The fun in fungible

It looks like the cloud really does has a silver lining … if you believe the hype around the rise of NFTs.

They are apparently a great way for “content creators” (formerly artists) to make a quid by harnessing the power of the blockchain to hoist themselves out of penury.

Originally just something talked about by crypto-bros and zuckerborgs, NFTs have grown into a market worth billions and by now, everyone is familiar with how a blockchain works … right?

No? It’s pretty straightforward: the blockchain is a public ledger that facilitates the buying and selling of unique items and artworks, for example a picture of a rock.

It’s easy as 1-2-3. Set up a digital wallet, create an account on OpenSea, make an NFT and list it for sale by paying the “gas” fee, which may or may not be something to do with carbon credits.

Making mistakes must be easy as 1-2-3 too. An investor who bought a piece of ‘rock art’ (a digital drawing of a rock) for a huge amount of money tried to sell it for a million dollars.

They clicked the wrong check-box and sold it for about one cent. Oops.
But hang on. If I send a digital picture of my kid to Auntie Jan in Perth, I still have the picture on my computer. So if I buy a picture of a rock for a million bucks, what do I actually own? The answer is I own the non-fungible token attached to that picture. Fungible doesn’t mean “edible fungi” but is actually part of the word salad “non-fungible token” (NFT).

If I bought a black polo-neck shirt from Target and then left it at the bus stop, I could go back to Target and buy basically the exact same shirt.
It would be, in effect, identical to the original shirt, which means it is fungible. In other words, I bought a black polo-neck shirt, not THE black polo-neck shirt.

Blocks of land and Pokemon cards aren’t fungible because each lot of land or collector’s card has unique qualities which affect their value.

In the classic Australian comedy series The Complete Adventures of Lano & Woodley the pair discuss anacondas. Frank tells Col, “It wasn’t just an aconda. It was THE aconda”.

Which raises the question: are anacondas fungible?