How NFTs can assist keep our collective reminiscence

How NFTs can assist keep our collective reminiscence


Angie Lau: Summary or surreal, static or shifting, neon-colored or black and white, apes or chickens. We’re speaking about NFTs. They arrive in all shapes, all sizes and costs, they usually’re usually the primary glimpse that one has of the Web3 world. Nicely, somebody who comes from arguably a conventional media house is making a brand-new platform for NFTs, with a chook’s-eye view on one of many hottest NFT markets in Asia proper now. We’re speaking to him proper now.

Welcome to Phrase on the Block, the sequence that takes a deeper dive into blockchain and all of the rising applied sciences that form our world on the intersection of enterprise, politics and financial system. And it’s what we cowl proper right here on Forkast. I’m Editor-in-Chief Angie Lau.

Nicely, at the moment I’m very completely satisfied to welcome again Gary Liu, now with a brand new title. And actually, Gary, it’s considered one of your first (interviews) below your new title as founder and CEO of Artifact Labs. And it’s nice to have you ever right here.

Gary Liu: Thanks a lot for having me. Glad to be again.

Lau: That is actually half two of our dialog. Gary, once we final talked to you, it was when you had been nonetheless CEO of SCMP — South China Morning Publish — and also you had been telling us about Artifact. And this was a brand- new initiative from SCMP to actually promote a few of its historic entrance pages, historic tales from its 118-year historical past as an NFT. So, do inform us, how has that journey taken you from SCMP to now very firmly at Artifact?

Liu: So, the historical past of Artifact — the comparatively quick historical past, a few yr and a half — is that the South China Morning Publish, in early 2021, after a number of years of finding out blockchain applied sciences for media, determined that we wished to experiment with NFTs — not shocking to lots of people. In 2021, NFT markets took off and everybody thought, ‘Okay, if there’s now intrinsic worth in media, particularly digital property, then possibly we are able to make one thing of it.’ And SCMP thought the identical.

What we realized in a short time, nevertheless, was that there was no current commonplace that correctly valued current IP, and historic property particularly, on the blockchain. So we’re going to place our archives on the blockchain and open them up for decentralized possession. We wished to ensure that the best context was imbued into the property in order that hopefully long-term the historic significance and the historic worth will stick with the NFT.

So, as a result of they mentioned it didn’t exist, we determined to create it ourselves. That was the place the challenge started. It was about metadata. It was about creating an ordinary universally co-created, by the best way, with our curators and auctioneers, with archivists world wide, with assume tank leaders, and, in fact, with blockchain technologists and consultants. The purpose was to create a common commonplace that not solely the South China Morning Publish may use, however different information organizations, historic establishments and cultural establishments can use to tokenize — as we are saying on this world — their property, successfully take historic archives, make them into NFTs, and ultimately hopefully construct a brand new enterprise mannequin out of it, and in doing so, assist protect our collective human historical past on chain.

SCMP began engaged on this, and the extra conversations we had, the extra we realized that whole industries wished not solely the usual, however wished any individual to assist them with the know-how and the product to make this potential. So early this yr, in 2022, we made a reasonably — I wouldn’t name a rash choice — massive choice for the South China Morning Publish, which was to spin out this challenge as an unbiased firm.

Now, once we did ultimately spin it out, the crypto market had simply began to climate, after which ultimately we’re now in a bear market. The NFT markets are in turmoil, however the mission stays the identical. There are such a lot of historic archives which are locked away that folks don’t get entry to, which are under-monetized, however extra importantly, underappreciated and underserved in schooling, so we determined that, ‘Okay, we’re going to take the guess anyway.’

So, Artifact Labs now, as an organization, builds this sort of NFT infrastructure to assist different organizations just like the South China Morning Publish flip current IP, flip archives, into next-generation client merchandise, memorabilia and ultimately, hopefully, a complete ecosystem of historical past on the blockchain.

Lau: However I’m curious… why this concept? Gary, I imply, you went from head of labs at Spotify to CEO of Digg. You had been tapped to be the CEO of South China Morning Publish, the place you’ve spent the previous couple of years. One would say that you’re a media government with a whole lot of expertise. And you’ve got ridden alongside on this journey of media within the conventional house because it actually remodeled itself in Web2, and now into Web3. Why this concept? What’s so crucial about NFT within the media house that you simply noticed synergies there.

Liu: That’s an awesome query. I’d say that the best way I see my profession, it’s at all times been on the intersection of know-how and media. And I believe that my roles have at all times allowed me to assume as a client first, after which hopefully carry that perception into media organizations, together with one as storied because the South China Morning Publish, in order that we may serve the reader and our world audiences higher.

So, in that sense, after I take a look at Web3, what I see is an evolution of know-how that meets the expectations of the subsequent era. I see what having intrinsic worth and digital property may imply to struggling companies like media industries that — due to web economics — have been upended and dissected over the course of the final twenty years. Due to that, I see the chance in Web3, and my hope was that if I step away from — I suppose, a really, very public job — an enormous platform, and take this massive guess, there might be others that might observe. Or, on the very least, I may break down some branches, carve slightly tiny path that others can stroll by and do larger and higher issues sooner or later.

Lau: The factor about monetization is that media has not essentially at all times gotten it proper. We’ve seen the rise and fall of a whole lot of legacy media platforms, and proper now we’re seeing a whole lot of this migration into the NFT house. What’s it about NFTs particularly, you assume, that basically maintains the worth, probably, or the power of monetization for these media organizations?

Liu: I’m not going to talk for everybody, as a result of there are a whole lot of people within the NFT house for hypothesis proper now. There was an enormous hype bubble for NFTs. Have a look at the costs of PFP collections on the market. However I believe nearly all of NFT collections on the market at one level had been simply massively overpriced, and we’ve seen the correction of the market happen.

On the finish of the day, what NFTs are is only a certificates. They usually’re a certificates that’s immutable. So it might probably’t be modified. It could actually’t be destroyed. That creates shortage and authentication on the web. That has by no means existed earlier than. Every time the South China Morning Publish, for instance, publishes an image — one thing that has taken not solely, days and weeks to seek out that story and to seize that second, but additionally probably many years for the photographer to have constructed up the talent set to get that excellent picture all that prices right into a single picture — the second we publish it on-line, that picture is type of in a race in the direction of zero worth, as a result of at that time it may be infinitely replicated. And that’s simply the character of the web. It may be copied and copied and copied, and there’s no attribution on the web.

On the finish of the day, a picture can be utilized broadly, freely, and the associated fee and time and talent that went into that particular creation is misplaced. It’s not simply footage — it’s journalism, it’s the phrases in an article, it’s digital artwork, it’s music, it’s video, it’s all the pieces that’s created by creators at the moment on the web. They rush to zero worth if put on the web, as a result of it’s successfully given away without cost. Or if it’s put in a social media community, a distribution community like YouTube or TikTok or Instagram, it now successfully belongs to a large firm who can monetize it as many occasions as they need with a tiny fraction of the revenues going again to the creator. That’s an issue.

However NFTs, as a result of they’re a certificates of authenticity, of shortage, of provenance, I consider can resolve this difficulty. Even when a picture can proceed to be copied, the unique will at all times have better worth. We’ve seen this on the planet of conventional artwork. Because of this, once you purchase a portray at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, it’s not simply the portray you get — you get a complete ‘database’ of the place this portray got here from: Who has owned this portray earlier than? The place has it been exhibited? All of those small items of knowledge that lead you to consider that that is an genuine piece. It provides worth.

And so I believe within the digital world, that NFTs, that certificates that provides you that provenance, that creates a shortage and authenticates that product opens up — it’s not likely close to infinite — (however nice prospects).

Lau: The platform that you simply’re constructing is basically attention-grabbing. It actually reveals an evolution and a commencement from being a easy NFT assortment of the very starting to what appears to be a fuller and richer NFT ecosystem. So that you’ve bought free minting, you’ve bought play-to-earn integration for video games and metaverse, you’ve bought a whole lot of bells and whistles there. What are you aiming to meet within the NFT house?

Liu: I’m making an attempt to not overpromise. The thought is that if we begin with the fundamentals, at the moment we are able to introduce conventional establishments in addition to new shoppers to Web3 as merely as potential. Onboarding on this world is an issue. We all know that. So we’re going to start out with easy merchandise that appear like memorabilia. Individuals purchase them due to nostalgia, as a result of there’s a private connection. Some may purchase them as a result of they do really assume these property may have worth long-term. However straightforward onboarding — with the NFT, like I mentioned, there’s so many several types of enterprise fashions and so many issues that we are able to do sooner or later.

A hope is that by constructing this base platform and by getting the ball rolling, getting these conventional corporations to start out experimenting within the blockchain world, we can assist them invent these longer-term fashions, whether or not it’s learn-to-earn, play-to-earn, all these Web3-native phrases that nobody actually understands. Or it may very well be subscription fashions primarily based off of NFTs. NFTs are inherently tradable, which signifies that there is usually a liquid marketplace for all kinds of latest property. And at the moment, if we proceed to limit how folks can entry our product and don’t let customers type of trade entry or trade these property, I believe we’re limiting the worth of our general work. So yeah, hopefully we’re not overpromising, however there’s a lot to be completed, and a lot to be invented, as a result of this know-how can be a new inventive canvas.

Lau: Gary Liu, previously referred to as the CEO of SCMP, and now you’re a founder, you’re a start-up creator. All of these enjoyable issues within the midst of Crypto Winter. It’s been an attention-grabbing journey, little question. The NFT market in Hong Kong, in China, particularly, has additionally been fairly rocky. How have you ever been navigating the house?

Liu: The China system goes to be separate. I believe all of us guessed that early on. I believe there was possibly an idealistic hope that even with the Nice Firewall of China — the place it’s successfully created two variations of the web, the worldwide web and the Chinese language web — blockchain can be the know-how that ultimately bridges these two worlds. However blockchain is inherently a monetary software, and so I’m not stunned in any respect that China has a separate blockchain.

However what’s actually attention-grabbing is that China shouldn’t be banning blockchain. China is definitely investing in growing blockchain know-how. So, clearly, the state does consider that this know-how is necessary and issues. The truth is, for those who take a look at the 14th 5-12 months Plan — and China’s whole political system runs off of those five-year plans — they’re taking it extremely critically. And the newest one has a complete part on the digital financial system and digital life. And though it doesn’t carry up blockchain particularly, you learn the part about digital life and the way it’s meant to empower particularly the agricultural populations to have a extra vibrant life linked to the world by the digital realm, by digital applied sciences. And you may see how blockchain and Web3 play in that.

And because of this China really has put… (lacking video). There’s an enormous digital collectible market in China, however they wish to stamp down on hypothesis. They wish to ensure that they shield the retail investor to a level that even Western regulators haven’t considered or don’t have the power to do.

On the finish of the day, China decided that that is higher for his or her nation and it’s nonetheless price listening to, as a result of I do assume that there are going to be points of China’s blockchain growth — a minimum of on the know-how facet and the applying facet — that may’t be replicated in far more decentralized, world and open blockchain ecosystems that may do us some good as nicely. In order that’s the China ecosystem, my tackle it.

Lau: It’s one thing that you must be delicate to, particularly, at Artifact, and that you simply notably must stability. Artifact is supported by SCMP/Alibaba, which has spun off Artifact Labs. You continue to have the help of Alibaba. I’m wondering how they stability investing in NFT house, and but that is the fact domestically in China.

Liu: Nicely, let me make clear. Artifact Labs has SCMP as an fairness holder, investor and shopper. However that is an unbiased firm. It’s not a subsidiary of South China Morning Publish, so subsequently it’s not a subsidiary of Alibaba. Alibaba really to date has had no interplay with Artifact Labs. Alibaba has their very own digital collectibles technique and platform inside mainland China.

For Artifact Labs, as of at the moment, we aren’t pointed in the direction of mainland China. We’re not actively minting on Chinese language blockchains. And our intent is to proceed preserving historic property within the layer-1s, the general public layer-1s that everybody is aware of. We began off with Circulate. Ultimately we’ll get to Ethereum, Ethereum Digital Machine-compatible blockchains, Polygon, Avalanche, Solana. There are loads that we wish to work on as nicely. The platform is supposed to be cross-chain.

So, we’re not pointed inwards in the direction of mainland China. We’re very inquisitive about what’s happening there, and we’re watching it very carefully. However at the moment we’re pointed to the open blockchain. And from an possession standpoint, that’s not a lot of a priority for us as a result of Alibaba shouldn’t be an proprietor or related to Artifact Labs at the moment.

Lau: I wish to discuss in regards to the NFT house in Hong Kong. Artifact Labs is clearly looking on the world perspective. However Hong Kong’s residence base and town’s market watchdog, the SFC (Securities and Futures Fee), not too long ago mentioned that NFTs will be regulated in the event that they current comparable traits to securities, which factors to fractionalized NFTs particularly. Do you might have an opinion about how that is considered you construct out your online business? Are you fractionalizing?

Liu: Yeah, completely. We’re eager about it each single day. Artifact Labs’ strategy is to not use NFTs as fractionalized property. We’re not making an attempt to securitize current issues, bodily objects or issues of worth in the actual world. That’s not the purpose of Artifact Labs at the moment.

However I wish to make some extent about regulation. I believe there are two issues that I fear about relating to the regulatory dialogue that exists in Hong Kong and in lots of different locations world wide proper now.

The primary is that it’s extraordinarily opaque. The precise blockchain, NFT, crypto entrepreneurs usually are not concerned in these discussions. And regulators don’t appear to be spending sufficient time actually understanding not simply the know-how, however the anticipated purposes of this know-how sooner or later. So, all they see is that they see the normal monetary dangers of securitization — and understandably so. These regulators are targeted on defending the retail investor. And there’s a whole lot of copy and pasting of conventional regulation into this new world. And I don’t assume that that’s essentially related or useful. And I believe oftentimes that will dampen innovation.

And the second concern that I’ve is that there isn’t sufficient nuance and separating out. Blockchain and crypto merchandise which are the truth is securities with blockchain and crypto merchandise that operate as foreign money, with blockchain and crypto merchandise that operate in different methods like membership playing cards. And if there are broad-stroke rules that take something to do with blockchain and crypto and regulate them as securities or put them below the purview of a securities fee right here in Hong Kong, america or wherever else, I believe that’s actually, actually harmful.

And so my hope is that regulators will spend extra time with entrepreneurs within the trade understanding what we’re envisioning for this new world, for Web3, after which be capable of develop the nuance to truly separate out completely different property and hand them to completely different regulatory our bodies. I consider in regulation to be clear. (However we have to) ensure that it’s the best regulatory our bodies which are wanting on the proper merchandise. And I believe that if we take away the opacity, then it can begin dashing up the innovation in a metropolis like Hong Kong.

Lau: I couldn’t agree with you extra … All proper, Gary, I really feel like we’ve talked about a lot of it, however I’ve bought to congratulate you. The thought is phenomenal. However the timing — one may argue — can by no means be proper. We are able to by no means time it out.

Liu: That’s proper.

Lau: Look, I imply, I didn’t time it out both within the first Crypto Winter, once we began (Forkast). And who may think about that this is able to rear its bearish head once more. However as you check out the NFT house, has that basically impacted the urge for food and the curiosity amongst people that you simply’re speaking to from an funding degree, from a shopper degree, in regards to the NFT house?

Liu: It has impacted the group. It has impacted collectors. I imply, it’s modified the trade, and I believe it’s change. I believe this bear market will focus a whole lot of the efforts that entrepreneurs and companies like ours are placing into the event of Web3. I believe it can assist us really alter to cyclical circumstances, which I believe are at all times going to exist in successfully a commodity market, in a retail market. And I believe you’ll do away with a whole lot of the speculators, but additionally a whole lot of the unhealthy actors on the creation facet.

With regard to companions, we’ve discovered that companions are nonetheless extraordinarily enthusiastic about this know-how. To start with, they’re considering far longer-term than a purchaser is, and so after they’re experimenting with NFTs and Web3, more often than not, the right manner of doing it’s that the primary few tries on this world shouldn’t be about revenues. I personally consider that for those who’re targeted on income as a prime line (key efficiency indicator), you’re specializing in the mistaken factor. You’re lacking out on the significance of group and what it means to have an engaged and entitled group of patrons which are actively invested in one thing that you simply’ve produced, you’ve created. They know that they should get into the market early now to study, to start out build up a core of Web3 customers, after which over time, be capable of develop a long-term scalable enterprise mannequin. So I’m inspired by that.

Lau: Nicely, look, retail patrons accounted for 80% of NFT transactions in 2021 — this is in accordance with Chainalysis. And it’s type of remained constant all through 2022 — nonetheless made up near 70% of NFT buying and selling exercise. What about these institutional-grade buyers there, although, in search of publicity to NFTs? Do you assume that the NFT house may entice that sort of cash?

Liu: I’ll by no means say by no means, as a result of, like we mentioned up entrance, the NFT know-how, we haven’t even dreamt of all of the methods through which NFTs will be utilized on the planet and to Web3. So, there may ultimately be a sequence of merchandise — possibly a myriad of merchandise — that institutional buyers can and possibly should pump some huge cash into leveraging NFT tech. However as of at the moment, I simply don’t assume NFTs are institutional-grade merchandise. Based mostly on the merchandise that we’ve got at the moment, will probably be a retail product. That’s the best way that Artifact Labs is considering it.

And actually, our mission is to decentralize the possession of our collective human historical past, so we don’t essentially need massive gamers to come back in and purchase up a complete assortment of archives, as a result of all we’re actually doing then is shifting possession from a newspaper or a museum to possibly a hedge fund or a (personal fairness) agency that now owns the entire property. And once more, we lose out on the benefit of particular person possession, which often interprets to better entry.

Lau: Gary, as at all times, a pleasure. It’s nice to hang around with you on this house and to geek out on this slightly bit extra. And congratulations on what you’re constructing, and we are able to’t wait to see it. And when the climate warms up, that is actually once we can see some thrilling issues on the horizon. Recognize your time.

Liu: Nicely, thanks a lot for having me. And, as at all times, nice dialog.

Lau: As at all times, welcome again any time. And thanks, everybody, for becoming a member of us on this newest episode of Phrase on the Block. I’m Angie Lau, Forkast Editor-in-Chief. Till the subsequent time.

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