John Hawkins does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Comedian Robin Williams once called cocaine “God’s way of telling you you are making too much money”. This role may now have been overtaken by non-fungible tokens, the blockchain-based means to claim unique ownership of easily copied digital assets.
The latest NFT mania involves fantastic amounts of money being paid for “Bored Apes”, 10,000 avatars featuring variants of a bored-looking cartoon ape. Last month rapper Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) paid about US$450,000 in Ethereum cryptocurrency to acquire Bored Ape No. 9055 – nicknamed EminApe, because its khaki and gold chain resembles what Eminem wears. It purportedly joins more than 160 other NFTs in the rapper’s collection.
The Bored Ape character seems derivative of the drawings of Jamie Hewlett, the artist who drew Tank Girl and virtual band Gorillaz. According to to the creators, each variant is “generated from over 170 possible traits, including expression, headwear, clothing, and more”. They say every ape is unique “but some are rarer than others”.