In defense of cryptoart


Dr. Memo Akten recently published a scathing analysis of the carbon cost of cryptoart and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By his math a single NFT sale requires about 340 kWh, which is equivalent to a European’s electricity usage for a month, or about a 2-hour roundtrip flight. Some people dispute the specifics of Dr. Atken’s numbers, but it is directionally correct. Today, Bitcoin and Ethereum are extremely energy-intensive and wasteful, by design. Because of this, Dr. Atken suggests artists should boycott those blockchains until they improve. Ethereum is the dominant platform for NFTs and so this essentially means a boycott of NFTs and cryptoart as a whole.

I believe these carbon costs are short-term and outweighed by the long-term benefits of blockchains and the burgeoning ownership economy. Additionally, the systems are open-source and benefit from community participation today, and not after the waste issues are fixed. I encourage Dr. Akten and anyone reading this to reconsider their boycotts for a few reasons:

I have many other blockchain shortcomings to mention: claiming a free NFT cost me $30 in gas fees; the transaction speeds are hilariously slow; explaining the benefits of crypto to a layperson is nearly impossible; the tools for both users and developers are lackluster; there are tons of scams and shiesters in the space; I can continue. If blockchains were perfect, everyone would be using them already. For those who can contribute to making them into better systems, I’d encourage you to do so.

[1] US EPA, sources of US greenhouse gas emissions