Greater Stories Through Evolving NFTs
This article was originally published in Issue 6 of Vagobond Magazine.
I recently read Sapiens and I’m pretty sure I came away from it with a rather inflated sense of understanding concerning the way in which the world works. But, one key point that I did understand correctly was how important ‘story’ is to our species, both in understanding where we came from and where we might go. Harari says:
Fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.
One main theme from Sapiens, as highlighted above, is our ability to jointly imagine something that isn’t real and then make it real. Basically, any story that enough people believe in, that enough people work towards, can be brought to life.
So, what does Web3 have to do with it all? Well, Web3 is a new medium of storytelling which will allow for more powerful and immersive stories, which will create deeper emotional attachments, which will lead to the creation of a larger ecosystem of more sustainable projects (I’m specifically focusing on projects meant to entertain, but the right stories will grow the next Ethereum or elect the next prime minister).
How does Web3 lead to more immersive stories? By creating new avenues for audience engagement and participation via advances in tech(not to exclude non-web3 native tech e.g. Unreal 5) as well as new, easier means of coordinating the use of that tech.
Here’s a (fictitious) example concerning NFTs: Project Superhero creates 1k PfPs that will be eligible for participation in a yet-to-be released digital comic. But, and this is the important part, those PfPs will be capable of evolving over time while retaining their ‘soul’, their non-fungibility, as their owners use them. What’s the point of their evolution?
Well, Project Superhero, a project that, prior to releasing their much-hyped graphic novel, developed several events that their audience could participate in as their PfP—that is, they’d use their NFT like it was a video game avatar. As they complete these events, the results of that completion are recorded on the NFT, acting as IRL experience, which indicates forward progression, both in the project and in life.
So, the community participates in these events and their PfPs automatically update to reflect this participation: maybe there’s a war medal now visible in the lower left corner or maybe their character received a new scar on its cheek. However it changes, as the graphic novel is developed and released, if a PfP that participated in those
events is chosen, then those changes will be reflected in the portrayal of the PfP (or not, if one that’s chosen had not participated in any of the events).
The point is, owners would be able to influence the appearance of their NFTs which will cause a deeper emotional attachment than if they’d just purchased some static NFT and were then forced to mold their personality around their new JPEG, rather than the other way around. As far I know, this tech doesn’t exist yet, but, given the pace of innovation and the sheer number of geniuses that are working in web3, I believe that something like it is inevitable.
Web3 will allow a connoisseur of…uh…stuff…to buy an avatar, a living NFT and just fucking own it, straight up. Whatever speaks to them. Then, based on their thoughts and feelings, they can modify that NFT to further reflect whatever it is they want it to reflect, whether it’s their inner child or some weird catfish toon they’re building (I sincerely hope the latter is not common). But, no matter what side of themselves they choose to display, this tech allows for a more immersive experience as they are RPing that NFT to some degree, whether it’s a reflection of themselves or an alter-ego.
One of the tl;dr’s from Sapiens is that our ability to create, and then rally around, stories is our species’ superpowers—stories let us build skyscrapers and pyramids and henges. But, crucially, the scope of any imagined project is limited by the power of the story. That is, the better the story, the more it can achieve. Stories are more than just the medium on which they’re told, but that medium matters a great deal as it allows for greater scaling and immersion. Web3 will be the canvas on which are painted the most powerful stories humans have yet told.