Influence as Property

I’ve never played Second Life, but I get the impression it’s sort of an alternative reality for those who don’t have much going for them in the real world. Kind of like Twitter.

The novel thing about Second Life was that it granted intellectual property rights to its users, where “property” takes the form of digital items, like buildings on a virtual plot of land. It’s different from owning the rights to a tweet, or a nonfungible token in the Ether — there’s a concept of exclusion. Second Life communities are organized into neighborhoods, and if you occupy one spot someone else can’t have it. While a tweet or CryptoKitty image can be republished elsewhere, a virtual house is worthless in the absence of context.

In the past, deplatformed users have successfully sued Second Life for wrongful confiscation of virtual items. In one case, the court issued a restraining order against Second Life to stop the game from deleting a user’s horses1. (Possibly a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights, but they didn’t try to appeal it.)

Social media platforms use an outdated notion of IP, where production costs are high and distribution costs are low. Eg. It’s expensive to record a song, cheap to burn a CD. In our always-online world, attention is the scarcest commodity, and distribution — acquiring an audience — is hard. That’s why SEO and social media consultation is a multibillion dollar industry.

When people complain about deplatforming, they’re not really complaining about censorship — Yes, we can go start our own website or move to Parler or whatever. They’re complaining about the wrongful confiscation of influence. President Trump wasn’t censored — he was de-influenced.

But what if we make it an NFT on the blockchain??

I know, I know, you just vomited on your screen and now it’s hard to read. Hear me out.

Youtube can deplatform or demonetize people at will. There’s a contractual relationship that says so, and it’s called the Terms of Service. Either party can end it at any time.

On the other hand, an external party can’t force Youtube to deplatform anyone. That would be tortious interference — intentionally damaging the business relationship between a platform and creator. Like when President Trump tried to ban TikTok: A federal judge issued an injunction on behalf of TikTok creators – not the company – to block Trump’s ban, finding that those TikTok influencers would lose access to their income2.

NFTs encapsulate a direct relationship between artist and consumer. Actually, I have no idea what they encapsulate. People are tokenizing all sorts of abstract intangible infungibles; so I’m gonna tokenize my Twitter influence. I’m not tokenizing a tweet, or an atomic account. It’s art, so context matters. I’ll sell my Twitter-influence NFT for a sum, and any subsequent attempt to deplatform me is then a violation of my right to have a business relationship with the token holder3.

Bidding starts at 1 sat. Let’s GOOOOO!

1. Amaretto Ranch Breedables, LLC v. Ozimals, Inc.
2. Marland v. Trump
3. There is precedence, sort of. Last year, a court denied an injunction filed by Patreon after the company was sued by the backers of a politically incorrect creator. A Patreon creator has an economic relationship with his backers, therefore a ban that disrupts this relationship is considered tortious interference.

Why NFTs are the Future (part 2)

(This is an abridged response to a comment in my mailbox.)

I get that humans are hunter-gatherers and there’s a natural instinct to collect random bits and bobs, but it’s not the *collection* that has value; it’s the *discovery*. Cryptokittes were sort of fun because you could breed two cats and hatch an egg (wtf), and the result was a surprise. It took a modicum of effort to find a rare Kitty.

Humans love surprises; that’s why slot machines are so addictive. And that’s why baseball cards became popular. Kids would go to the corner store for their daily pack of cigarettes, and maybe there would be a Honus Wagner card inside the package. The modern-day equivalent might be the Pokemon toy you get in a McDonald’s Happy Meal. The cigarettes were probably healthier, but McDonald’s prizes are better.

We admire someone’s art collection, or baseball card collection, because it represents a proof-of-work. There’s something impressive about seeing the complete set of McDonald’s Pokemons. Like, someone plowed through a LOT of cheeseburgers to acquire that collection.

The liquidity of NFTs ruins the fun of collection, in that it cheapens the discovery process. Friction has value; that’s why Shopify is able to exist in spite of Amazon.

But maybe I’m jaded by post-capitalism. Back in the olden days, money was a sort of proxy measure for work, so a display of wealth was in theory a proof-of-work. Now that money magically arrives in the form of stimulus checks, does work even have value?

See Also:
Bitcoin as a Display of Wealth

Why NFTs are the Future

Would the Mona Lisa still be valuable if we discovered that Leonardo da Vinci was racist?

Trick question! Racism and art are social constructs, their value controlled by the same elite establishment.

We tend to think that people get canceled after a racism is unearthed, but it’s really the other way around. The Powers That Be identify someone who needs to be canceled, and find a way to smear them as racist. Or anti-semitic, extremist, or domestic terrorist. These are just catch-all terms to describe someone who has fallen out of favor with the establishment.

(By which I mean, rich people.)

It doesn’t take elaborate propaganda to create a consensus; if you say it enough times it becomes true. Contemporary art is objectively shit — an affront to the eyes — its only purpose to provide a vessel for money laundering. We’re convinced of its artistic value because rich people fund fancy museums to pump their bags. Did you know that the Museum of Contemporary Art is funded by the Soros family?

Comedian, by Maurizio Cattelan

“Art is anything you can get away with” –Andy Warhol

Things move faster in Silicon Valley. Which brings me to NFTs, or non-fungible tokens attached to a media asset. Like a title of ownership, but on the blockchain. The only reason anyone ascribes value to NFTs is because Silicon Valley VCs won’t shut up about them.

And…I mean that in a good way. It truly demonstrates the democratization of finance. It’s no longer billionaires in New York who can conjure up collective hallucinations for tax evasion purposes. Now billionaires in Silicon Valley can do it too. You thought it was a chad move to sell a banana taped to a wall for $150k? Jack Dorsey just sold his first tweet for $2M.

CryptoKitty sales chart.

Why did the CryptoKitty market crash? Because that Union Square Ventures guy stopped tweeting about them.

See Also:
Why NFTs are the Future (part 2)

Billionaires in Bitcoin

Bajillionaires are offering their thoughts on Bitcoin. Not because they have anything interesting to add, but because they pretty much have to. If you’re still a Nocoiner in the year 2021, you’d better have some darn good reasoning to spin to your shareholders. Putting bitcoin in your corporate cash reserves is like buying IBM in 1970. You don’t wanna be the guy who gets fired for buying a UNIVAC.

Some years ago, JP Morgan built an enterprise version of Ethereum, and I joked that having JP Morgan support your blockchain is like receiving a presidential endorsement from David Duke.

But here we are. BNY Mellon announced plans to provide bitcoin custodial services; Citi thinks Bitcoin is At the Tipping Point; now Goldman Sachs has restarted its crypto trading desk and will begin dealing bitcoin futures. Having Goldman Sachs support your blockchain is like receiving a glowing eulogy from the Washington Post 🤮.

Maybe the revulsion is unfounded. We reject the banking system and Wall Street because they have a monopoly over the money supply, and anything that can be monopolized can be manipulated. Money begets power. See also: Cantillon Effect

When it comes to Bitcoin, disproportionate wealth does not translate to disproportionate influence over the protocol. BlackRock may be “dabbling” in Bitcoin, but it won’t be appointed by a central bank to manage a bailout.

So, fine. Welcome billionaires and legacy banking. Fossil fuels may be dirty, but they provide the propulsive force to send our rocket to the moon.

Generic Bitcoin Headline

Okay, Bitcoin needs to stop going up. I am living proof that free money turns people into lazy degenerates.

(Or maybe I was born a lazy degenerate, and it was only the threat of poverty that made me get out of bed every morning.)

Since I’m too lazy to produce new content, here is some old content.

Other Crypto Stuff