[NetBehaviour] The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt

Michael Szpakowski m at michaelszpakowski.org
Mon Jan 25 12:07:08 CET 2021

I haven’t followed the discussion properly but I do think these first three paras are beautifully put. ‘Everything is connected’ as good old Lenin once observed and attempting to understand something doesn’t indicate endorsement. It is very hard, on the other hand, to *change* anything one doesn’t understand ...

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On Sunday, January 24, 2021, 11:19 am, Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:

Hi Graz and Alan,

I suggested a close reading of some cryptoart because my superficial observation is that nearly all the big price sellers are works "about" money or crypto memes, and the visual references tend to be either from games or from modernist or the renaissance art memes.

The reason I think this is important is that it opens up questions about what social and economic characteristics of "Art" are being used to boost and speculate on prices in the cryptoart scene. So I think it's a mistake to refuse to discuss anything but its carbon footprint'?  Systems need to be understood to on their own terms (as well as their external effects) if we want to know how to react to them effectively. 

 We definitely need better tools to understand and discuss the environmental impacts of technology though!

If we are to have any chance of addressing catastrophic climate change we will need to see a profound change in beliefs, attitudes and behaviours around money, speculation, culture and value and human relation to other life systems, and art has a part to play.
As I explained in my earlier post the environmental impact of blockchain is going to improve in the next couple of years because there are lots of people who think it's important and are working diligently at the problem. There are also a lot of people and companies who do not care and who seek to accumulate personal fortunes - they should be challenged (probably through regulation and law). We need to proliferate new strategies. Projects like DisCO https://disco.coop/ are a really good example of brilliant people doing this work and communicating really well about it. I like how they discuss the multiple problems of blockchain techs now. If you are interested you can download and read their recent publication DisCO elements. 

It is not utopian to engage with and shape the tools and discourse that engage these topics. It is realistic. It is also very important to me.


On Sat, Jan 23, 2021 at 7:50 PM Graziano Milano <grazmaster at googlemail.com> wrote:

Hi Ruth,

I did research what Async Art is and how it works as I never heard of it. I found out that Async Art is a new online platform for artists to create and sell rare, programmable art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZbUJeYzgsc

Async Canvas is an all-in-one uploader tool. It allows the artists to create, preview, and mint their programmable art from within their personalized dashboard. Here is an introduction video which walks the artists through the basics of how Async Canvas works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRR7k0uXiPk&feature=emb_logo
Apparently they will be adding more and more templates to Async Canvas as the tool grows. 
The question is what kind of ecological impact each digital artwork uploaded and sold at Async Art will have as a result of blockchain-based transactions.

On Sat, 23 Jan 2021 at 11:17, Ruth Catlow <ruthcatlow at gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Graziano,
These are the things I observe about the Cryptoart scene - and that puzzle me- no one talks about the imagery, meaning, concept - evva!
- and prices are always given in $$$s not a cryptocurrency
Anyone want to volunteer do a deep reading of a piece of high-price crytpoart? Perhaps this one https://async.art/art/master/0xb6dae651468e9593e4581705a09c10a76ac1e0c8-807
It would be great to know if these artists are cashing out their crypto immediately after the auctions. If not why are we not hearing about the prices in the cryptocurrencies with which they were bought?
On Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 4:53 PM Graziano Milano <grazmaster at googlemail.com> wrote:

In 2020 the crypto artist "Beeple" (Mike Winkelmann), that is mentioned in “The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt (Part 1)”, has broken records on Gemini’s Nifty Gateway platform by selling a collection of 20 artworks for a sum of $3.5 million:

By the end of this century the value of these 20 Beeple’s artworks may increase or completely collapse as it may happen to Bitcoins and other crypto currencies.

On Fri, 22 Jan 2021 at 10:50, Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:

re: http://cryptoart.wtfI mean... It's a great troll but it's not good enough!

The meme of blockchain's outrageous energy use is a barrier to more diverse people entering the development space.

Blockchain technologies are important because species collapse and climate emergency is an effect of the global political economy. Blockchains tech like cryptocurrencies, tokens, and smart contracts are the only tools we have (as yet) to organise directly p-2-p at a planetary scale.They are still new but they offer a way to imagine and realise both money and governance at a global scale, independent of states and corporations.

The debate about blockchain's environmental impact usually focuses around its high energy use.

[EXPLAINER: Blockchains' level of energy use are due to the consensus mechanisms (CMs) they use to verify transactions, and to "mine" currency.  The amount of electricity used varies according to the CM. The two dominant CMs are Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS)
Bitcoin uses PoW and infamously consumes the same amount of electricity as 159 countries. Ethereum (the platform for programmable money - and therefore the focus of a lot of work on new forms of governance) is moving to Eth2 a PoS system which uses far less energy. But this is still 2 years off.]

Questions about the environmental impact of blockchain are important and difficult to answer. It's right that we assess the impact of Blockchains but we need better ways to compare all emerging digital infrastructure ecosystems - including other financial techs, IoT, ML AI, 5G.

 A focus on reducing energy use is not enough. As @alsodanlowe put it  "It would be crazy to ban or dissuade colleagues from participating in an effort to decentralize money away from the forces that create the priority for fossil fuels (much of it built on debt) just because those forces exist. PoW is agnostic. Banks and existing oligarchy is not." https://twitter.com/alsodanlowe/status/1317444999361957891

Blockchain is a future technology. It is built for use in a world of clean, limitless, renewable energy. 

Efforts need to focus here...and on the political economies and the cultural adoption patterns that they can support and grow beyond accumulative self-interest and extractive capitalism if we are avoid accelerating climate collapse.

This morning I retweeted this from Sarah Friend "If I hadn't spent the past five years working in crypto, I'd probably be moralizing about it too, and this is perhaps part of why I am so profoundly annoyed by its superficial detractors - my shadow selves, who know so much less than me and are so much more sure they're right" https://twitter.com/isthisanart_/status/1352288565850492928

There's so much more to  say about all of this. Especially about the role that art has to play.

On Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 9:35 AM Annie Abrahams via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:

The website http://cryptoart.wtf pulls in random blockchain-based
CryptoArt from the web, and estimates the ecological impact of each work
in terms of energy consumption (kWh), and greenhouse gases released
(KgCO2) as a result of blockchain-based transactions relating to the work.

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