Why “Stupid Internet Pictures” Misses the Point
“Why would I pay for this? I can just right-click and save it!”
“It’s just dumb monkey after derivate dumb monkey. Eww.”
“You paid REAL money for a FAKE picture? We’re breaking up.”
Everyone in the NFT space has heard at least some version of all of the above. And the criticisms are absolutely valid.
- You CAN right click and save a picture. Congrats, Boomer.
- There’s a LOT of apes out there. And I wish that was something we could say about the real world versions of Homo Sapien’s closest living relatives.
- Yes, we’ve exchanged fiat currency into a digital currency to acquire an internet image. Your definition of “Real Money” makes a lot of assumptions about the nature of the Federal Reserve and national treasuries, but sure, i’ll agree with your general sentiment as a good faith gesture. I get to keep the dog though, Amber, and I want my J. Crew hoodies back.
I digress. There’s quite a few counter-arguments to the NFT hate many of which attempt to glorify the far-flung promises of Web 3 and decentralization as a world unifying salve for all the world’s ills. It’s a borderline savior complex.
However, I think there’s another argument to be made. One that’s on a more visceral level:
Internet Pictures as NFTs are “stupid” because imagery is our most basic creation as humans and our most evolutionarily sophisticated sense, communication, and processing mechanism.
Let me break it down further to my First Point: Do you know what 👇 is?
It’s really basic art. Seriously, almost anyone could do the same thing.
It’s also one of the FIRST works of art by humans. Ever. The Lascaux Cave Paintings are well over 30,000 yrs old and widely regarded as a miraculous find that gave anthropologists insight into the hopes, dreams, struggles, and lives of our ancestors in situ nearly an epoch ago. It’s likely there were thousands of other similar works (many have indeed been discovered across the world), of which only a few survive well-preserved.
They are original. They are non-fungible. And they are one of the first and only surviving expressions of humanities foray into art. It is a path of expression that has evolved in countless iterations through multiple civilizations to what we have today with tools like DeepMind, DALLE-1, and MidJourney.
Imagery is so ingrained into how we express ourselves that it’s water to a fish. Its existence surrounds us and permeates us so deeply that we can criticize rudimentary forms.
Second Point: What is the volume of the below entity assuming a base length of 1?
If you said 1, you are wrong. If you said anything other than “that’s a trick question” you are also wrong.
Answer? The above is an internet picture. It has no volume. It exists as 1s and 0s as electrical impulses on magnetic hard disks in multiple locations. It’s not “real” and certainly does not have physical dimensionality.
Almost every one of us flew right past that basic fact and instead set into motion a network of photoreceptors streamlined the image above to a relay of trigeminal, pyramidal, and glial cells in a dense cortex of white and grey matter to interpret the image as representative of a real-world object that same mass of neurons has interacted with at prior points in 4 dimensional space-time with real world dimensions of 1 per side and real world properties such as right angles and equilateral edges, and therefore: real world volume conforming to a mathematical formula of 1x1x1 or 1³ or 1 “cubed”.
The point? We have a hyper-refined sense of vision and incredible abilities to interpret and deduce information from a visual representation.
In other words? We’re so fine-tuned to analyzing, comparing, and equivocating images that the right click save of a picture is the same as the picture. A picture of a stop sign represents the actual stop sign at the corner of your street AND every stop sign in existence. Do the above exercise with a smell or a touch instead of an image. We can’t. We don’t even have the technology.
Pictures are our most accessible and most interpretable form of communication. As such, it’s a logical first step for NFTs. They are a Web 3 Cave Art of Lascaux (well, the ones that survive) and the first of what’s to come.
Someday, we’ll look back on these early forays and recognize them for what they are: our expressions of the promises of Web 3 technology manifest in its most accessible form.
They are the hopes and dreams of now for those who will reap the benefits of tomorrow.