What do you think of this picture?
How about this one?
The caption which added context and changed the perceived meaning. And in consequence, a somewhat meaningless action, someone licking their finger becomes tragic and ironic.
Which picture/caption is more valuable to society?
The second teaches us about our fallibilities as humans, our inconsistencies, and even a warning to pay attention to where you put your hands and what you're licking. It’s a message to have more awareness in your own actions. All of that is contained within the caption. It’s the story we tell.
Like this photo, many NFTs gain their value (literally ranked based on a monetary value) from the stories we tell about them. At first it’s perplexing why someone would pay hundreds of thousands for a picture, but here’s an example of have money is a small sacrifice for impact.
Imagine a future where Disney has a new ride and for marketing purposes they release 100 NFTs, the first tickets to the ride. This ride is so beloved that it exists decades later. Some man is a fanatic, this ride has cured his fear of heights. And to him, this NFT file reminds him to be the best version of himself — something priceless. So he pays $100,000 for a jpeg file.
Humans are storytellers. We infuse the mundane with meaning, in order to better our lives. It’s our greatest virtue, that none of the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the heaven, the beasts of the field, nor all creeping things that creep upon the earth, none but man do. And we harness that power by creating memes.
Here’s a way I could move story of mankind forward. Many of the most popular NFTs are avatars. What if I buy this NFT, labeled Bored Ape #212, and I begin writing stories about him.
I tell of his journeys as an ape. I tell you about how he climbed the tallest tree in the world, where at the top of the canopy, he found a pink fur coat. Or I tell about his insecurities around his lazy eye, how the first thing he notices in women apes are their eyes. I enrich ape #212 with meaning.
And another writer who reads my stories becomes a fan. She begins to write fan fiction. The NFT culture follows ape #212’s story. The price of the NFT rises. A Hollywood producer wants to make an animated movie about ape #212. And on and on until the ape has a name and a family and offspring who are the stars of a sequel.
Here’s my opening contribution: On the subway Ape #212 reads his favorite novel. To turn the page, he brings his hand towards his tongue but before he licks, he recalls the Health Official meme. He doesn’t lick. Until 5 minutes later, he licks to turn. He is an ape, after all.