of blockchain partly promise to provide people with ways to make their work more valuable by creating scarcity. There is great promise in allowing creators to be less dependent on middlemen including social media companies, art agencies, and music streaming companies.
Will any of these be effective? I do not know. Run screaming from anyone with definitive answers in both ways. Basically, everyone should listen to wisdom and measure Anil dash, a veteran of the tech industry who unintentionally helped invent the concept behind the NFTs and both were angry about the scammers who surrounded them and believed there was one there.
That said, the NFT probably won’t fix the broken economics of streaming music or destroy the power structure of the world of journalism and art. Sorry to become a broken record, but technology is not magic. Likewise, the cryptocurrency is probably not an effective fix for an unaffordable home. A The train is complicated and expensive may not be the best solution to our global warming and car addiction.
So is the NFT a bubble inflated by abnormal financial conditions and our brains worsened during a pandemic? Sure. Are they meaningless Beanie Babies to tech-rich brethren who are ruining the planet with all the energy needed to create digital tokens? Not completely, no.
Maybe they’re somewhere in between. And that’s fine.
Technology has changed for the better
It often feels as if the tech policy debates are a hamster wheel going nowhere. But progress will be made if you squint a little.
The technology journalists’ reaction to Congress’s 4,000th hearing on the power of Big Technology on Thursday was mainly: [muffled screams]. That’s right, elected officials and tech executives have come around verbally. And it feels like American policymakers are moving at a very rapid pace to resolve whether the law should change and how to keep tech firms accountable. results and fairer.
All right. But let me give two examples of technology companies that are really becoming more transparent and efficient. We should grumble about what’s not changed, but we shouldn’t ignore what’s already there.
Over the past few years, Facebook, and Google Twitter has created a searchable database of the ads running on their website and provides some ability to analyze them. The companies’ revelations are extremely flawed and incomplete, but I’d say it’s better than what we’ve had before: the inability to show what ads are circulating for the row. billion people.
That was a problem when Russian-backed trolls spread propaganda around the 2016 US presidential election. After that defeat, Congress debated a new law requiring technology companies maintain online libraries of political advertising. That didn’t happen, but the companies created a version of it themselves.
There are two ways to look at this problem. Large American corporations have a higher accountability than our elected leaders. Or the fear of more muscular laws forces tech companies to do something different. Either way, I still call it the measured progress that leaders are elected for and the tech companies deserve some credit for.
Tech companies and US government officials can also handle attempts by foreign governments to mess with the 2020 election, as I wrote previously. Even without some Big Bang Big Tech laws, both our powerful tech organizations and elected leaders were scared enough to address the threat posed to Americans.
None of these are a substitute for effective law-making. But it’s also not true that nothing happens in technology policy other than screaming and screaming.
Before we go …
Weaponizing shame in lending money: A new series of online lending apps in India ask people to provide information from their phones. My colleagues Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar say they bombarded borrowers and their contacts with phone calls and social media posts to solicit debt.
TikTok has changed the music and how are we: Friend sure wanted to listen to this podcast with my colleagues Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris discussing the creative expression of music challenges on TikTok and why the app helped break the bridge between a verse and chorus song of pop song.
How much does it cost to completely replace cable TV with online alternatives? According to Bloomberg News, that figure is up to 92 dollars a month.
Check that this 5-day-old owl is fed VERY carefully with tweezers. My favorite moment is the little owl flapping its wings as it swallows.
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