Brian Eno On NFTs: “Now Artists Can Become Little Capitalist Assholes!”

Brian Eno contemplates his £20K turntable….

Cryptography resource site The Crypto Syllabus has published a new interview with producer, composer, artist & provocateur Brian Eno, discussing the opportunities for artists with NFTs.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger. What this means for artists is that digital file can essentially be signed as NFTs, and ownership can be sold. There’s a tremendous amount of experimentation going on now with NFTs, because they offer artists a potential source of income and investors a new platform for speculation. A digital artwork by artist Mike Winkelmann (known professionally as Beeple), recently sold for US $69.3 million.

In the interview, Eno discusses his thoughts about getting asked to make NFTs:

“I’ve 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 financialisation. How sweet – now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”

Eno’s perspective balances the opportunities of NFTs for artists against the overhead of the technology, which some have argued is an ecological nightmare pyramid scheme:

“Can NFTs be a contemporary form of Robin Hood-ism? 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.

All the foregoing doesn’t mention the biggest issue: that in a warming world a new technology that uses vast amounts of energy as ‘proof of work’ – that’s to say, simply to establish a certain badge of exclusivity – really is quite insane. All that energy is making nothing that we need. I know there’s ‘proof of stake’ but I don’t know if that can actually work unless everybody changes over to it. And even if it did, it doesn’t address the other issues that bother me.”

Are NFT’s an opportunity for artists and musicians to get a share of the global trillions – or an ‘ecological nightmare pyramid scheme’? Share your thoughts in the comments!