Onchain Provenance

In Interstellar, Cooper (the protagonist) jumps through time in the final tesseract scene, accessing infinite time and space. Similar to the concept of time in Interstellar, there is only one linear immutable timeline on Ethereum. Exploring and traversing this timeline will unlock understanding of user behaviors and the provenance of assets pinned on it. A source of truth. A time machine.

The concept of provenance when it comes to digital collectibles is going to have a strong impact on internet culture and social contracts within the next 10 years. As more assets move on chain in non fungible token formats (NFTs), the significance of authenticated and verifiable ownership of unique digital assets becomes acceleratingly larger. There are so many possible future cultural and emotional implications to this concept. Imagine 50 years from now being able to open a block explorer and trace back all the different possessions of your grandparents, find out who currently owns them, who previously owned them, and then try to buy them back.

This type of pinned provenance should make its way into everyday social interactions and might strengthen family ties, relationships, and interest in family history. I never met one of my grandfathers as he passed before I was born, beyond one or two grainy pictures and stories, I know nothing about him. Now imagine a world where I can open a block explorer, and just sift through his wallets that have been kept in record by family. Now I might get an idea about his taste in art, music, culture, community, games, and in a world where NFTs transcend into physical assets, I can understand more about his life journey. What real estate he owned, when, what investments did he make, what kind of cars did he buy. I can not think of any valid arguments against the benefits of such an experience. Even if the revelations are negative. Maybe he was a gambler, and shitcoined away all his savings going 50x leverage on dog coin derivatives. What matters is that we learn the intact unbiased truth.

Take this personal experience that spans a relatively short timeframe as an example.

I minted an 0N1 Force NFT in August 2021 for 0.54 eth, and flipped it a month later for 3 eth to nyla.eth. The token then changed hands ~ 12 times, and you can read between the lines to make assumptions on trends associated with the overall market sentiment and the project itself. Nyla paper handed the token 10 days later for a 0.5 eth loss and you can see the project losing momentum as the crypto markets capitulated during the second half of 2022. You see that user 0x177 used this token as collateral twice on the nftfi lending protocol, which he repaid. In what traditional finance world, can one track the provenance of an asset in a similar way? Exactly.

0N1 Force Token #7310 Transaction History - Screenshot from Once Upon Finder
0N1 Force Token #7310 Transaction History - Screenshot from Once Upon Finder

The first wave of assets represented as NFTs are digital art, pixel art, generative art, on chain art, PFPs, avatars, membership tokens, gaming items, music tokens, and LP positions. Each genres has its own community of power users and champions. Each genre has played its part in onboarding new users onto the web3 ecosystem. You can travel through time on a blockchain explorer, weaving through time-stamped transactions and looking for patterns and connections. And this is only amplified as we see more activity, more experimenting, and new variations on what a non fungible token can represent…luxury items, cars, real estate, equity, donations, and other type of alternative investments. But I also predict emergence of new variations of digital assets that can only be created with a combination of smart contracts and ingenuity.

Jack Butcher, a popular twitter influencer, recently dropped an open edition token called checks. Checks, as loot before it, is not typical art, but the genesis of an idea. Minting loot without a frontend directly on the contract via etherscan was arguably one of the most notable moments of crypto culture that transcended into mainstream media, VC pitch decks, and twitter threadoors. Loot proved that the contract itself could be the art. It drove hundreds of derivates and influenced an entire ecosystem. The influence eventually withered away, but created a moment in block time that is notable. Its provenance is immutable and should last as long as a single ethereum node is running.

First Loot Token Minters - Screenshot from Once Upon Finder
First Loot Token Minters - Screenshot from Once Upon Finder

Checks will have a similar impact. The contract is the canvas. The execution and communication is flawless. The utility will be a tiered 2 for 1 token merge and burn mechanism that creates a gamified environment for owners. Participating will become a notable moment in block time referencing a niche internet meme. The threadoors have landed, and soon you will see posts about checks and jack butcher on mainstream media.

A pessimist would argue that this is all driven by financial gain and the greater fool theory. And they would not be wrong. But in capitalist societies, this applies to all types of assets. The financialization of cryptographic assets just added a layer of gamification on top to make it fun and engaging. The greater fools are ones who do not participate.

NFTs as a format have solidified their place as an asset, grinding away through a bulls and bears, and continuously generating innovative ideas, applications, and use cases. Their most important attribute is the provenance they hold, and the second most important attribute is that this immutable provenance is composable. Think of the future implications and applications of this. Infinite. While mainstream adoption has not yet been achieved, I am confident that improvement of the underlying consumer facing infrastructure like wallets and block explorers will accelerate the process.

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