Last month, Fox Entertainment’s animation studio Bento Box Entertainment revealed plans to launch the first animated comedy series curated entirely on blockchain. Today, the company announced it is investing $100 million in a ‘creator fund’ for the non-fungible token (NFT) space through a new business unit called Blockchain Creative Labs.
The animated show, Krapopolis, was created by “Rick and Morty” writer Dan Harmon. Blockchain Creative Labs will operate a digital marketplace dedicated to commercializing characters, background art, and GIF non-fungible tokens (NFTs) related to the series and other projects that join the platform.

From cat memes and music tracks to all manner of digital art, the bizarre, often quirky market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is booming. And now, science is hopping on the bandwagon for these receipts of ownership of digital files that are bought and sold online.

On 8 June, the University of California, Berkeley, auctioned off an NFT based on documents relating to the work of Nobel-prizewinning cancer researcher James Allison for more than US$50,000. On 17 June, the US Space Force — a branch of the US Armed Forces — started selling a series of NFTs featuring augmented-reality images of satellites and space iconography.

And, from 23 to 30 June, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, is auctioning an NFT featuring the source code of the original web browser, along with a silent video of the code being typed out.

Meanwhile, biology pioneer George Church and a company he co-founded, Nebula Genomics in San Francisco, California, have advertised their intention to sell an NFT of Church’s genome. Church, a geneticist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who helped to launch the Human Genome Project, is well known for controversial proposals, including resurrecting the woolly mammoth and creating a dating app based on DNA.

The fad for NFTs has been celebrated online for elevating digital art — and simultaneously derided as meaningless and for having a huge carbon footprint because of the massive computing power required to sustain it.

The arguments over NFTs in science are similarly heated, with some saying they provide an incentive to showcase science to the public; a new method of fundraising; and even a way for people to earn royalties when pharmaceutical companies buy access to their genomic data. Others say that NFTs — which operate in a similar way to digital cryptocurrencies — are just needless energy pouring into a market bubble that’s sure to burst.

“The more you look at it, the more you realize how bonkers it is,” says Nicholas Weaver, who studies cryptocurrency at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley.

By Nicola Jones

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