The Disruptive Potential of NFTs and Crypto

In case you hadn’t noticed, NFTs have been blowing up this year, attracting mainstream attention and causing mind-blowing sums of money to be transacted online. But despite the funds that are moving around not everyone is up to speed on exactly what NFTs are, and how they fit into the often turbulent cryptocurrency ecosystem. Bitcoin is the big-hitter that can no longer be ignored, but in what ways are NFTs likely to affect our lives, and should we be buying in?

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for non-fungible token. That makes it different from bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and fiat currencies, which are fungible tokens. Just to be clear on that, a fungible item means something that can be exchanged with any other identical item, because they’re all the same. So, for example, one US dollar is the same as any other US dollar, and one bitcoin can be interchanged with any other bitcoin.

An NFT, then, is a unique asset, that can be traded or collected, but not interchanged seamlessly with other, identical assets. They fit into the cryptocurrency world because they run on the same technology. They’re digital, secured on a blockchain, and are traded using cryptocurrencies.

NFTs as Art

When you learn that NFTs are unique, tradable, and sometimes highly desirable, your mind might turn to the art world. And you’d be correct to think that way. NFTs have opened up tremendous opportunities for artists and designers to put their work on the blockchain, gain exposure and direct connections with patrons and collectors, and sometimes reap substantial rewards.

Take a look at NFT auction house ART HAUS to get a sense of the direction in which the online art world is heading. And don’t be fooled into thinking this is all too niche or esoteric to garner much interest. In March of this year, an NFT by digital artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69 million, and that’s by no means the only transaction hitting a tremendous price.

NFTs as Collectibles

Another NFT use is in the creation of collectibles. Trading cards have been around for decades, so it makes sense that as we move increasingly online, such items would become online too. To a digital native, why would we not own a digital collection relating to our interests? Blockchain technology makes this possible, and we are already seeing bold and successful moves in the world of sports.

In September, golf superstar Tiger Woods released a 10,000 piece NFT collection through a company called Autograph. He follows in the blockchain-footsteps of other huge athletic names such as Naomi Osaka, Wayne Gretzky, and Tony Hawk, all of whom are on the Autograph advisory board, and have released their own NFTs.

NFTs are also making inroads into the comic book industry, where publishing giants Marvel and DC have both been releasing digital collections, including virtual figures and full comic books. Again, there is huge interest among fans, and sales to match.

NFTs in Gaming

The use of NFTs and cryptocurrencies in the gaming world is expanding very quickly. Unique in-game items can be minted as NFTs, and traded for real-world, transferrable value. The play-to-earn model is already allowing gamers to make an income from their in-game activities, and this is an area that looks almost certain to increase in popularity in the coming years. NFTs are set to become an integral part of the gaming experience, and native tokens are a booming, profitable economy.

You don’t even have to play the games themselves to have an interest in this, as in-game tokens are speculative crypto assets, that can be invested in and traded for profit. It’s risky, but there are significant potential gains.

Other NFT Uses

Besides art, collectibles, and gaming, NFTs have many other use cases, and significant transformative potential. One practical value is in the issuing of licenses and certification. In academia, professional training, or anything else where a personal record is necessary, blockchain technology can be utilized. This allows for a cleaner system, in which records are easily accessed, personally controlled, and secure, without the need for paper documents.

Another application is in logistics and product tracking. When manufacturing and distributing items, they can be assigned a unique NFT, with stamped metadata, allowing for the product to be tracked smoothly through the supply line on a single, highly secure tech platform, with additional timestamped data added along the way. NFTs can be used in this way to represent real-life objects, tying in with the concept of the Internet-of-Things.

Cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and NFTs represent an emerging technological field, that is being taken up and applied before many people have fully figured out what they are, or how they work. They will be disruptive and, for some people, highly profitable and a lot of fun. Whether your interest is in art, sports, gaming, finance, manufacturing, or something else entirely, there may be changes ahead.

The Legal Sector is Ripe for Technological Innovation

No industry has gone untouched in the face of technological change. At first, industries that rely on physical instruments tend to feel the effects first. Healthcare and education, for example, are often the first societal sectors to find use in new devices and software. However, it doesn’t take long for all industries to eventually adopt new technologies that advance various fields. The legal sector is one such field that is gradually realizing the effects of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), remote work, and social media.

Not only is the legal sector being changed by technology from the inside, but the very nature of the practice forces the sector to confront issues on technology from an outsider perspective. Laws and policies around emerging technologies require lawyer’s to build more profound knowledge of these subjects, and as a result, new areas of practice arise as well.

This article will take a deeper look into how the legal sector evolves at the same pace as technological change. Understanding the relationship between law and technology will reveal the legal sector’s crucial role in society.

Technology is changing the legal sector from the inside out

These days, it’s impossible to talk about societal changes without mentioning how the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the adoption of specific technologies and behaviours surrounding them. Almost every industry on the planet has seen a shift to remote work, for example, alongside new policies set in place for those still working in the office.

In the legal industry, moving specific processes into the virtual world was not only possible but a necessity. This led to an increase in virtual hearings and court cases, with all participants interacting from home. Interestingly, the shift to remote proceedings has sped some of these processes up, as the inconveniences of travel no longer inhibited participants.

Pandemic aside, lawyers and law firms have also steadily established a presence online. To increase the visibility of their practices, lawyers have taken to social media to share their knowledge with colleagues and potential clients. Platforms such as Twitter have become a popular place for lawyers to facilitate conversations and share insight about hot topics while building a community among colleagues and clients.

Emerging technologies also have a role to play in how the inner workings of the legal sector are changing. With the massive amounts of data and information law firms have to contend with, mainly in the form of historical court cases, law facts, and client intake, it’s quite the task to have to parse it all. Where AI comes in is in the ability for these highly efficient systems to sift through massive amounts of data and draw meaningful connections between it all. Law firms are in the process of digitizing extensive archives of law information so that advanced systems can take on the task of organizing this information. No longer will lawyers need to visit massive libraries and thumb through old books to find past cases that will aid them with policy-making.

But the quick pace of technological change also invites new precedents that the legal sector will need to deal with. Moreover, policy-makers often need to be at the forefront of this change. Consequently, new fields of law are being birthed at faster rates. Cybersecurity, blockchain, and environmental technology are just a few areas of the legal sector being reshaped daily.

Challenges that the legal sector will face going forward?

Due to how technology brings rapid change to society, the legal sector has to constantly look outside of itself to keep policy up-to-date. As a result, the same technology shaping the legal industry from the inside is also what it addresses in practice.

Emerging technologies such as self-driving cars, blockchain technology, and AI will offer some of the sector’s most significant challenges in the coming years.

For instance, the legal grey areas of self-driving cars prompt discussion over how they fit within the various types of personal injury cases and insurance claims resulting from accidents. How a self-driving car decides who to protect in a complicated scenario is known as the Trolly Problem.

Furthermore, the blockchain and cryptocurrency space is currently considered the “Wild West” because the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) doesn’t know how to classify and treat all of the digital currency projects out there. Blockchain databases are a technology that could enhance the legal sector internally, but at the same time, lawyers are the ones needing to build policy around them.

Finally, AI could simultaneously pose one of the biggest threats and most significant benefits to society. Still, there is currently very little regulatory oversight regarding the development and deployment of such a powerful technology. Moreover, advanced AI is still primarily in the research phase, so it’s harder for lawmakers to anticipate the disruptions it’ll have on society.

All in all, it’s exciting to see an industry that is often associated with dusty books and bored lawmakers being coupled with technological advancement. The legal sector is arguably at the center of modern change as they must adapt and shape the use of new technology to keep everyone safe. Thus, watching how the legal sector approaches emerging technologies will inform how society progresses after that.