Web3 Galaxy Brain 🌌🧠

Web3 Galaxy Brain

Smart Contracts are Art with Paul Seidler and Sam Hart

19 May 2023


Show more


Nicholas: Welcome to Web3 Galaxy Brain. My name is Nicholas. Each week I sit down with some of the brightest people building Web3 to talk about what they're working on right now. On today's episode, I'm joined by Paul Seidler and Sam Hart. Paul Seidler is an artist and design researcher. He is co-founder of TerraZero, an art project, DAO, and EVM framework for automated ecosystem management and simulation. He's worked at research groups including Hybrid Platform and Design Research Lab and has created on-chain NFT artworks including Straylight Protocol, which explores multiplayer EVM gaming with on-chain NFT automata. Sam Hart Berman is a programmer and artist. He has a background in academic biochemistry publishing, fine art curation, interdisciplinary publishing at avant.org and other internet, and has contributed to various technical projects including the design of EIP-1559, the foam mesh network blockchain, Cosmos' Interchain Foundation, and now Skip Protocol, which is building infrastructure for mitigating bad MEV in the Cosmos ecosystem. Both Sam and Paul contribute to Folia, an NFT open edition curated platform, and live in Berlin. In this episode, we discuss Paul's recent talk on smart contracts as a medium, which he presented at Trust Support. We use this jumping off point to discuss blockchain as an art-making medium. We cover a variety of interesting art and research projects including Ria Meyer's EZART, Open Timestamps, Sam's OneToken and Kudzu NFT, Brotchain, Vanity Blocks, and much, much more. It was a pleasure talking to Paul and Sam about the spectrum of conceptual art from fine art experimentation through research projects and infrastructure building in the blockchain space. This was a great conversation. As always, this show is provided for entertainment and education purposes only and does not constitute financial advice or any form of endorsement or suggestion. Crypto is risky and you alone are responsible for doing your research and making your own decisions. This episode of Web3 Galaxy Brain is brought to you by RainbowKit, the best way to connect a wallet in your Web3 project. RainbowKit is built for developers and designed for everyone. Try it today at rainbowkit.com. If you'd like to sponsor the show, visit web3galaxybrain.com for details. My thanks to RainbowKit for sponsoring the show. I hope you enjoy this episode. Okay. All right. We're good. All right. Welcome. Thanks for coming through. Sam, how's it going?

Sam Hart: It's good. I mean, it's been a long week. I assume Paul and I are both in Berlin. So it's 11pm here. We're about to go to bed.

Nicholas: All right. These are real Berlin hours. Is there a cool crypto scene? I mean, there's always been a cool crypto scene in Berlin, right?

Sam Hart: Very much. Yeah.

Nicholas: But it goes to sleep early. It's like a responsible scene.

Sam Hart: I mean, I do.

Nicholas: You say this was a big week. Is there anything in particular that made this week big?

Paul Seidler: Okay. I think I got it. Yes. Hi, guys.

Nicholas: Sorry. Hey, how's it going, Paul?

Paul Seidler: Good. Yeah.

Nicholas: Do you go to sleep early in Berlin too?

Paul Seidler: Yes. It's a little bit late in Berlin already. So yeah. But anyhow, nice to be here.

Nicholas: Thanks. Thanks for coming through. All right. I have a bunch of questions, but if there is something interesting going on in the news or whatever that's exciting to you, I'm happy to talk about that too. What made this week a particularly notable week, if at all?

Sam Hart: I don't know. Paul, you go first.

Nicholas: Okay. Maybe nothing. Just a busy week.

Paul Seidler: I would say like in crypto, we're sort of like in the end of meme coin season, right? So we have no like artistic meme coins, which is something interesting. It's something interesting as a phenomena. So yeah, that's something which happened this week, which I still have to wrap my mind a little bit around and sort of like form a valid opinion on or form an interesting opinion on. But yeah, as a phenomena, that's sort of like interesting to me.

Nicholas: Yeah, I was reminded, you mentioned, I think when we were going back and forth during your talk, because this conversation came together, I think first of all around this trust support talk that you gave that I listened to. And you mentioned, is it Raya Myers?

Paul Seidler: Yes.

Nicholas: And I feel like, you know, the original, to me, Raya's work is, I'm actually, I'm not a true art historian of blockchain or especially the early days. And I know there were other projects, but my soul feels kind of related to some of this fungible art on Ethereum lately.

Paul Seidler: Yes, no, totally. I agree. I think there's also maybe a good sort of, if we go a little bit into the historic of the history of this sort of works, I think, Sam, do you want to talk about like one coin? Or was it called one coin? No, it was called, was it called one coin?

Sam Hart: Yeah. Yeah. Or one token.

Paul Seidler: Oh, one token. Yeah. Sorry.

Sam Hart: There was a, there was an extremely scammy project called one coin, which we very much enjoyed the, the kind of name clash.

Nicholas: What was the, what was the original project?

Sam Hart: I mean, straight up like Ponzi meme coin. Oh, okay.

Nicholas: Okay. Not what's the name collision?

Sam Hart: Oh, just one, one token and one coin, you know, the kind of confusion.

Nicholas: I see. I see. I see. Because there were things, I don't know deeply the, the like, counterparty era of art, but there, I think people were, were they even experimenting with like, you know, a kind of fungible with only one token as proto NFT, proto ERC721 style NFTs at least.

Sam Hart: Kind of. I've done one or two things on Bitcoin. And I'm certainly not the first by any means. I would say that, I mean, there's like the, the kind of rare Pepe era, which I would say are kind of proper NFTs, but there's just like a whole bunch of these kind of random experiments before that, that were, I mean, Paul, I feel like you, Bri and I have, have kind of debated this at certain times, like the, there's this kind of early notion of like timestamping, the creation of a thing of a document, like lives off chain. I made this, it's here. I'm, you know, it's a proof of existence. And there's a lot of projects on Bitcoin that, you know, we're kind of professionalizing that and a lot of like art, artistic experiments, like open timestamps. It was like a more kind of technical professional version, but there's a bunch of things that, that people are just like, Oh, I made this document. I'm going to timestamp it. And if you squint at it, like kind of looks like an NFT, you know, it's like, Oh, there's an image that I've timestamped at whatever block height on the Bitcoin blockchain. But the spirit of the thing is like, not really an NFT, you know, it's like the, the primacy of like the off chain object or like the, the object lives off chain. You've, you've just kind of like, you've just proved that it exists on chain.

Nicholas: It doesn't have transferability properties, for example.

Sam Hart: Not even transferability. It's, it's, it's really about like where the art lives, like from a kind of spiritual standpoint, you know, is it a document that you've just like proven exists or is it like a thin thing that lives on chain? You know, it's like its primary existence is like the on chain representation. Paul, maybe you can explain this better than I can, but.

Paul Seidler: Yeah. I mean, I do think this is sort of a technical evolution. we've seen, right? That in the beginning, like the chain itself was pretty much used for like stamp, for timestamping for this kind of like proof of existence. Okay, I did this work. And here's sort of like a hash of like an image and then I put like the hash on chain. So I sort of like prove that this image is like was created at this and this time. And I do think like with specifically the historically was like specifically the programmability of Ethereum, like it changed towards that you can actually deploy smart contracts and you can deploy like executable like code like on chain, which then became interesting because it's like almost like opened when people were using software before to sort of create things like off chain and then sort of use the blockchain almost as a sort of, yes, almost like a time capsuling or kind of like a stamping mechanism, right? Where you're like, okay, I did, I created this program and it's sort of like had this output and then I sort of like use this output as like a stamp. It sort of changed. for me really was like how sort of ease changed the underlying technology in terms of smart contracts that you had this programmable assets and also this decentralized programs essentially, which itself could be regarded as some sort of like software art. And I do think the notion of where the art lives sort of shifted a little bit or could shift in this process. I do think historic, oh yeah, sorry Sam.

Sam Hart: I was just gonna make a historical reference also, but you go first.

Paul Seidler: And as a, what was I going to say? Oh, I was just wanted to say as a way in which software or this kind of software developed, I could really see in, I think the sort of like early experiments, which like Ria Meyer did, for example, where she did this piece, which is called, I think, token art or is it art? Which is essentially just like a contract, which the user can sort of like flip if it's art or not. It's basically just gives back a string, and the user can flip the switch essentially. And this was for me the first sort of piece where it became pretty obvious for me that or it pretty provocatively made this question of, is the contract actually the art piece itself? Is the code which is deployed on the chain actually, the piece of art and not just the visual output or not just like a link media piece. And this was actually pre-NFT, which is interesting. So if we look at the history, this was this like early experiments with almost like code as art, where sometimes I've even done pre-NFT times. And like just with the definition of NFTs, how we like using them today. So the ERC 751 definition, we became or almost the standard of how art on a blockchain should look or could look from a code perspective was defined, which I find also super interesting because, okay, there's another rabbit hole and I won't go like too long into this. But essentially, the definition of how the ERC was written was not specific for art. It was more like a broad, like non-fungible standard, which in the beginning should have been used for a lot of different things, right? Like when you look into the original proposal, it mentions also like deeds and sort of physical property and a lot of other things which we are not associating with art. So I do think when we look at this token standard, we almost like forgot sometimes that this is essentially just like a token standard in terms of like a formal definition of an asset. But it doesn't say or it largely also excludes the art piece itself in a sense that it always requests that the art piece is sort of at a URL or at an external like data source or something. So something like a little bit strange happened there in a sense that almost like a platonic duality was introduced in a way where you have the code on one side and the art piece like external to it, which I think came also into existence because the standard grew and pretty much also NFT platforms were like monopolizing the space a little bit. But I do think that's interesting to think about and also to reflect as artists who are like working in the space.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I think like I'll use myself tonight and you know some kind of small cohort like saw this transformation of like the you know kind of like an anchoring into the blockchain or and then just kind of this like evolution to the point where we kind of have this current notion of an NFT which is everyone kind of understands that the NFT like its primary existence is on chain. Even if it's an IPFS link or whatever like you would rather have the ownership of the account on the chain. that like owns a token with a completely like lost IPFS image. You know like the art that the image has lost. but like actually the more important thing is just like the assignment of the token ownership. Once you kind of like flipped into that mode where the ownership is more important on chain, I think you've kind of like become native in some way. But there's like some interesting dots along the way. So I was always like this is a bit of a random one but I was always like really so sometime in like 2000 I don't know 2015 or something. TD Bank put a small like ASCII image that's like a their logo and on like a flag in the Bitcoin op return. And it's like. I mean it is like not an artwork is a straight up like advertisement that's been like in the blockchain. But I think it's like. it's so interesting how it's kind of like somewhere in between those two in a way. Like you could say it's more native than like most NFTs and in some sense. but it's also like not 100% capturing the like. you know the art lives here thing. And one of these kind of intermediate things I would say is also this one token project that I did which this is pre ERC721 standard 2017. So the standard is being kind of like worked out and I basically used the ERC20 standard and just like manipulated that so that you could only have one token. That was literally the whole thing. It's just like okay like what if we had because it was like ICO mania at the time right. So it's like oh like what if we didn't ICO? it was just like one token instead of like a billion tokens. And that sounds like really stupid and obvious now. but it was like it actually like. in my mind like is an interesting like bridge into the ERC721 standard. in a way it kind of like captures some of the the the idea of the ERC721 even though it's like a little bit different in a way. So just kind of like tracing some of those explorations and like you know ultimate arrival at like. what we now know to be the our NFT I think is quite fascinating.

Nicholas: I see 113s in the audience and I know we've we've chatted a little bit about the what we were talking about before the kind of tyranny of standards the tyranny of 721 as the the NFT standard of record at least currently. Do you each of you ascribe greater or is there what is like? obviously the tyranny of the standard is that it limits creativity or somehow forces it into some through some toothpaste tube. Do you are there projects that resonate particularly with you in terms of being more artistic or something given the the focus on 721 being associated with its compatibility with the markets and exchange and trade. Do you give greater artistic ascribe greater artistic value to projects that are non-financial? or are they creativity the most important thing to you? what what what inspires you in blockchain art.

Paul Seidler: I mean for me it's one of the things I'm interested in or I'm I have sort of like three things which I'm sort of like currently interesting interested in. One is really like smart contracts as programs with sort of like a limited computational capacibility. And this is the idea that like smart contracts are essentially like Turing complete programs right. So they're really computer programs which run on a decentralized ledger. The problem is they have like since like gas is like has to be paid so all the computation has to be paid in gas. So there's like an economic dimension in terms of like how much you can actually compute. So in a sense a lot of this is reminiscent for me of things which happened in the 80s and 90s in the demo scene. And the demo scene was essentially a kind of scene in which people wrote like code for like really limited capacity in my limited computational possibility environment. So I think of like people writing code for like old Atari and like doing essentially 3D renderings and animations on this. And for me smart contracts have a similar sort of I would say materiality or media materiality in a sense that they're like really limited in what you can actually compute with them. And that they're like also Turing complete so you can essentially output anything you want. And I think there are a lot of or there are some artworks which like go in this direction. I mean not to chill my own work but like Trellis protocol is one of them which is a work I did which is essentially like a multiplayer or multi computational environment with computational agents in basically what is a bitmap. So it's basically people computing or people moving agents in on a bitmap. But the costs of this become like really high when the gas costs are really high. So it's really the question how much you can actually use the EBM as a computational environment for these things. But I do think there are other like really interesting approaches. One is of course, I mean there are a couple but of course like a blockchain is like one and also yeah there are like a lot of these approaches which were before I got into the space. And yeah of course Terraforms is also notable in this space which I find really interesting because it really like pushes the EBM towards sort of like its limits and generates like all of these things in different formats and then generates it in the EBM and then it has to sort of be executed in a browser somehow. But I really like this idea that smart contracts essentially can be also yeah these programs which can generate other code which then can be executed. I do think like just from the market perspective or from the side how these things are shown, it's always like limited obviously to stuff like OpenSea. So how is OpenSea parsing these things? How is OpenSea visualizing these things or other big marketplaces? And this is always like a little flaw right? So essentially since a lot of things are not defined for example how OpenSea is like parsing like metadata and things like I mean this is defined but like this was never sort of like defined like in an EIP. OpenSea just at one point was like okay this is now the metadata standard and we're going to use it. Everyone is using it now. So since all of this is not like we're not like properly thought through and kind of like a media specific way, it's sometimes like a little bit exhausting to kind of comply to OpenSea standards I would say.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Paul Seidler: This is like the one thing I'm sort of interested in which. well these are the two things because I already talked about the second thing which is also like smart contracts as multi-user systems. This is already something we see in a lot of things in which smart contracts are essentially like inherently multiplayer by design right. So you have a lot of people who can interact with contracts and through the interaction also sort of new qualities of a work can emerge. And this is something I worked a little bit with Straylight on. So with Straylight I had this almost like multiplayer game in this bitmap and new sort of like interaction models could be thought through smart contracts. I think this is generally really underexplored. I do think there are other projects which do this as well but I do still think this is something which can be looked towards.

Nicholas: It seems like there's several layers here. There's the on-chain reference to an off-chain, I mean the timestamp, a hash of something or a signature. There's static media that's generated entirely on the chain and then there's some, maybe it has some input from the chain but it's essentially generating a piece of media that then has to be interpreted by off-chain dependencies. Essentially in all cases because just to access it you need some piece of software. And then there's some level beyond of the work being the consequence of pushing further on the direction of multiplayer live VM data which is read-write influencing the experience of the thing. And then seemingly like the most Galaxy brained out is like, oh yes but all of this is just a tiny microcosm of DAP style interactions around, maybe it's too much to say, but like a productized form of art versus a conceptual art that is playing with being on-chain, being off-chain, on different infrastructures, being transgressive of the rules of the chain. Sam, it sounds like you've been doing this for a very long time. I don't know, do you have any observations about the conceptual side that I think we hear less about these days?

Sam Hart: Observations? I don't know. I guess, you know, a theme that keeps coming up is what got me pretty interested initially in intersection of art and blockchain is I have been quite fascinated of several historical examples of like exploring a new media and very simple kind of tests of like what that media is able to do and potentially like transgressions of like the preconceived notions of what the media is for. And when a new media kind of comes into existence, I think it's often quite fun and collaborative and kind of reactive when an artist community is able to kind of respond to one another in doing these tests. So that I think is still ongoing, but it has been, you know, Paul and I both saw a lot of that from very early on. I mean, I'll give you like an example. I like this project, Vanity Blocks, which maybe people have heard of. It's just like a whole Ethereum block that does nothing. And it's like, I mean, probably really annoys a lot of people, but I think it's also just quite interesting that somebody is like, okay, I'm gonna buy, I'm just gonna pause the entire digital financial industry for a second and just take this entire time segment for myself. This is my art piece right here. And even like very simple stuff like that, I find there's a nice curiosity to it that makes you kind of think twice about what the medium is.

Nicholas: Definitely. Paul, did any other conceptual works come to mind for you of things that you find admirable in this kind of blockchain experimental conceptual space?

Paul Seidler: I do. There was a piece, I forgot what the name was essentially, but someone was like trying to upload essentially a really big photo on the chain. And like multiple people had to essentially spend gas to upload specific layers of the image towards the chain. So these kind of small experiments, I think it's in the same sort of notion as Vanity Blocks, which I, by the way, find hilarious and find like really fun artwork. I completely forgot that this existed, but yeah, it's pretty fun. So I think there are a lot of this media-specific experiments which are worth looking at also not as a pure level of, okay, this is the first person who did it, but also at a level of this is fun and this is doing something really media-specific, which is interesting. Yeah.

Sam Hart: I feel like the pieces that always grab me are just like when you can tell that the artist is curious and having a great time just digging into whatever little niche thing. I think that when you see it, it comes through in the work.

Nicholas: So maybe we can break down this idea of blockchain as an artistic medium, or the title of your talk, Paul, was on smart contracts as a medium. But even maybe beyond smart contracts, blockchain itself, because I think we can kind of traverse different chains that maybe don't have smart contracts in the same way. What are the affordances that make this? I mean, there's a contrarian streak in me that wants to say something like, Yuga Labs is art. It's just a different, it's more putting focus on the social market speculative narrative fiction part of the art work, rather than the, I mean, obviously, rather than the quality of the smart contracts. What are the affordances that you think are intrinsic to blockchain that are interesting to push on? We've talked about a few of them. But are there, do they have overlap with the sort of political, geopolitical ones like trustless ledger? Some of the things that are smart contract art that we talked about are interesting because they're on smart contracts, but they could also be interesting just as digital art, software art, without necessarily that blockchain underpinning. So what is it about blockchains that are, allows them to occupy a different space than just multiplayer server based software?

Paul Seidler: I think one of the main points I would put there is that smart contracts can be used or like, I mean, this is more like a smart contracting. I mean, maybe also blockchain thing, but probably more smart contracting that they can be really used as defining and automating sort of economic flows. And that means that it gives artists the ability to essentially direct like royalties, but also direct like capital in certain ways. And it also gives the rise, which for example, I haven't seen yet to the question of how artists provide liquidity, how artists like measure their own value of their own work in a market. And I think even like artists could to a certain degree, and this is something I'm currently working on. And I will probably tell a little bit more when it's more finished. But really the question of how is the piece of art defining itself and defining its own price compared to other things, right? I mean, since we have now also things like NFT liquidity, and liquidity pools in the NFT space, there's really the question of how does the artwork sort of defines its own price? How is the liquidity of a collection defined? And I do think these are questions which in a traditional art market, the artists were kept away from. Because of galleries, because of collectors, the artists were never able to even think about or conceptualize these things because the ways in which distribution were working in the traditional art market was really detached from the art piece itself. And even like how value or like how the value of an art piece... I mean, obviously, artists had to think of... thought of economically in a sense that they have to think about the production of an artwork and then how much they can sell this artwork and what they're... like, essentially how much money they can make with this. But all the other things, all the distribution, all the... Who is buying the piece actually? How is this piece then traded? All of these things were essentially not in the domain of the art or in the sort of... Yeah. Basically, in the responsibility of the artist. And...

Sam Hart: I was just gonna say, I could not agree more. But go off, Paul, please.

Nicholas: What you're saying is reminding me of that Simon de la Riviere project, Neolastics, like bonding, putting bonding curves as a part of the artwork's issuance scheme,

Sam Hart: as

Nicholas: a way of inserting, I mean, really taking control of the market dynamics around the issuance or collecting of

Sam Hart: an artwork

Nicholas: away from having a standardized marketplace, which is also something even like even Punx has its own marketplace. that aside from, I guess, that bug that still continues to plague it was a kind of artist taking over control of the trading of their token at that point, pre-721, of course.

Sam Hart: Yeah. So, Paul and I both have a love of conceptual artists who have interfaced with financialization or art economies in some way. But there's always a little bit of frustration that the way that these artistic gestures are made is like... I mean, it's just that. It's a gesture. There is a... it's kind of pointing to an economic reality, but not fully engaging in it.

Nicholas: And this is like all the installation work about the value or the virtue of recycling.

Sam Hart: I mean, I think our, Paul and I, our like favorite one is this like, this PS1 piece where you're gonna be able to tell this is better than I can, but I absolutely love this piece. Basically, like an artist takes out a loan in order to trade in the stock market.

Nicholas: Yes, they require... Is this the one that I saw, Paul, in your talk? They require the gallery... they suggest the gallery do so? Or the museum?

Paul Seidler: Yeah. I mean, it was a really old piece. I forgot the... I think it was like Robert Moore, essentially, who were...

Sam Hart: That's right.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, who was asking the... I think 1969. Yeah. But pretty early, sort of like 60, 60-70, like conceptual art. And he essentially asked the, I think, Whitney Museum to give him like a loan for like, I think, 5... for like half a million, I think, to then trade in the stock market and then give them half a year, like, after half a year, the profit, essentially. And yeah, it was super, obviously, for the Whitney Museum, it was really bad because they couldn't... Like, they had problems to actually raise the money. And they were also just scared of losing all the money. Because you just give all of this money to an artist who just trades, essentially. But I think as a sort of... It's kind of like a post-conceptual piece in a sense that it's actually money involved. It's not like you go to a wall and do something. It's literally like you put like 500,000 on a stock market, and you'll see what's happening. And this idea of artists working directly with economic systems, I found always intriguing. And I find always something which like blockchain is for me, almost the perfect medium to work with this.

Sam Hart: And I guess I would just add that the contemporary trend is to kind of go more and more into this critique mode and fully gesture mode. I would critique of capitalism as the defining element of all contemporary art right now. But the fine art industry is one of the most capitalistic industries, financialized industries there is. And there's just this weird kind of juxtaposition between critique and engagement that never fully lands. And I don't know, just one of the things I kind of appreciate about blockchain artwork, NFT is just like, it is a market. It is a liquid market. You can design market mechanisms as artworks that create real economies for artists or for whoever. There's no dissociative barrier between the artwork and financial reality. They're completely unified.

Nicholas: There's no airbag. It's the same thing. So I'm interested in this because you work on the infrastructure side now, primarily from what I understood of your Twitter bio. And it seems related in the way that Doge is a joke, but it's also a real, it has a real market cap. It has a real price. This conceptual art crossing the boundary into not only being meaningful in the real world, but playing with these questions of abstraction and value and effect on the physical world. But it seems to me that the, do you draw a line between, I'm not really interested in definition personally, but it does seem like there are some things that we call art and some things that we don't. But I mean, obviously, whatever, I don't know, Elon is doing, one person is not running six companies. So it's a kind of, performative mascot role, at the same time with real power involved. How do you think about the difference between the work that you've done that you brand more as art and the stuff that you do that's more infrastructural? Or do you draw a line between the two?

Sam Hart: Yeah, that's a great question. I feel like you've hit on a kind of important internal conflict that I have. I don't know.

Nicholas: This can become a therapy session soon.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I mean, for context, my day job is doing basically design of block space markets, the lowest level, like chain infrastructure.

Nicholas: And these are like fee markets for trading block space?

Sam Hart: Yeah, fee markets. I've worked a bunch on like, literally like the node infrastructure. The ecosystem I work in is Cosmos. And it's just like the design of the Cosmos, like blockchain template system. So, you know, know a lot about the internals of how to build blockchain. I have also done a bunch of stuff on the kind of like primary token in the Cosmos ecosystem, Atom. So, Atom was basically like a multi-billion dollar, you know, token. And I did a big proposal to like, overhaul the whole monetary policy, like the entire like, business model and like purpose of the blockchain, which went kind of okay. But I don't know.

Nicholas: Can you give a high level of what you did to Atom or what you proposed to do to Atom?

Sam Hart: Well, I mean, what I actually did was write a paper, but what I proposed was...

Nicholas: So it was conceptual art?

Sam Hart: Yeah. I mean, basically, like what I proposed was, you know, completely changing the supply schedule, the assurance, the primary like purpose of the token, which, I mean, it really has no purpose right now. It's kind of a meme coin. But the purpose I was kind of proposing was effectively like catalyzing this kind of multi-chain interconnected economy by deploying capital, like it had a kind of mechanism for deploying capital and then kind of capturing some of the MEV that is generated from that economy.

Nicholas: When you say deploying capital, deploying capital to where?

Sam Hart: Deploying capital to other Cosmos chains. I could get very in the weeds with this. I mean, if you're interested, just like Google like Atom 2.0 white paper and you can check it out. But, you know, long and short of it is like, it definitely felt like conceptual art at times. And I don't know. I think that's like one of the cool things about the industry is like, we are just making virtual sculptures, you know, it's like the engineering a new chain in some ways is like not all that different than like creating a piece of conceptual art. It's kind of like framing and audience and how you're approaching like the, I don't know, the kind of like intent of the work. So I kind of enjoy that, that like blurring of line between, you know, work and play, like art and utility.

Paul Seidler: Maybe to add to this, because I think this is fits like really well with a lot of post-conceptual work of like the 70s and 60s, where people really talked about dealing with real societal systems and seeking almost to distinct this or seeking to subvert the distinction between art and life. And I think this is something which I'm always completely fascinated by. if art pieces become so ubiquitous that they are barely understandable anymore as art pieces. I think this is sort of like the, this is for me sort of like the end game of what great art can do, right? It becomes so much embedded into like actual societal or economic or ecological other systems, that it makes sense and that it doesn't necessarily have to be read almost as an art piece but can also be read as actually valuable infrastructure or other interesting things, basically just like manifest what you want to see in a world as like extended art practice.

Nicholas: Right. And somewhere along the continuum of directly usable by others, either it's more on the end of inspiring or on the end of being actually usable infrastructure of some kind.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I feel like I'm so far on that end right now that I like kind of want to do like very aesthetic artwork these days. Like, you know, in the weeds of like, you know, highly like competitive financial markets. I'm like, yeah, I could maybe make like a pretty picture. Like, I feel like at some point it comes back around and you're like, I would love to just make a fully aesthetic, like beautiful object.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, I think the position we're kind of advocating for at the moment is also sort of the kind of really kind of extreme position of an artist who almost like doesn't do art anymore. So yeah, I think like if we would sort of talk to like other artists, or I know at least some artists from like my friend's circle who would say, okay, this is completely this is bullshit, like art has to be working in sort of like an aesthetic sense and it has to be communicable and it has to sort of communicate or be a sensual and sort of or aesthetic experience. So yeah, we're talking really galaxy brain at the moment.

Sam Hart: Yeah, at a certain point, you've just sold out.

Nicholas: Well, I wonder, or is it they who have sold out? If we're able to talk about to critique 721, surely they should be critiquing the formal requirements of 20th century art that they're imposing. But I agree that things become a bit esoteric and so abstract that you maybe don't actually do anything. Maybe the danger of or that just anything becomes justified as, you know, I don't know if there's some kind of value associated with the tag art. It probably isn't the kind of stuff that would just as easily succeed under much more brutal, I don't know, purely financial constraints without needing that tag. It does seem like there's something that needs to elevate. But at the same time, I mean, you can have an artistic experience that is shared with nobody. And it's up to you. I spent some time in grad school around people who were in textiles art. And I it sort of forced me. I was more interested in technology related art, sort of speculative, whatever this domain is we're talking about. And I called it like performance art around network organisms. But it pushed me to think that I really, really preferred art that was either aesthetically innovative, personal, in some way revealing in some way, or sort of politically progressive in some way, I found were kind of the three things that I found common across the art that I admired. But we are, even in this whole conversation in a kind of wiggish, you know, people, including artists ought to do something useful kind of logic.

Sam Hart: I mean, I definitely won't advocate for that. That position fully. I think it's there's a strain of art that I really enjoy. that does that. I'm super into this, like, late 60s, early 70s, artist, Stephen Willits, who does a lot of like, socially engaged art. And, you know, it's like going into housing projects and like pulling people on their like, interpersonal relationships. It's like, pretty esoteric stuff, but I find it like super fascinating. But I also, I don't know, really like various aesthetic works that are just kind of like, just striking. I don't know, there's just something there. Definitely.

Nicholas: I include that in the first one that I mentioned, the sort of aesthetically interesting or innovative or somehow, yeah, striking, I guess is a good word for it. The reason I put some tilt on innovative is that I think any aesthetic, if repeated sufficiently frequently, sort of loses its effect on the viewer. Obviously, I'm using language of visual art, but not strictly any motif repeated often enough, I think would kind of lose its effect on me. So I do find myself drawn to things that sort of surprised me a little bit in their aesthetics or pleasing. But if I was shown that pleasing thing, I don't know, just the industrialization of some aesthetics or the any interesting enough aesthetic becomes sort of co-opted pretty quickly.

Paul Seidler: I think the term of effect is a super interesting notion. in terms of that, for me, it's really hard to judge between like, this is a good artwork, this is no artwork, this is a bad artwork. So for me, it's almost like a gradual sort of gradient of effect, right? Like how much does this artwork affect me? How much does this artwork affect my sort of like ideas? And how much does it also affect sort of the economic, social, and probably ecological environment it's embedded in? And if the effect is high, then the artwork might be interesting. I'm not sure if it might be good, but it might be like, at least like, worth my time to look into it and to see what it does and how it works and these things. So, yeah, for me, like the notion of effect is really, really central to the discussion.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I would agree. I think there's a, you know, a lot of work is like, the intent of the artist is crucial to how it kind of operates as a work. Other times, it's kind of like an accidental work and it's like the audience, the audience is kind of making it together. You know, they're the ones who have kind of stumbled on some form of meaning that, you know, together. I think both of those are valid.

Nicholas: Do you think it matters that the people who have gathered around, like, how to put it, the history of creation, especially blockchain creation, is simultaneously, at least a lot of the stuff, the chains that are still around, the data is available, the information is clear, or accessible on some level. And yet, first, and the kind of naivest form of art history about blockchain is unevenly mobilized and seemingly primarily for financial cults, does it become propagated fully? I don't feel like people who are collecting NFTs are particularly aware of what the first things to achieve different things are. The notion that this is even important is obviously kind of a speculative, even intellectually speculative in like an academic sense that who cares who came up with something first once we know it, if it is some kind of scientific truth. But in NFTs and this art space, it is the knowledge of the history is unevenly distributed. And when it is more popular, it does seem to have some kind of like. what was the first, but it's what counts is whether it was done on Ethereum or not, because that's the easiest to trade. Do you think about the frame of reference of people who are paying attention to the scene? Does it matter to you if things are forgotten?

Paul Seidler: I think the notion of first for me is really, or becomes more problematic, sort of with time in a sense that I have a feeling. Yeah, like it's, I would not say, oh, this is the first artwork, we're just doing this or that, because essentially, you could never be sort of like. sure, like, how do you like, even if I would say, okay, like, from my understanding, like Straylight is sort of like, or is probably one of the first like NFTs, which is like touring complete in a sense that it can be programmed, it's programmable via the contract itself. But I'm not sure if I would advertise the artwork was this because I'm, I literally can verify this. It's like just a claim I essentially made was of like knowing the history of a lot of other artworks. And the space is so sort of diverse. And like also multifaceted that I always think people should use the notion of first with some more caution than it's used at the moment, because often this is the case that people just are not Googling stuff, essentially.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I have had waves of frustration about this, I guess. Like, I'm mostly appeased with it now. Like, there's a lot of projects on Bitcoin, they're just like not registered. And I don't know, the thing that like, and obviously, it's like, so kind of closely coupled to financial markets, and it's so kind of serializable, because it's a blockchain, right? It's like, I've timestamped this, like, I, you know, I can verify that it's a first, even though there are, it's very hard to kind of like, scan the entire blockchain, like understand what prior works were, because you really need to kind of like, engage in like, what the execution of that smart contract was, and what the context that it was deployed in.

Nicholas: And also this off chain context.

Sam Hart: I don't know, the thing that like, I actually care about is this like, media exploration trajectory, which is, I think, is the historical narrative that is going to be lasting. Like, how did we arrive at the NFT as a media format? There were many other alternative paths there that were not taken. There's a whole bunch of really cool smart contract artwork that no one knows about, because it just like, is not in the NFT format. But there's something about the kind of like, object nature of an NFT that I think like, makes it important and, and like, transmissible and, and like, culturally legible. So yeah, that, I think it's like, important to understand like, why there's some aggregation around that format. And, you know, and just staying kind of like, interested in some of those alternatives that could have been and may still take hold at some point. I mean, the RIA piece that Paul mentioned is art, one of the greatest blockchain artworks I've ever encountered, and it's not an NFT. And that's kind of what makes it so cool, right? Like, it, it's just a smart contract that you poke.

Nicholas: And like, you could literally... Flip the balloon.

Sam Hart: Yeah, exactly. Like, permissionless switch where you can make something an artwork or not. So there's a kind of vast area of exploration that's like, that people are not engaging in right now. And I would say that Paul and I both went through this process, like most, the stuff we were making prior to, I don't know, 2016 or 2019, was like, mostly not NFTs. And we kind of like, went through this process of like, you know, like, backing into an NFT format by like, modifying the NFT standard. It's like, okay, okay, we're like, we can, we can make NFTs cool, because they kind of suck, as, as they're currently conceived. But like, we can, we can program more into this and make it into, you know, use the legible format that people get and like, and put what's cool in, into the NFT.

Nicholas: What are, maybe it would be fun to get specific, like, what are some of the limitations that are, you've enjoyed expanding upon? Like, obviously, token URI as the kind of interface is one of the limitations imposed by 721. Token ID. What are some of the things that you want to put in there? I mean, it seems like a productive constraint in a way just to try to fight. it is a productive constraint for creativity.

Sam Hart: Absolutely.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, no, totally. I think, I think like one of the first kind of explorations was this, specifically with the token URI we did was TerraZero, which is an art collective I'm also part of. And this was essentially a project in which we binded essentially the life data of, like the life image data of a flower to an NFT, which to a ERC721, and then like changing the metadata constantly, essentially. Right. So this was in 2018, where we were like interested, okay, what actually happens? Okay, this token format is defined like it is now. But really, what happens if we are constantly like changing the metadata? So it becomes essentially life, it becomes something which lives. And I think a lot of the, a lot of other works also were interested, which came later from different artists were really interested in the question how you can make something which is not static, but something which might be reactive, and which might be more like a website and less an image, I would say.

Sam Hart: Yeah, so there's a couple works that. so one of the things, one of the reasons that NFTs took off, in my opinion, is like, they are object-like, and they are ownable. And so you can generate, you can create a market around them. And there's a bunch of works that like, take the NFT standard, they kind of like, poke fun at that, at those elements. So TheraFriends life forms work is a great example, but it is not ownable in the same way. You, the work is destroyed. If you hold on to it, you need to pass it along to somebody else in order to keep the life form alive. Similarly, I worked on this project, Kudzu, that I love that project. It's a good project. Burak in the audience also did this incredible mapping of the project. But anyway, the project it modifies the transfer function in the NFT standard, which you can do. It is that that's within the spec. And it makes it so that you can't actually transfer it, you can only clone it effectively. So that means that the object that you have can't really be sold in the same way. It can only be kind of like, cloned for some value, you know, exchange value. So both of those are kind of like subversions of like the ownership model. Like you, you don't have the same objectness or kind of ownability. And there's a whole host of like similar works that, that, you know, really kind of dig into like what makes the NFT standard like what it is today and just kind of degrades that element specifically, which I quite enjoy.

Nicholas: It is great. It reminds me of, there was like a Myspace. Is it a Trojan? I don't know what it is, the kind that where it replicates itself across people's wallets or across people's top eight friends or whatever. That's a great project, though.

Sam Hart: Yeah, there's a whole bunch of like viral, there's like the email chains and like the I love you virus. And like, there's a whole fun history of viral artworks that I.

Nicholas: Yeah, absolutely. There's so much so much interesting things. One thing that we haven't talked about is kind of the artist as a cross chain. Like almost the art, you know, the artist transcending the works like so many people are, I feel constrained to a specific chain or a specific, you know, like I do ERC, I do one of ones on Ethereum or, and sometimes people will traverse, but it feels to me like the. if the art is a medium, then, you know, we need to anticipate artists moving in between variations of that medium and onto and into completely different mediums. You do see this, of course, there's people who are even traditional NFT artists who are putting out prints of things. As we got remnants here, for example. But yeah, are there are there artists that you look up to, maybe even ones that you've worked with or or people who are working in this way across the potential variations on this medium?

Paul Seidler: I mean, I can answer this not probably not the way it the question is intended. But some of the some of the things I find still super interesting in the specifically the Ethereum space is really the notion of like protocols, right? The idea that the artist is not designing like a piece, but rather a sort of like system of interaction in which people can like take different roles. And this thing becomes almost, yeah, an economic or also like an aesthetic system in which basically, which is bigger than just the individual parts. So which is bigger than, for example, just the whatever the building parts of it are like bigger than just the NFTs or bigger than just the ERC20s or something, but rather like defining sort of the rules of the interactions between like agents in the system. And I'm more inspired actually by things that are coming from like a DeFi or like an economic side. If you look, for example, at things like the stablecoin Rai, for example, which is sort of like a trustless stablecoin, and which is essentially not governed and is essentially just a protocol which is adjusting itself almost autonomously towards certain like price actions. And I find things like this super interesting because they are have still this notion of smart contracts as almost autonomous programs or as programs which have certain rule sets encoded in them, which define the interactions of all the participants.

Nicholas: Yeah, definitely. I feel the same way about protocols or even the base chains are works of art, the white papers and everything and the implementations too.

Sam Hart: Yeah, I definitely resonate with me. I kind of see base layer protocols as social sculptures and in some sense, and reading them as such, I think is probably productive for blockchain art. I would love to see more people just kind of like naming protocols as art. I think the party DAO is a good example. And I know John who runs it quite well. I think that is like an art object in itself. The protocol is like a collaborative exercise. And there are many, many more such examples. And we have the capacity to just name those as artworks. And I guess one thing that is a little bit frustrating about NFTs is that it's like, it limits the imagination a bit. And it's very kind of like image oriented oftentimes. So I do appreciate when the format is broken or just other phenomena are kind of named as art.

Nicholas: Definitely. But before we return to that, I have to pay the bills and read the ad. I want to thank today RainbowKit for sponsoring this episode of Web3 Galaxy Brain. RainbowKit is the best way to connect a wallet in your Web3 project. It's built for developers and designed for everyone. And you can try it at RainbowKit.com. Thanks to RainbowKit. Paul, you were going to say something about NFTs. constraining the imagination?

Paul Seidler: Yes. I think I forgot my main point I wanted to make. So yeah.

Nicholas: Protocols as art projects, maybe?

Sam Hart: What are you gonna make the next Rai, Paul?

Paul Seidler: Yeah, that's sort of the plan. That's like my next project, essentially making Rai. Making Rai but make it art. That's my next pitch. I do think there is, for me, a sort of almost misunderstanding. or I think Sam, this is what you described as sort of like frustrations, NFTs, is that from a technical sense, it's almost like block or smart contracts or the EVM or this kind of notion of? we can build these programs which can move assets, gave artists the ability to really think of value of what kind of economies they want to build or in what kind of way they want to be included in economies. But with the NFT standard, it almost felt that in the sense artists were like, okay, please do this digital object and that's it. It's almost like artists could be their own galleries, artists could be their own distribution mechanisms, etc. But in the end, the format which was then created was essentially restricting them again from doing this. So yeah, this is for me one of the sort of misunderstandings of how artists use NFTs as sort of a medium.

Sam Hart: Yeah. And it makes total sense in retrospect that these are very addressable art objects in NFT. I think Paul and I both just happened to really appreciate more relational artworks that kind of come about as the kind of confluence of different actors engaging with one another. So I don't know, part of it's probably just an aesthetic preference. But NFTs do replicate in many ways the art markets and they're tradable objects that can be priced and I don't know, valued relative to one another.

Nicholas: Yeah, really a fungible token, a meme coin is much more crypto native feeling, less a parallel to some existing physicalized object format, at least in the current naive version of NFTs, of course, anything is possible. But in the version that's popular on OpenSea.

Sam Hart: More meme tokens as artworks. I support it.

Paul Seidler: I think there is something really interesting about the aesthetic dimensions of meme coins or in the reality that people experience these things through looking at graphs and they have really like, basically looking at websites and uni pool, sort of a uni swap pools in which they see like liquidity and these things. So like the aesthetic dimension of this is also like really crypto native in the sense that it's really close to obviously like trading crypto. And yeah, it feels like something really like native to the space.

Sam Hart: Totally. I had this idea at one point of like, air dropping NFTs or like art objects to like the, you know, to the uni swap contract or something like that, because only because like, you know, that like, so many people are going to look at that code. And so just the, it's just like a, an artistic venue that is like, totally untapped and, and completely orthogonal to like any traditional art audience. Like it's all, you know, traders or people who are just like obsessing over the, the uni swap code base, but you, you can just like reappropriate that domain as like a aesthetic venue.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, no, like uni swap pools as like multiplayer games, essentially.

Sam Hart: It'd be fun to, I mean, you're kind of getting at this with the, the Rai analogy, but it'd be fun to do a similar kind of like subversion of the ERC20 standard as a kind of art object. I mean, it just seems like where you're kind of going with, with whatever you're doing, Paul, but I think there's a lot that can be played with there. Obviously there's rebasing tokens and like very interesting experiments that have been run, but like not, not so many kind of like purely like artistic experiments in the ERC20 domain, much less explored than, than NFTs for sure.

Paul Seidler: Yeah. On the other side, also NFTs are getting now, like basically NFTs getting a second layer of financialization at the moment through like liquidity pools and through essentially what are sort of like uni swap pools, but for NFTs. So I think there's also interesting opportunities or interesting points there, which, yeah, I'm sort of like exploring at the, at the moment.

Nicholas: Also all the, all the addition meta has really made fungible. I don't know, they are fungibles with pictures, with one picture.

Sam Hart: Yeah. I, Barak's in the audience here. I, and who's been playing with kind of provenance and, and the kind of relationality of, of the, the NFT market. I, a lending protocol as a, as an artwork would be pretty fucking cool. I think there's. Okay.

Paul Seidler: Okay. Okay. Okay. Sam, Sam, you have to like stop brainstorming now, because otherwise you're just like going to end up with the artwork I'm working on.

Sam Hart: So cool. We'll have to chat about it.

Nicholas: There is something very pure about the meme coin or just the fungible as you were saying, Paul, that you're looking at it through a variety of interfaces rather than it having a canonical, even image at all, except for, you know, symbol, a name. And that the, because I think a big reason that the NFT, Ethereum NFT clicked for people in 2021 was because it allows you to, if you're a social media influencer, you can continue to mobilize the following that you have in existing spaces, web2 connections, but then sell using the, one of the X factors of the NFT format being its transferability and the ease with which you can monetize it in a primary sale. And then also even at that point in time, especially in secondaries, versus like the object worked better in that era because it, when the collection looked all the same, it is important that the collection be identifiable and something that can be cited easily from the social layer off chain that legitimizes that work. Whereas the meme coin has this even more, I don't know, network spirituality, shall we say, of being kind of faceless, but still interacting with the social layer that legitimizes it, but less maybe associated with a specific individual. Or at least when I think of the big coins that they're not, even Bitcoin, it's not about Satoshi, it's about something more diffuse.

Sam Hart: Yeah. I would say that the meme coin in some way deprivileges the creator, the artist. It's a cultural phenomenon that, I don't know, my theory of change in terms of how these things come into existence is, it's all a kind of statistical game. There's thousands and thousands of meme coins that have never made it. And the global audience somehow finds some focal point together that they then ordain to be the one. It's more of this numbers game thing than a specific artistic gesture that's made. It's like an emergent phenomenon. And I think that that's, yeah, it does feel different.

Nicholas: It really directly engages the speculative memetic potential of, not even speculation, I mean, speculation is obviously a core part of it, but just the, there is something purely addressing the decentralized secure ledger, multiplied by memes in a meme coin. But one thing that's interesting in the most recent round that has kind of changed in my thinking is, it feels like it's less about, there was a period of time in 2021 where people were talking about social tokens and the kind of form that was taking, which didn't work, but the form was taking was individuals associated with tokens, like fungibles. But even in the NFT world, we've seen individuals or groups issuing multiple collections or having interaction between different skews that they bring out. And I think in the most recent round of meme coins, what's changed in my thinking is the idea that maybe some of these things, like the way that something will happen in the news, and then a stock with a similar ticker symbol will become popular for a few days or something, and maybe has some residual effects off the back of the accidental memetic contamination of a collision in the namespace of ticker symbols. And I think the same thing, like it's not the first Pepe, the one that popped up recently, it's a recent ERC20 called Pepe, but there was a prior one. So then there's the, I don't know, Buster Keaton falling down a hill of, well, maybe the old one is the legitimate one. Or I think if people continue putting out these meme coins, it really essentially just creating fungibles for concepts. It's possible that as those concepts come up in social media and whatever follows it, that those tokens could still have some relevance. You know, like maybe the true playing out of social tokens is just a fungible for every concept, maybe even multiple for popular concepts. And the relationship between those meme coins and the popularity of those concepts in daily discourse is hard to explain, but there is some connection. And maybe the ones that get listed on Chinese centralized exchanges have more weight in the global mix of which version of Doge we care about. But it does seem like some evolution away from the artist is the important part and towards maybe just having access to fungible representations of these things with weird tokenomics and distribution schemes.

Sam Hart: I mean, putting it into artistic terms, it's the privileging of the audience. And it's kind of like an acknowledgement that the art object is unimportant. It has no relevance. The previous epic coin is just not the one that everybody's looking at together. The importance is that everyone is looking at it together. And the fact that it can hold collective attention is the thing that people are seeking.

Paul Seidler: I totally agree. I think there is also something maybe a little bit grim about this if you project this as the future of art in the sense that the art object itself is just becoming a fungible, tradable object, which basically derives all its identity from a second social layer of mimetic environment. I do think this is super fun. This is interesting as an experiment, but I'm also not sure how long this will generate interesting or new aesthetic situations or new forms of engagement or interaction. I do think when we see probably the 100th meme coin, we're not as interested in it anymore as an artistic practice as probably the first or the second one.

Sam Hart: But what if the 100th meme coin becomes the true decentralized stablecoin that we're all after? We harness this speculative potential for good. Transforms into a CPI backed public good.

Nicholas: Maybe we've deviated from art a little bit. because I think of this, I agree with you that obviously people will lose interest in this, but I think the habit of checking Uniswap for whatever your favorite DEX or even centralized exchange for just searching meme, like short, less than six characters or less memes. I think that could continue. But I think maybe it's the evolution of social media. It's more like betting. It's like sports betting for like just in time sports betting for trending like Twitter trending rather than the future of all art. It's more allowing for a speculative market over people's desire to have speculation, fantasy sports and real profit and loss on top of memes. I could see it continuing, but I agree with you. It does get tired pretty quickly if there's not much more to it. Did anyone from the audience want to come up and pitch in here? Throw out an idea, ask a question, say something interesting?

Sam Hart: Yeah, come up. Come say hey. Or don't. That's fine.

Nicholas: One other thing that's obviously been on my radar and I'm sure yours too is the large language model explosion. I don't know. Do you have any thoughts about that? Or do you keep your attention strictly focused on blockchain matters as it relates to art or even like this kind of intersection of programmatic creativity between building infrastructure, building art? Does it have any impact on you?

Sam Hart: Why you gotta go there?

Nicholas: Have you played with it? Have you played with chatGPT?

Sam Hart: Yeah, I mean, it's very impressive. I mean, clearly a breakthrough.

Nicholas: I'm feeling eye roll.

Sam Hart: Well, I just want to be brutally honest. I am less informed about AI. I'm not the person to ask this question.

Nicholas: Same for you, Paul.

Paul Seidler: Sorry, I was gone for two minutes because my Bluetooth headphones were kind of shutting down. We're talking about AI, I guess.

Nicholas: If that's affected your perspective on blockchain art or art in general, if it has any influence. Or your art creation yourself.

Paul Seidler: I do think as a sort of tool for helping to write code or helping to write documentation, super valuable. I'm sometimes a little bit critical towards AI mystification, in a sense of an AI wrote all of this and an AI created this and stuff like this because I think a lot of the time this is sort of used as almost like smoke and mirror thing. But as a tool, I think it's super interesting and valuable.

Sam Hart: It's an extremely powerful tool for generating more meme coins, which is what we all want in the world.

Nicholas: I'm curious because we talked a little bit at the beginning about, you said open timestamps, you mentioned. It does seem like there's some... The ability to zoom in, like summarization and expansion as a slider that's freely available now, but perturbingly not deterministic in what it outputs. It seems to be some kind of shift in what's available as a cheap primitive. And will only get better in terms of how impressive its outputs are. So I wonder if there's any connection to this idea of off-chain data, like say, verifying some whatever deed for your house or you take the hash of a picture of a painting and put it on as IPFS or as just a proof that something happened. I wonder if there's any connection between that and this ability to essentially render, but using a not exactly deterministic machine. If that relates to this gas constraint of being on-chain, at least in the EVM world.

Sam Hart: I don't know if I'm... I think I'm not answering your question, but I will say that one thing that I am kind of interested in with AI is how it's going to kind of affect the domain of intellectual property and the artistic gesture or like a craft, as well as like the just like kind of commodification of a lot of what we kind of considered to be skill-based rendering of some kind. So I think that will absolutely be a critical intersection between art and blockchain, just because it's going to kind of like change markets and change kind of the... They both have like a significant impact on intellectual property or how we kind of conceive of ownership of ideas. So I don't have like a strong opinion on where that's going, but I you know, at least like pattern matching that they're both kind of augmenting that space.

Paul Seidler: I have the feeling in terms of like technicality or like blockchains as a sort of like technical medium, like a lot of the infrastructure of AI or what AI is actually needed to... What AI actually needs to sort of like does a job is essentially really the opposite almost, right? Like blockchain is like really limited computational or like Ethereum is like really limited computational environment with like barely any sort of like data storage as like just like informational medium. Why all of the kind of like big AI services which are like popping up now are essentially quite the opposite, right? They're like centralized, almost like farms of computational power in which like huge amounts of data get like stored and computed. So yeah, quite interesting that both of these technologies are so dominant, but they're quite almost like the opposite in a sense.

Nicholas: Yeah, we seem to have some complementary properties to pair them. Do you think maybe if we don't have strong thoughts on AI and blockchain art, or strong opinions, I should say, do you think is WorldCoin where we're headed? I'm curious what Sam, what you think about this in terms of your protocol development work, especially?

Sam Hart: Well, they tried to hire me early on and I was like, fuck no, this is so dystopian. Not a WorldCoin fan. I mean, maybe it's where we're going, but damn, that would be dark.

Nicholas: Well, it does seem like in the environment of cheap fakes, that identity becomes all the more important. Right now, people use credit cards and passports, and sometimes driver's licenses to do this kind of stuff, credit scores, which maybe are sufficient and emanate from the institutions that care about these things in the first place. But it does make me wonder, there does seem to be some kind of manifest destiny forming around WorldCoin. I verify that I'm a human on Twitter by paying them with a credit card and essentially, they're outsourcing the KYC to Visa MasterCard. It seems like something here is happening.

Sam Hart: I mean, I'm never registering for a WorldCoin address. I'm sure there's a market for that. I am sad that that exists. The identity standard that I want to see in the world is fully private, except to those with whom you have consented to have personal relationships and connections with, basically like a private web of trust. This does not exist yet. But I mean, kind of alpha, this is some stuff that I'm trying to work on. I don't know how much traction that kind of universe is going to get, but I think that's what I would like to see in the world.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, I think there are alternatives or there are like different ideas how identity can be solved on a decentralized ledger or in distributed systems. So I think, I really hope you don't have to look into the orb and get your routine scanned. So there are people working on this from different privacy, adjacent technical solutions. There is NIM, which is working on mixed nets and they're trying to integrate also some sort of identity there. There is like Circles, which is now also working on some sort of identity protocol solution. And there is... Yeah, so there are other solutions. I think there's DarkFi, which I think is not specifically focused on identity, but rather on anonymity. And these are more the ideas or the perspectives, I hope, which will counter the eye scanning orb.

Nicholas: Yeah, I tend to agree. Although it does seem like I'm already, I was sort of from birth, opted in to a bunch of systems that already do pretty much everything that WorldCoin does. I certainly submit to them every time I cross the border into the US. They scanned my fingerprints the other day, which is pretty close. I was in Hong Kong and they are installing, they're testing subway turnstiles that have exclusively face ID, but just camera, not three-dimensional. So it does feel like I'm a little, like inevitably being opted into these biometric schemes for identity. But I can see why people are critical of WorldCoin too. I'm definitely worried about it.

Sam Hart: My battery is going to die and I also need to go to sleep relatively soon. But I would to maybe pose a final question to Paul, if that's okay. Paul, I love the direction that you're going. I want to talk to you more about your lending artwork, but maybe you can be a little bit more vague and tell us a kind of general domain of relational artworks that you would to see further explored by artists? Not your upcoming project per se, but if it was to fit in a category, can you give some descriptors of some other things that might fit in that category?

Paul Seidler: Yes, sure. I think one of the things I'm really interested in at the moment is, and that sounds really broad and really weird, but essentially like central banking, right? Like monetary policy and how monetary policy is essentially shaping supply and demand of certain goods. And I do think there are experiments with the question of how you shape this in token economic systems. They're mostly not coming from arts, but rather from the DeFi space. And I do think the question of how artists engage with their own liquidity of their artwork, how they engage with their own valorization of the artwork towards markets is like a completely underexplored field. So this is something I'm looking at broadly in a sense, but I also think it's super interesting also to in general, ask these questions because we are also reliant heavily on secondary platforms where artists sell the stuff. But yeah, I don't know, artists own markets, artists own market makers, all of this is pretty underexplored. Yeah.

Sam Hart: That's great. Well, I've done a fair amount of blockchain monetary policy design, like we should collaborate sometime.

Paul Seidler: Yes. Yeah. No, I definitely will. If I have something together, I will definitely present this to you. Probably not in a public Twitter space, but...

Nicholas: I'm excited to have you guys coming and chatting about blockchain art with me. This has been a lot of fun.

Paul Seidler: Yeah, no, thanks for inviting us. It was really cool.

Sam Hart: Yeah, thanks for the invitation. This was really fun.

Nicholas: Awesome. Thank you everybody for coming through to listen. Next week, same time, same place, we'll be talking with the founders of Vanillier. So I hope you can join me for that. Thanks again, Sam. Thanks, Paul. Talk to you soon. Bye bye, everybody. Bye.

Show less

Related episodes

Podcast Thumbnail

NFT Burnout with Jiran Z, Andrew Thurman, Nodar Janashia, and Igor Yuzo

10 May 2022
Podcast Thumbnail

Rhea Myers, Blockchain Artist

12 October 2023
Podcast Thumbnail

Finiliar with Ed Fornieles, Sam Spike, and Jake Allen

23 May 2023
Smart Contracts are Art with Paul Seidler and Sam Hart