Next generation non-fungible tokens

The possibilities are practically endless, and even though today’s NFTs are extremely limited, we will see new applications emerge


Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have suddenly sprouted worldwide; many people are excited about this new technology, and its applications are gradually expanding. An NFT is a digital asset (like a picture, song, or movie), usually referred to as a token and registered on the blockchain. The blockchain is nothing more than a register containing data that references other blocks, thus forming a digital chain. The token is non-fungible because it is unique, and there can only be one original. So it’s similar to owning a unique painting like the Mona Lisa but in digital form.

Over the past years, NFTs have soared in popularity because they created a new source of income for digital artists (but not only). Like physical paintings, virtual artworks get sold, and ownership is recorded in the blockchain. Due to the inner workings of the blockchain, this record is unchangeable. So if a photographer sells his photos online, whoever buys them has the right to use them. If someone else uses them without permission, that person is liable for legal consequences.

Of course, not everything with NFTs is rosy. The primary reason they garnered so much attention in recent years is due to massive monetary transactions involved in the sale of some of them. The most famous NFT ever sold is EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, by digital artist Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann. The painting costs $69 million and is essentially a collage of 5,000 earlier artworks, demonstrating the artist’s development throughout his career. For Christie’s auction house, this was the first purely digital painting that managed to sell for such an amount.

But, whereas the value of such a painting might be clear, others are not, thus raising speculations of financial irregularities. In 2021, an artist called ‘Pak’ placed on the NFT market a grey pixel (a single dot) that Sotheby sold for $1.36 million. The worthiness of a painting goes beyond the aesthetic characteristics, and it is the community that determines its value. With NFTs, one has to be extra careful, though. In 2021, someone bought the first tweet on Twitter for $2.9 million. It was listed for sale a year later, aiming at an impressive $48 million. The most significant offer received amounted to just under $280. One needs to be very careful, the technology is relatively embryonic, and there are still many presumptions.

Notwithstanding this, NFT is still an important technology, and it will have a lot of applications in the future. Since an NFT is a digital asset, it can also contain a program, thus making it dynamic. A photo might change according to the time of the day or the weather outside. To make it slightly more interesting, imagine adding Artificial Intelligence elements!

A kind of AI which would be perfect for such a task is an Intelligent Agent. These agents are programs having unique features like autonomy, learning, communication and goal-oriented. They would live on the metaverse and roam freely irrespective of their owner.

Since they are autonomous, they do not need instructions but can decide to move from one virtual location to another. They learn as they go along, thus making them adapt to the environment in which they live. When they meet other agents, they can speak with them and negotiate agreements (on their owner’s behalf). Since their program and data are constantly changing, they evolve and automatically improve themselves. Finally, they can perform tasks for their owner since they are goal-oriented. A person might own one or more of these agents, maybe having different specialisations.

So imagine a user trying to book a holiday for him and his family sometime in summer. All he has to do is instruct his agent whilst providing it with his preferences. The agent will then visit the different service providers represented on the metaverse to create the best itinerary for his owner. These entities include airlines, taxis, hotels, tour guides, restaurants, and those offering a touristic service in the destination country. Since there are other dependencies as part of the group, the user’s agent will also consult with their agent to determine their individual preferences and come up with a plan enjoyable for everyone. The agent will also go through the different online reviews, thus learning about the various attractions which are available. Finally, it will present its owner with a complete itinerary which only requires a final verification before all the payments go through and the details inserted in the party’s diaries.

But we can also take NFTs a step further toward Artificial Life. These programs have properties that mimic biological operators, such as reproduction, mutation, and death. Such an NFT can digitally couple with another NFT, thus creating a combined offspring with new features. So a travel planning agent might couple with a financial agent and gain the knowledge to make virtual payments.

The possibilities are practically endless, and even though today’s NFTs are extremely limited, we will see new applications emerge. But the metaverse is the platform that will unleash the real power of NFTs since it will provide them with the tools necessary to make them useful. It will take a while until we get there. In the meantime, we can dream about how our lives will ultimately change with these smart NFTs.

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