‘Ecological nightmare’ backlash forces ArtStation to drop NFT plans

The announcement ArtStation was launching NFT artworks did not sit well with the platform’s artists, who called for a boycott and threatened to leave the platform.

Prominent online art portfolio platform ArtStation has caved in to pressure from artists and environmentally-conscious users hours after announcing a series of non-fungible token, or NFT, drops from several notable artists.

On Mar. 9, the platform announced the program was scheduled to begin today and featured works from artists including Halo Infinite art director Nicolas “Sparth” Bouvier, retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Assassin’s Creed franchise art director Raphael Lacoste, painter Craig Mullins, and Magic: The Gathering illustrator Alena Aenami.

Following a furious bombardment of criticism, all mentions of the announcement were pulled down and replaced with a short message on the website stating that “In light of the critical reception on social media regarding NFTs, it’s clear that now is not the right time for NFTs on ArtStation.” Despite the setback, the firm didn’t shy entirely away from the technology, hinting at its potential future use:

“We are very sorry for all the negative emotions this has caused. Despite our attempts to validate our approach, we clearly made a mistake and admit fault. It was our bad. We feel that NFTs are a transformative technology that can make significant, positive change for digital artists.”

Dapper Labs founder and CEO Roham Gharegozlou stated the decision to cave in was “short-sighted” adding that “for one, blocks will get mined anyway — for the other, the criticism basically doesn’t apply to proof of stake blockchains like Flow Blockchain [used by NBA Top Shot].”

ArtStation’s original plan appeared to use the ERC-721 token on Ethereum which remains a power hungry Proof of Work blockchain until most transactions move to the more efficient Proof of Stake blockchain Eth2. It is unclear if the platform considered other blockchains that can host NFTs using a fraction of the power.

This apology only appeased some of the community, however, with artists like Ashley Grace taking to Twitter again to voice their concerns about the apparent inconclusive wording of the post, likening NFTs to an “ecological nightmare pyramid scheme.”

Prior to pulling down the initial announcement, ArtStation unsuccessful attempted to placate the push-back, adding that it will be “contributing to offset the carbon footprint costs of any given piece of digital art transacted on the platform.”

Twitter user “Bleached Rainbows” stated that “ArtStation going into NFT and saying ‘but don’t worry! We’ll pay for carbon offsets’ is the equivalent of setting a house on fire then placing a single potted plant on the burned property as ‘compensation’.”

The backlash came on top of other controversies including rumored sexism and adult content, with artists threatening to cancel their subscriptions. Other issues included the unregulated nature of the NFT space and ability for scams to arise, and criticisms the move was a cash grab for the platform and most prominent artists.

Despite the intense controversy, NFTs continue to garner widespread support with Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days auction on Christie’s heating up. Kinetic founder Jehan Chu attempted to join but was outbid at $7.25 million with 2 days still to go.

The highest bid is currently $9.75 million.

Nine hours after ArtStation canceled the NFT launch, NFL tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rob Gronkowski announced his new NFT collection of four cards to represent his four championships. The cards will be sold at auction via Opensea on Mar. 10.

Continue reading

Bitcoin energy debate resurfaces with calls for ‘green hackers’ to attack network

“If you’re not a green hacker, and you’re not doing it for the planet, you can also do it for the money: by speculating downward on the price of Bitcoin before launching attacks.”

The exponential rise in Bitcoin’s price and hash rate is driving critics to once again question the largest blockchain’s energy efficiency — with calls for “green hackers” to band together to mount an attack on the network.

Total world production and consumption vs. Bitcoin. Source: CBECI

A self styled “developer and ecologist” who goes by the name of Franck Leroy created Twitter and Medium accounts this month to advocate the destruction of the Bitcoin network through “ethical hacking.”

In a post titled “Green hackers around the world, let’s destroy Bitcoin” Leroy states that Bitcoin is an “irrational and destructive financial bubble” that is hugely damaging to the climate due to its exorbitant use of electricity.

A third of the article calls on hackers to “destroy Bitcoin,” stating that the network can be undermined by mounting something similar to a DDOS attack with fake transactions to clog the network, and linking to three other sources for other attack ideas, adding:

“It is not even necessary that a computer attack actually take place, but that speculators fear it. If a group of hackers (real or fake) announced an impending attack, the price of Bitcoin would likely collapse.”

But it’s not just fringe Medium posts attacking Bitcoin’s power consumption, the mainstream media has embraced the narrative too. A recent article by Bloomberg “Bitcoin is an incredibly dirty business” suggested that the majority of Bitcoin’s energy use comes from coal and other non-renewable sources, comparing the network’s carbon footprint to that of New Zealand.

And Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig wrote today that “Bitcoin mining is on track to consume almost as much electricity in 2021 as all the world’s transportation systems combined did in 2018.”

Looking behind the figures used by Zweig paints a different picture. In the Tweet, he references a graph on Bitcoin’s electricity consumption by the University of Cambridge. The three lines refer to the upper (grey) and lower bound (light yellow), and the actual estimated consumption (Yellow).

Zweig has used the upper bound currently sitting at 290 TWh, stating that this figure is on track to reach the 2018 global transportation systems consumption (390 TWh). However, if one were to take the actual estimate of 120 TWh, the Bitcoin network is on track to account for around 30% of the energy used by the transportation industry in 2018.

Many critics refer the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, or BECI, on the Digiconomist website. The BECI states that Bitcoin’s annualized carbon footprint, electrical energy consumption, and electronic waste compares to that of New Zealand, Chile, and Luxembourg respectively.

However, Bitcoin proponents such as Marty Bent point out that much of the electricity used to power the Bitcoin network is excess and otherwise unused . In a post today he wrote:

The ruthlessly competitive Bitcoin mining industry forces miners to seek out the lowest cost of power production that they can possibly find, which leads them to energy sources that are completely stranded or wasted.”

Other proponents note the power used in mining is frequently renewable. Up to half of mining activity occurs in China’s Sichuan region and these miners use the region’s hydroelectric power stations where possible. However, these plants rely on seasonal rains and when there isn’t enough to power them, Sichuan turns to coal.

A study shared by Head of Growth at Kraken Dan Held, suggests that mining in the Sichuan region is more than 90% renewable, resulting in Bitcoin’s entire network being almost 78% renewable.

Bitcoin uses 78% renewable energy. Source: Twitter

But figures vary and the University of Cambridge suggests the actual figure is much lower. Although the university states that 76% of cryptocurrency miners use electricity from renewable energy sources, it found that onl39% of the total energy consumption by Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies comes from renewable energy.

Continue reading