Brian Eno said the development of non-fungible tokens was a way of turning artists into “capitalist assholes” and described the technology as another example of a missed opportunity to make the world a better place.
NFTs offer buyers the opportunity to own a piece of digital information such as a song or an image in perpetuity, regardless of where or how often it is reproduced. Recently a number of musicians have explored the idea as a way of profiting from their work.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Crypto Syllabus, Eno expressed doubts over the NFT movement. “Most of the conversation I hear is asking the question, ‘What could we do with these technologies?’” he said. “Which doesn’t mean, ‘How could we change the world into a better place?’ but ‘How could we turn them into money?’” He explained that he’d “been approached several times to ‘make an NFT.’ So far nothing has convinced me that there is anything worth making in that arena.
“‘Worth making’ for me implies bringing something into existence that adds value to the world not just to a bank account. If I had primarily wanted to make money, I would have had a different career as a different kind of person. I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be an artist. NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialization. How sweet – now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”
He asked: “Is it possible that artists can use these tools to divert some of the global trillions off into some more productive and humane directions? This is what I would like to understand, though it presents the interesting moral question as to whether clean things can be done with murky money.”
Eno added that he was “trying to keep an open mind about these questions.” “People I like and trust are convinced they’re the best thing since sliced bread, so I wish I could have a more positive view, but right now I mainly see hustlers looking for suckers,” he said. “And lots of bright-eyed artists willing to play the latter role. … Forgive my cynicism. … I’m not feeling too positive right now.”
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