One of the rather innocuous absurdities that the zeitgeist has produced in recent months is the belief that one can become rich by exchanging grotesque cartoon images. We are of course talking about the so-called non-fungible tokens (NFT).
These were mostly collections of generically produced images, such as those from the particularly popular Bored Ape Yacht Club. For the uninitiated, it’s best to imagine a mixture of trading card trading corner in the schoolyard and tulip bulb hysteria. This fairly well reflects the mood that prevailed in the corresponding marketplaces on the Internet last year. Sometimes individual NFTs have changed hands for several million dollars.
But in recent months, the old fab numbers have melted away: the average price of an NFT has fallen by two-thirds to just under US$2,000 since the start of the year. Overall, the market collapsed by half. Even in Google trends, the possible bursting of the bubble is noticeable. Since the all-time high in January of this year, searches for NFT have fallen by more than 60%.
The attitude of merchants and self-proclaimed early adopters is visibly getting softer. Outrageous copyright litigation and constant attacks by hackers on digital collections have caused trust in the technology to plummet. Additionally, the entire ecosystem is built as a pyramid scheme – so if there aren’t enough gullible collectors constantly rising, the bubble will burst.
The bubble may have burst, but now a useful purpose is revealed
With the exception of people who have invested a lot of money in the madness, no one is particularly saddened by the disappearance of NFTs. Critics agree that they are nothing more than a heavy reinterpretation of things that have already been tried or currently work better and more efficiently.
Ironically, the Russian attack on Ukraine arguably revealed a useful target for the technology for the first time. Since the end of last week, the official Ukrainian government NFT collection has been available for viewing and purchase on metahistory.gallery. The goal is the “preservation of the memory of the real events of this time” and the “dissemination of truthful information in the community of the digital world”.
“Future-looking technologies are used to document history and rebuild the country’s economy after the war,” says Mykhailo Fedorov, head of digitization at the Ukrainian cabinet. The NFT Museum is another attempt by the Ukrainian government to raise cryptocurrency to resist the Russian invasion. According to a tweet by Alex Bornyakov, Deputy Minister of Digitization, more than 5,000 bulletproof vests, more than 3,000 night vision devices and 500 helmets have been purchased since the beginning of March. The weapons would therefore not be purchased with the profits.
The website therefore also contains a so-called “Warline”, i.e. a chronology of events, each of which is accompanied by a corresponding NFT. These each contain a tweet about a significant moment in the war and an illustration by various Ukrainian artists. Each of the NFTs is listed for 0.15 of the Ethereum digital currency. At the beginning of April, it is the equivalent of around 470 euros. Over 1000 files were purchased in the first 24 hours.
And the art itself? It’s pretty dark, of course. The styles are pretty much all represented. Sometimes agitprop, then calm and almost impressionistic. Sometimes animated and in neon colors, sometimes motionless and in black and white. Bombs are falling, faces filled with fear. Even without a timeline, you can recognize certain events. Things to remember. And which are now stored forever in the blockchain.