What’s the Point of NFTs?
Imagine if the sought-after horns, tusks, and furs of animals facing extinction could be replaced by digital tokens that could satisfy would-be poachers. In Limpopo, South Africa, Derek Lewitton is trying to make that happen. Lewitton, who runs the Black Rock Rhino wildlife preserve, has long been a proponent of legalizing the international trade of rhino horns and harvesting them humanely so that increased supply will drive horn prices down, making poaching and horn harvesting less lucrative.
Cracking down on poaching rarely eliminates the demand for horns, instead incentivizing poachers to hide their activity. So Lewitton’s preserve is now looking at non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as solutions for the challenges of rhino conservation. Earlier this month, the inaugural rhino horn NFT—a digital replica paired with a humanely harvested horn which is locked away for safekeeping—was auctioned off for 105,000 South African rand ($6,782) on Momint, the continent’s first NFT marketplace. The idea is for these NFTs, not real-world tusks and horns obtained via illegal hunting, to serve as substitutes for the animal trophies these poachers desire. For some trophy collectors, who use these animal parts as stores of value they can gaudily display, this may be desirable—and indeed it was to Cape Town businessman Charl Jacobs, the highest bidder.
Reducing poaching is just one potential use for these digital assets that live on the blockchain, with verifiable transaction histories and owners. Sports fans have already gotten in on the craze; the NBA’s sales pitch tells fans to “own your fandom” via its Top Shot NFTs, created by Dapper Labs—basically digital snippets of high-profile on-court moments. Collectors can choose different tiers of NFTs, in ascending order of scarcity and thus exclusivity. Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou reported to Tech Crunch that the product has been quite popular among fans so far, ratcheting up “from 4,000 to 400,000 users in a matter of weeks.” Just two months later, Top Shot now boasts 600,000 users. Demand for NFTs is high elsewhere, too; During the first two months of 2021, there were almost 150,000 NFT sales, totaling some $310 million, which Forbes reports is “almost quintuple the amount sold in all of 2020.”
But so far NFTs have primarily been a useful evolution within the art world—a way for collectors to verify the authenticity of the assets they’re buying, to ensure that they’re not reproductions. Think of NFTs as original Picassos or Monets, while other digital art that looks the same as the NFT is akin to a Picasso or Monet print you can buy on Amazon. The difference with NFTs compared with traditional art is that blockchain
Article from Reason.com