EulerBeats vs “BSCBeats” and a dash of Walter Benjamin

pixelated reproduced portrait of Walter Benjamin — this is my “original”

At the present time, the NFT ecosystem and creator economy are undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Neither NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) or the creator economy are new topics. However, when the Venn diagram between the second generation of the creators economy (if we count Paul Saffo’s initial mapping as the first one, and YouTubers and Instagram influencers would be part of the second one) and NFTs and their adjacent marketplaces, find its intersection, we see the tokenized creator economy come to the stage, take the spotlight and bloom in hundreds of different projects.

One of these projects is Euler Beats, and it has caught my attention and that of really prominent people for its depth, its artistic value, and the underlying beauty in the simplicity and richness of its concept. Euler Beats allows for the possibility to own something not only scarce but also conceptually unique. In the last 24 hours, I noticed that the project that caught my eye got “forked” to the Binance Smart Chain, and the first thing that came to mind was (sing it along) “hello Walter my old friend” and started drawing parallelisms of this event and Walter Benjamin’s theories. Let’s break it down.

Euler Beats is a thing of Beauty

Euler Beats was first announced on February 3rd, launched on February 15th, and sold out in a matter of hours. Overwhelming yet well-deserved success for the team.

Hello Walter my old friend

Useless fact: he also used to live near where I live now. Living in Berlin is really amazing (most of the time).

Anyways, back to what’s important. Arguably, Benjamin’s Magnus Opus is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. This text focuses on how the reproduction techniques of his contemporary times (he lived through the first half of the 20th Century) released the art from its bourgeois connotations, not without trade-offs:

“a reproduced image, such as a photo or film, has lost its singularity — its aura. Benjamin suggests that “from a photographic plate […] many prints can be made; [hence] the question on genuine print has no meaning.” The act of reproduction takes away from the pieces and makes it less sacred — the singularity has ceased to exist.” — (from the 2019 report I co-wrote with Stina Gustavsson and Fanny Lakoubay, There’s No Such Thing as Blockchain Art)

When I came across the Binance Smart Chain fork of Euler Beats, my mind was immediately transported back to W. Benjamin.

“BSC Beats”: ceci n’est pas Euler Beats

BinancePunks and PancakeSwap were the first projects to charge against two beloved pillars of NFTs (Cryptopunks) and DeFi (Uniswap).

PancakeSwap has somewhat evolved into a product of its own, so let’s spare the criticism, we can argue this is a decent and old fashioned fork, but Binance punks is the pixelated equivalent to a counterfeit Hermès Birkin Bag. Cryptopunks are the most valued NFT thus far in Ethereum, and the Binance Punks are just copy-paste. Larva Labs, the original developers of the Cryptopunks, have denounced:

The Binance crypto punks claim to have been created to “democratize the access” to crypto punks since the original ones were not available to everyone. But how can you democratize the access to the punks, if what matters is the irreproducible, non-fungible token, and not the visual part? Binance Punks are simply an attempt to deceive people into accessing punks. A money grab, with none of the originality of the crypto punks or their incredible snowball effect into becoming one of the most sought-after digital assets.

The Musical Beats project proposes exactly the same as Euler Beats, with none of the Euler maths magic. Their goal is to “preserve folk music”, an artificial goal probably created just to sound legit, the same modus operandi as the Binance Punks copy which goal was to grant access to punks to a wider audience.

This is not about democratization or preservation of folk music. Euler Beats is a well thought and executed concept and its value lies, not only in the fact there are only 27 tokens created in this first iteration, but in the richness of the ideas behind it. Since the inter-disciplinary Euler Beats concept is quite unique, the attempt to create a copy without them simply generates noise and an artificial illusion of the Euler Beats being less scarce than they are.

Again, from 2019’s There’s No Such Thing as Blockchain Art:

“What Walter Benjamin argued that the technological developments took away in the 1930s, has, again through technological developments, been introduced on the digital art scene. Arguably digital scarcity is securing the uniqueness of each piece — as mentioned before, its aura, therefore allowing the market to associate a value to digital pieces.”

The theory presented in the 2019 report holds true. Binance Smart Chain can copy all of the code, but none of the aurae of Euler Beats, even though a fork can be the closest one can come to the copy of the aura of an NFT. However, it can cause depreciation, and in future cases, forks of other NFT platforms can destabilize the next-gen creator economy that’s been lately flourishing.

By forking and giving people the illusion of being able to own a copy of a scarce NFT that already had an owner of the original version, sales of originals might drop. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, you can just look at what mass copying of small labels is doing to the Fashion industry. The problem with mirror replica handbags that deceive even expert eyes and impact on sales is also a good parallelism, but corporations are never good, so let’s skip that one.

Ethereum’s Liebhaberbewert is unique

“Not architecture alone but all technology is, at certain stages, evidence of a collective dream.”- from The Arcades Project by W. Benjamin

A final note on these series of unfortunate forks: Benjamin also introduces the concept of Liebhaberbewert (sentimental value) in the context of the collection of art and other objects. I would like to further transport this concept to the technology and community beyond NFTs and the new creators economy, as once again, this cannot be forked.

If you wish to read more about Benjamin, check out my favorite work of him,The Arcades Project.

If you liked this article you will love our 2019 report — There’s No Such Thing as Blockchain Art, and our most recent one, Wanderer Above The Sea Of FUD.

Blockchain and OSS fundamentals fan person and advocate. Advisor to the Board at Golem Network. Managing Director and Founder at Department of Decentralization.

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