The subject of art in a column dedicated to technology is rare. However, with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), we are seeing technology merge itself into bonafide art forms. Art, on its own, is a subjective human experience that relies on the opinions of its viewers. Art can reflect and challenge societal norms, it can expose emotions and concepts, and it is virtually unlimited in what it can express and what response it can summon from those that enjoy it.
The emergence of NFTs is allowing artists to register their digital works through blockchain technology and convert them into a secure sellable asset. With the original digital piece of art locked into the blockchain, the digital asset gets a unique cryptographic serial number that affords the original a form of provenance. The more popular a piece of art becomes, the more people will want to buy some rights to it, which can mean coffee cups, t-shirts, news clips, and more. The owner of the original copy is entitled to a percentage of future sales. With its digital nature, NFT art can be shared and utilized everywhere. Understanding the rights to that NFT is critical because it is behind the ongoing gold rush to buy and sell NFT art.
The Best of Blockchain
Blockchain, through its ledger construct, provides a single source of truth that is publicly shared to every node and can be validated with a select or public audience. Also, every change can be traced through the ledger history.
We are still early in the widespread business adoption of blockchain, but the value is undeniable. Working in a world of rapid data and security required by sensitive data at rest and in motion—how much value do validity, identity, and provenance provide? It is data integrity, security, and everything businesses strive for.
Several other features of blockchain propose mission-critical characteristics:
- Decentralization – Conceptually, decentralization is a close parallel to distributed cloud, edge cloud, and multi-sourcing. Concepts in this realm introduce the benefits of resiliency, disaster recovery, and high availability.
- Cybersecurity – Blockchain implement cryptographic validation at every turn. In the meantime, everyday computing is taking place in an arena of extremely fast internet, mobility, and cybersecurity threats. It seems excessive to state that every web transaction today should be managed, validated and secured.
- Zero-Trust – Blockchain transactions immutably check every element of change. This is analogous to the concepts of zero-trust where every session should be assumed to be a breach (at first).
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Crypto concepts parallel the technological elements of cloud, cybersecurity, source of truth, and decentralization that define how we bank, how we order food to our front door, and how we can log into our banks. However, NFTs are the latest manifestation of blockchain, which has predominantly emerged into mainstream consciousness with the waves of cryptographic token value and household names such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. As predicted, blockchain has found a more mainstream use again in NFTs beyond the cryptocurrency craze. Time will tell if NFTs are the lasting future of art, but the impact of cryptographic topics literally echoes loudly in the daily conversations of the world we are living in.
These concepts are fundamental to how blockchain works and they provide tremendous value for artists trying to protect and monetize their art. However, the NFT market and the art it is delivering to the masses is not without faults. Art can become a form of currency as well, especially for shady characters trying to launder money. There are also many threats in the world of blockchain, many of them related to human intervention. We have seen entire crypto markets vanish, ICO scams, crypto wallet scams, and more. We are also seeing countries, rightly or wrongly, prohibit the use of cryptocurrency. Will that extend to NFTs or remain limited to currency? Hopefully and my plea is that they will figure out how to leave starving artists alone.
Will It Change Art?
For millennia, art has been a tangible thing, both immutable and unchanging. NFTs are a welcome introduction to the endless possibilities of art in a digital age. My principal concern is that the NFT markets themselves look to the blueprints of blockchain itself to secure the environment and exchange of NFT at large. It is critical to maintain zero-trust, multi-factor authentication, continuous auditing, and maximum awareness to nurture this amazing new evolution. Hurrah for art!