Non-fungible tokens. The hottest thing since Q1 2021 has not been quite so hot lately, whether it’s the ethical dilemmas around the energy requirements to secure cryptotransaction systems or it’s the poorly managed tokens themselves that simply point to URLs that could die if the service it was minted on disappears forever.
Lots of major artists, certain bird-themed social networks and viral video lottery winners and even the likes of Tim Berners-Lee have used NFTs to convert digital trinkets into some cold hard cash. Even digital horses are being raced as NFTs. And while many were quite probably oblivious to the issues, I’m sure a few winced as they converted the Ether to fiat currency and then relaxed when they saw the zeroes in their bank accounts.
Truth be told, I’m not down on every part of what it means for an NFT to be ‘a thing’. Codified smart contracts that ensure artists receive their cut of every transaction, for example, is a great technological step forward. Likewise the potential for buying a digital license to a game or movie that you can resell because the ‘receipt’ for access is a verified access token.
The Theta token is living in that space that applies weird and clever uses to blockchain tech, focusing on peer-to-peer video streaming that offers tokens to users for spare bandwidth. I’m sure that has its own consumptive pressures on networks, but it’s at least not just a “let’s all pretend this is real money and if enough of us pretend it’s real than it really is real” kind of thing.
According to Bloomberg, companies like Sony and Samsung have been invested in Theta, and now Katy Perry (I checked, she isn’t on Sony’s music labels) has announced she will make NFTs from her performances available through the network. Instead of just getting a cut of sales / traffic / interactions / whatever metric Theta prefers, Perry is set to score a stake in the company.
Unlike most popular cryptos out there, Theta is heavily centralised. But again, it isn’t trying to be a ‘currency’, it’s trying to be a blockchain technology network.
But with each day that goes by, as bigger and bigger names normalise a lot of this tech, let’s just hope thse networks also get on with solving the issues with yet another consumptive format that throws ethics under the bus forever.
Footnote that Ethereum will soon shift to ‘proof of stake’ transaction basis, which will vastly reduce its power requirements. Whether the practical outcome of that reduces actual power usage to run the network, or whether competitive forces still make mining as power hungry as ever, will be seen when it all washes out in the real world use of the technology.
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Seamus runs Byteside. You may also have spotted his words at the Australian Financial Review, the ABC, Junkee, Gamespot, The Esports Observer, CNET, Gizmodo and a few other spots over the years. He's very happy that he gets to nerd out for a living.