Digital tokens and NFTs – all in the past!

Digital tokens and NFTs – all in the past!

There is only one ledger.

There is only one thing.

Digital things are from another dimension where time flows much more slowly than ours. In this alternate dimension there is identity; you can easily determine the uniqueness of something. There are no fakes. But when you project the object into our universe, it loses its individuality. One becomes many.

Consider a digital API license key. It represents a license to software. There is only one thing.

But if you take this digital asset and put it in ours world, where the representation is just a string of digital code, then it can be copied. It loses its idempotency, its identity. All forms of digital abuse stem from this breach. Copyright infringement. Illegal copies of keys. Digital theft.

If only we could use digital assets in our world without losing their individuality.

Well, maybe we do can.

In the world of the future, if we use our global blockchain ledger to enforce uniqueness, entire categories of misconduct become irrelevant. Will this work?

A picture is worth a thousand views…

An image is just a digital image. A unique arrangement of pieces. So is an API token that controls the behavior of a web application.

But one of these things, if copied, is not equal to the other.

A digital copy of a photo or film is as good as the original. Because the lens through which we experience the digital information is the same or with a lower resolution than the original. The idea of ​​resolution is important. If you’ve copied the highest resolution form of a digital asset, which is static (meaning you’ve captured every possible expression), then you have a copy that’s as good as the original.

A copy of a physical key need not be an atom-for-atom replica. It only needs to copy the original sufficiently enough to open the lock as the original does.

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A copy of a digital image only needs to be the same resolution as the digital original (negative, for those in the film industry) is as good as the original. That means it can be consumed by the viewer just as well as the original.

We say that the good is substitutable.

This leads to infringement of intellectual property rights. And this is notoriously difficult to enforce or prevent.

But just because something is difficult to enforce, or not enforced at all, does not make it de facto legal.

We just lack the tools to enforce this form of digital property theft.

A digital license key is somewhat unique in that its digital form is NOT what is important. That’s what it can do. This is like a key in a physical sense. That the shape of the key does not matter. The shape, the material, the wear… as long as it is sufficient to open a lock, it is useful as a key.

Unlike an image or medium, whose purpose is only to be consumed, a license key, like a physical key, is intended to unlock. In the real world, we have a problem where someone who steals or copies a key can gain access to what is locked just as easily as the person who rightfully owns the assets under the lock. This is unfortunate, and this is only a result of our lack of tools to enforce.

But because of this familiarity with our physical dimension, we have brought this myopic view of keys into the digital world.

We also have no way to prevent the use of a copied key versus one that is legitimately used by the owner of the property.

But in the metaverse of the future, using digital API keys that unlock functionality in applications or services… doesn’t have to be like that.

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We now have blockchain technology and, with it, the ability to distinguish copies from the original. What Bitcoin SV started1 with the ability to “detect and prevent double use” now always lets us know what was the original.

If you copy an API key today, you can steal access to applications and services. (Just think about software licenses). But the software industry has started to fight back by keeping its own records of which license keys are registered, so that the same one cannot be used twice. This works effectively because it is assumed that if the legal owner registers it first, any subsequent attempts to register it will be illegal.

But this presents a problem in that the legal owner can only register the key once. And thus the idea that a license key “per seat2” was born out of the necessity to keep the key unique. So companies added an element to make them unique… the quality of being the first to register.

But we have a better solution now. We have the blockchain. And because it guarantees that entries on its global ledger ARE guaranteed to be unique, we can thus use this tool as a medium to verify our keys.

If an API key wasn’t just entered into applications via a web form and taken as is, but then checked on the blockchain to ensure it’s the original, we’ve solved the licensing and API key duplication problem. No longer do any applications have to wonder if the key they get from the online form is legitimate, they just need to consult the global ledger of all unique assets (in the form of a digital NFT) that it is the original.

At the end of the day, you have to either support the view that the property owner should have his property rights protected by law or that theft, if carried out in a way that cannot be enforced, should be normalized. I think most people would agree that the former would lead to a fairer and more honest society.

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What makes something unique is time dimension. We exist in time. Therefore, our history is as important as the part that makes us who we are than a given snapshot of ourselves or an instantaneous copy of our cellular or neural makeup. As long as we continue to treat all digital devices with their associated past together and resist the urge to separate the past from the snapshot, then we will begin to understand how the world of digital entities in the metaverse will begin to make sense and interact with each other. At least we will have much less digital fraud.


[1] This started with Bitcoin originally, but through various modifications to the original protocol that BTC and BCH have created, they have eroded the original ability to prevent long-term double spending.
– RBF (Replace with Fee) in BTC
– Removal of the notification key
– Removing the ability for miners to enforce rules by freezing coins

[2] Yes, for enterprise licenses this was already required, but not for individual users.

See: The presentation of the BSV Global Blockchain Convention, Buzzmint: Elevating NFTs

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