LectureSHIP: Tokens

At their Art and Tech Summit in 2018, Christie’s gave away 300 free NFTs. Only 12 people out of around 300 claimed their free NFTs. A few people who didn’t throw them away are selling them for over $10,000. Almost three years later, the same auction house sold the first ever purely digital work of art, Beeple’s First 5000 Days, for $69.4 million and Jack Dorsey minted and sold his first tweet for $2.9 million. NFTs initially attracted public attention in 2017 with CryptoKitties, a game in which users breed and trade digital cats. On March 25 of this year, on Cryptoslam, where one can buy, sell and trade top NFT collectibles, NBA Top Shot sales exceeded $211 million and the sales of the French fantasy football startup, Sorare, increased by 284% over the previous 30 days. As for fungible tokens, well, in April of this year the total market capitalization of global cryptocurrency reached $2 trillion.1

Tokenization and blockchain are fundamentally changing how we will transact, manage and transfer rights and values in the imminent future. They’re driving the next-generation Internet, the so-called Web3. I had the good fortune to follow an introduction to Web3 by Dr. Shermin Voshmgir, founder at Token Kitchen and author of the book Token Economy. Web1 gave us access to information by connecting our computers to the world wide web. Web2 is the frontend revolution transforming human interaction by connecting producers and consumers of information, goods, and services through social media and e-commerce platforms. Web3 is the backend revolution that is changing how we will exchange agreements and assets, and how we will manage credentials, attributes and access rights. Dr. Voshmgir added that as data increasingly becomes the new currency, data tokens could become the new asset class.

Key to this change is that we are moving from centralized to decentralized control. As Dr. Voshmgir describes in her book, we currently live with a unique point of failure in that our data is centrally stored on servers with system administrators managing the servers and firewalls. Blockchain reinvented the storage and management of data by providing unique data sets that are collectively managed with no unique point of failure, hence more secure. It also allows participants in a network to exchange a digital representation of value or rights without the need for a trusted intermediary. Led by blockchain, Web3 is a set of protocols that intends to reinvent how the Internet is wired in the backend, combining the logic of the Internet with the logic of the computer. It is the next big step in the development of computers and the Internet that will govern identity, ownership, and rights, leading to a more decentralized web.

The value of goods traded globally approximates $19 trillion.2 Today, the paperwork necessary to finance, insure, prove ownership, and transport these trillions of dollars of cargoes is mind boggling. Web3 is poised to change it all.

  1. Source: “NBA Top Shot Stats” CryptoSlam, 5/13/21
  2. Source: “Trade: export value worldwide 1950-2020,” Statista, 5/13/21
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