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The British Museum and NFTs – exactly why we use markets

Summary:
We do understand, it is the job of the newspaper columnist to suck teeth over the way society is going. And yet there’s a significant point to be made about the British Museum and their issuance of NFTs:The British Museum should think again on NFTsWe agree entirely, they - or it - should.Institutions could come to regret joining the rush to cash in on collections by issuing digital art tokensWe think that entirely possible.Leaving that debate aside, the two most likely outcomes are that NFTs soar in value, in which case those that sell them may face accusations having offloaded them on the cheap, or they crash in value, in which case sellers may face accusations for duping buyers. I will leave others to decide which of these two eventualities is more likely.We’d not agree that those are

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We do understand, it is the job of the newspaper columnist to suck teeth over the way society is going. And yet there’s a significant point to be made about the British Museum and their issuance of NFTs:

The British Museum should think again on NFTs

We agree entirely, they - or it - should.

Institutions could come to regret joining the rush to cash in on collections by issuing digital art tokens

We think that entirely possible.

Leaving that debate aside, the two most likely outcomes are that NFTs soar in value, in which case those that sell them may face accusations having offloaded them on the cheap, or they crash in value, in which case sellers may face accusations for duping buyers. I will leave others to decide which of these two eventualities is more likely.

We’d not agree that those are the most likely outcomes and certainly not that they are the only likely two. But the essence of our point is in the word “likely”.

We all face uncertainty here. We cannot even calculate probabilities, we simply do not know. This is something new that might become a common feature of the future society - like the automobile - or some forgotten byway as with the Pet Rock. Shrug, absolutely no one has a clue.

Which is why we use markets of course. Changing tastes mean that what people wish done, umm, changes. Changing technology means that what can be done similarly changes. The societal task is to sort through those two sets of changes and see where they can meet. Among the things we can now newly do what is it that folk want done?

The entire point of the system is that anyone gets to do anything possible and then we see how it turns out. Most of the time it is Pet Rocks but sometimes it is that car, or new fangled permanent dyes from coal tar, or aspirin, or….or, well, all the things that make up our civilisation. They all did start with some nutter running wet down the street shouting Eureka!

Which is why we allow, encourage, even applaud, the attempts. Because we face uncertainty and can only find out by doing. The time for the rethink is after the having done and the collapse of that uncertainty down to “Ah, so, that’s what happens then”.

This is the entire and whole point of the use of markets in the face of changing technology - to find out what does and does not work.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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