Err, yes?

Buyer who spent $69M for digital art by Beeple may have profited from the sale

He gained something he valued at more than $69 million, that’s how transactions work.

14 thoughts on “Err, yes?”

  1. I think the point is that by hyping up a piece of art, making NFTs into Veblen goods, he made money off the rest that he held.

    Unique digital items are even sillier than Trevor Nunn buying a £25K spin painting done by Damien Hirst’s 2 year old son.

  2. The thing about emperors with a taste for natty dressing is that their tailors do well out of it.


    Hirst is doing sterling work in the field of fleecing imbeciles. He’s just made $22 million from selling prints of fairly mundane pictures of cherry blossom for $3,000 each. Probably created by his underlings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t even bother to sign them himself.

    He is also launching a series of 10,000 original artworks on paper, currently locked in a vault. They will stay locked up, while ownership is transferred using blockchain, making the artworks units of a cryptocurrency.

    The joke/rip off/ post-modern ploy is bound to be that they were never made in the first place….

  4. Or of course, these are just concealed payoffs, as the lottery win on first ever ticket line is getting a bit samey.
    Who can say? But $69M for a digital file seems……implausible cap’n.

  5. I liked John Cleese’s piss-take on NFTs, asking for 50 cents more than the Beeple thing for a bad sketch of the Brooklyn Bridge.

  6. Bloke in China (Germany province)

    Is anyone able to explain, in less than 47000 words, to someone who isn’t a professor of computer science, what this NFT thing actually is?

  7. It’s a digital trading card that represents (but isn’t, and doesn’t confer any of the traditional ownership or copyright-holder rights) something. Essentially it’s a very small non-interactive webpage and a cryptographic signature that says that someone currently “owns” it. I’m putting “owns” in scare quotes because the “owner” can’t do any of the things we traditionally expect owners to be able to do.

    The record of who owns what is stored in a blockchain, which is essentially just a ledger where each entry verifies the previous one and has some computationally-expensive (as in tens of thousands of dollars worth of computer time) signature on it so going back in time and changing a past entry soon becomes impractical because you’d also need to change all the entries that were added after it.

    >what stops me making my own version of the card and owning it myself?
    Each card can only exists once in the ledger, so whoever “mints” that sequence of bytes first prevents anyone else from doing so
    >what stops me just making a new card for the same real-world thing?
    Copyright (though good luck enforcing that), plus your card will be later in the ledger so everyone will know it’s not the first-and-best one.
    >why are people even buying these things when they get literally nothing aside from bragging rights?
    Bragging rights.

  8. Bloke in China (Germany province)

    So I get hold of this blockchain, which is ultimately a file, a string of bits so totally copyable, make a copy of it, make a new entry saying “wossname sold it to me”, then another new entry saying something random to make my entry unchangeable, and release that blockchain in the wild. Is that theft? How come it doesn’t work?

  9. >How come it doesn’t work?
    To make an entry saying “wossname sold it to me”, you need wossname’s signature on the bill of sale, which you can’t get without wossname actually selling it to you (or you breaking in and stealing wossname’s private signing key).

    Like HTTPS, blockchains use public/private key pairs to validate users, so if you want to sell something to someone, you would use your private key to sign the sale transaction, and everyone else (who only has your public key) can see that this is a valid signature, but can’t create their own transaction saying you sold it to them instead (because they don’t have your private key).

    You can’t make the exact same string of bytes, except owned by you, because there’s already that string in the ledger, so nothing will accept it as a valid transaction.

    The is, however, nothing stopping you making a different string of bytes that amounts to the same thing, except for real-world copyright and trademark law, plus people can see that it was made after the one it’s a copy of.

    In principle you can make your own blockchain, but in practice you can’t because
    a) if you violate any of the rules, anyone inspecting the chain will see that and reject it out of hand
    b) if you don’t violate any of the rules and just want to (for example) make a valid transaction disappear, then you invalidate all the signatures after that point, because signature n+1 signs ((transaction n)+(signature n)), so if you change or remove transaction n then signature n+1 is not valid anymore, so signature n+2, n+3, … n+55 and so on are not valid anymore either. So if the thing you want to unhappen is buried under a big pile signatures, you need to be generating valid signatures at a faster rate than the entire rest of the world is so that your altered blockchain can catch up.

  10. Bloke in China (Germany province)

    Thanks for the explanations. I think I basically don’t grok public key/private key, even though I have consciously and knowingly use it (and unconsciously use it all the time).

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