All this time, we’ve been saying blockchain is a solution looking for a problem. But now, as it turns out, we might have been wrong . . .
On Tuesday we appeared on one of these trendy Zoom-panels that everyone seems to be doing these days, to take part in a discussion about blockchain and its implications for financial markets. It was hosted by His Excellency Alexander Fasel, the Swiss ambassador to the Court of St James’s (AKA the UK).
As you can imagine, we were giving our usual spiel about how blockchain has yet to prove itself as a “solution” for anything outside of the world of cryptocurrencies; how you never seem to hear about how the literally thousands of blockchain projects that have been splashed across newspaper pages over the past six years or so are doing; how blockchain has a garbage-in, garbage-out problem . . . you get the drift.
But then, out of nowhere, we were told about a new solution! Flowers! Not real ones, obvs, but you know, pixels! On a blockchain! CRYPTO-FLOWERS! Solving the problem of, erm, what to send someone with pollen allergies and an aversion to chocolate or basically anything tangible on Valentine’s Day!
Have a watch here if you’re interested in hearing about it first-hand, from about 45.50:
Or if you’re not, here’s what this guy, who is the head of the “world’s first digital assets bank”, Sygnum, told us:
What if I told you that there is right now a very strongly growing so-called “NFT market”, where you have girls — 15-year-old girls — today getting a digital flower, of which there is only one? It’s also on the blockchain but it’s one, created for them. And when their boyfriends send them the flower, they have the same emotions as if your partner, your partner gives you roses.
(Don’t let anyone ever tell you that tech bros don’t understand the fairer sex.) When we said we weren’t sure the emotions one would feel on receiving a digital flower would be quite as strong as what one might feel on receiving a real one, we were lightly admonished:
We have to be careful to not be stuck in mindsets that have been established over many years.
Ah yes, that old chestnut. It’s a nice line for anyone pushing basically any technology. It’s almost as good as the “blockchain is the new internet” one (which also came up on the panel, naturally).
We then said that, frankly, we found the idea of receiving a digital flower a bit of a depressing thought, to which we were told:
Jemima, for you it is an absurd example. But the point I’m making is that it’s clear that it’s absurd to you, but to hundreds of millions of younger generation people it is not. Now we can either accept that or not.
So at this stage, you know, we thought we’d better have a look to see what all the fuss was about. After all, being of the millennial generation, it was true that we are a bit out of touch these days. And there was that cryptokitties craze a while back — remember that? (Just don’t mention it to the ‘star’ VCs.)
And that is how we found ourselves on the CryptoFlowers website, wondering at beauties like this:
We are not virologists so we can’t be sure but those things behind the flower do look remarkably like SARS-COV-2 don’t they? What are they doing there? If you’re wondering how much that one costs, it’s a snip at 0.4 ETH (ETH is short for Ether, the cryptocurrency that runs on Ethereum, the thinking bro’s blockchain). At current exchange rates, that’s just . . . $730.
If you really like her though, you could splash out on something like this:
You can’t accuse the blockchainers of not appreciating aesthetics can you? That one will only set you back 4 ETH, so about $7,300.
And if you really want to impress her, there’s the “first Ethereum flower”, which can be yours/hers for 50 ETH (a snip at $91,000).
The thing is they’re not just pixels. Well they are, but they change. In fact they are part of an exciting blockchain-based game. Here is how the CryptoFlowers website describes it:
CryptoFlowers is a game about collecting and breeding digital flowers. Using the power of Smart Contracts and Ethereum network, the game allows you to collect, breed and exchange unique digital flowers. While CryptoFlowers are not digital currency, it provides the same level of security. Each Cryptoflower is genetically unique, it cannot be destroyed, taken away or replicated, and it will always bloom!
We went back to our Sygnum CEO to check that this is really what he was talking about when he said that this is what “hundreds of millions of younger generation people” were getting into, and he directed us towards all sorts of different sites selling various different crypto flowers. Basically crypto flowers are part of what seems to be the latest craze in blockchainland: NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens”.
Crypto site Decrypt (one of the better ones) defines them thus:
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are crypto assets that are indivisible and unique, creating digital scarcity. NFTs initially launched on Ethereum, using the ERC-721 token standard, but are now available on a number of other blockchains. -They have many use cases, including digital collectibles, artwork and in-game assets.
Pretty radical huh? Kind of like Pokemon Cards, but on the blockchain.
Look, it’s true that we cannot speak for 15-year-old girls, but we can speak for grown women. Please, lads, if you’re going to spend $90,000 of your hard-earned money on something that runs on a blockchain this Valentine’s Day, well, we haven’t said this before but: just buy us some bitcoin or something? Doge’ll do too.
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