The hype about online degrees: unique rubbish

NFTs create an artificial uniqueness. They market the Internet, based on the Matthew principle: whoever has, will receive.

The “Bored Ape” neckline is part of the NFT collection Photo: Universal via Reuters

Berlin taz | There is a lot you can buy for $1.3 million. Justin Bieber recently acquired a picture of a monkey being bored with him. But he doesn’t hang it in his living room, because it’s an online certificate, NFT, a non-fungible token. Translated, that roughly means: non-transferable vouchers. Four anonymous artists “Bored Ape Yacht Club” are selling 10,000 monkeys as digital art.

Behind this is the next internet hype after cryptocurrency. NFTs create a putative singularity. It’s a land registry entry for the Internet, and it records the identity of the original owner on a file, like a monkey photo of Justin Bieber. Thus the tokens bear witness to non-fake ownership. It can be auctioned, bought or sold with cryptocurrency. Artists, the Koenig Gallery, arrest warrants, even the WWF believes in it. How is that?

Jörg Bibow is Professor of Economics at Skidmore College, and has been researching the digital money market for a long time. NFTs are believed to be heresy. “They do not bring any social benefit and are like gambling,” he says. As with cryptocurrencies, there is a lack of regulation, criminals can launder money, and buyers are not protected from fraud. But this is exactly what the banking system offers.

“There’s nothing new behind it, and on top of it all, NTF creates no real value,” says economist Bibow. They appear because capitalism is always looking for new ways to speculate with money. However, so far this has only worked on a limited scale on the Internet – due to the free culture that has prevailed there for a long time. NFTs are also moving there: Select collectors can soon display their NFTs on Instagram, Meta President Mark Zuckerberg announced a few days ago.

Implicated arrest warrant

The song or photo that someone uploads as ‘Creative Commons’ can be used freely by everyone. For some, free educational videos take the place of a teacher or tutoring. Funny pictures spread in seconds. These free memes become commodities in capitalism, turning them into one-time NFTs.

Rapper Haftbefehl is now releasing the NFT Collection: Anyone who buys a token for “Chabo Drop” chats with Haftbefehl or gets VIP access to their concerts. Through this “Creator Economy”, fans directly support artists, without intermediaries. This appears to be hidden behind NFTs and cryptocurrencies.

Author and film critic Wolfgang M. Schmidt calls on Marx to understand the current crises of capitalism. He criticizes the ideologies in his audio files. Asking for donations the traditional way: “The most effective way to support artists is by bank transfer,” Schmidt says. With NFTs, on the other hand, there is a 17 percent transaction fee due to wallets. “It wouldn’t be conceivable with credit cards.” The allure of new clouds sees many.

Even the WWF Environmental Association now relies on hype. “Cryptographic Art to Protect Species,” promises to introduce “Non-Fungible Animals,” or “NFA” for short. If you want to buy and donate a digital animal, you should trade cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin alone consumes about 125 TWh of electricity annually, according to the University of Cambridge 2022. This represents 0.6 percent of global electricity consumption. How can this be combined with environmental protection and species protection?

The WWF is based on the blockchain

The WWF uses the cryptocurrency Polygon, which is said to be an “ultra-low-powered blockchain.” Economist Bibow also sees a lot of potential in technology, for example with international transfers. But Bitcoin and NFT are not suitable as alternatives to banks or as currencies. This brings us back to the Stone Age.” After all, there are no such achievements with cryptocurrencies as deposit insurance.

Wolfgang Schmidt is also skeptical. “NFTs are symptoms of capitalism,” as evidenced by several aspects. First, they took Marx’s commodity fetish to the extreme. Capitalism artificially creates scarcity and thus creates value – which is questionable in the case of NFTs anyway. Schmidt says the NFTs also served the “ideology of ownership.” Man in capitalism must desire to own, even if there is no need at all. So he is hungry for the image of a boring monkey.

Capitalism has also opened up more and more previously non-commercial spaces and goods. “If you’re walking around town today, there isn’t anything you don’t have to pay money for. You’re lucky if there’s a park bench,” Schmidt says. This also applies to digital. Capitalism roams wherever possible. Now free culture in the form of NFTs.

Few of owning a lot

Finally, the Coded disciples promoted them for being part of a Chaotic Rebellion. They democratized money and abolished the state. The reality is different. In fact, cryptocurrency and NFT follow Matthew’s principle: Give to whoever has it.

A recent study by economists Antoinette Scheuer and Igor Makarov showed that 0.01 percent of users own 27 percent of the world’s bitcoins. The same image is shown for NFTs. According to market research institute Moonstream, 17 percent of wallet addresses own more than 80 percent of all Ethereum NFTs.

Wealth is concentrated in capitalism and encourages inequality. NFTs seem like another vehicle for capital. If influencer Diana zur Löwen, rapper Haftsperre or Youtuber Julien Bam now trades with NFTs, the rich really benefit. On the other hand, investment firms like KKR make their money from auction platforms for NFTs instead of trading tokens. If you’re not that rich, you have to watch Justin Bieber’s In This World Grow Hairy Monkeys. There could be worse.

Leave a Comment