Completed: Consummatum Est
Some innovators are genuinely delivering finished items in a market that continually promotes ventures with a road map and a vision.
There’s no hiding the fact that NFTs have suffered alongside the rest of the industry in 2022. Daily trading is still busy, as evidenced by DappRadar data, but even well-known projects (with a few notable exceptions) are struggling to reach four figures in daily active traders.
Putting money into initiatives that are still in the planning stages might be nerve-wracking under these circumstances. Creating a whitelisted NFT sale with the promise that the project would become immensely successful is a common tactic, and any project can claim that the product it eventually puts to market will be revolutionary.
Industry jargon indicating the future usefulness of an NFT, “utility” is the cornerstone of forecasted returns on such initiatives. Despite all the talk during the 2021 bull run about NFTs being valuable, their real use has been significantly less than anticipated.
Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, made this point at a press conference in August. He avoided the more common “utility” pitch in favor of the simpler and, arguably, more truthful “usefulness.”
When asked about the future of cryptocurrency, he said, “I think the next 10 years is when crypto has to transform into something that is not based on promises of being useful in the future but is actually useful, because a lot of applications are promising in theory, but they are just completely not viable because of scaling issues today.”
Many of the potentially game-changing use cases that have been so excitedly proposed may still be some time off if Vitalik is accurate. For this reason, I believe it is prudent to shift focus away from lofty goals and towards projects that can function independently. In most cases, this involves experiencing art.
Oscar Wilde once said, “all art is pretty useless,” which could explain why the NFT art market is doing (relatively) well this year while other markets, like Metaverse land tokens, have witnessed significant drops in trade activity. With a few notable exceptions, most NFT art projects don’t try to be anything other than what they are: works of art. Art is not meant to have any practical purpose. Thus, it needn’t be that way.
In reality, the art market is now the sole practical use for NFTs, in part because the infrastructure for such a market already exists. OpenSea and similar platforms offer convenient digital storefronts for collectors to shop; blockchain technology records pricing, market histories, chains of custody, and so on; and the abundance of digital tools accessible today gives artists more leeway in their work than ever before. The art market already has the necessary infrastructure in place, while other proposed use cases like as digital Identities, deeds and titles, official issuing of licensing, etc. will require much more development.
NFT artwork, however, has one major advantage over even the most ambitious projects: it is typically completed. Because it is complete in and of itself, a work of art does not have to guarantee any future use. You can stop imagining what it might be able to achieve in the future because it currently does everything it will ever do. If you find yourself in a room full of hopes and plans, it might not be a bad idea to pick up a few finished works every once in a while.
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