I tried to buy an Olive Garden NFT. All I got was heartburn.
I wanted to plunk down my $20, but OpenSea didn’t accept credit cards. To complete the transaction, I would need to purchase some Ether cryptocurrency. Okay! I’m game. I had my Ether (or wallet) in my hand, so I went back to OpenSea to try to make a purchase. I was not ready to make a purchase, but the initial drops had apparently sold out by that time. The price had risen. The price went up. Secondary sellers, who may have seen the same Twitter threads as me, were now trying flip their OG NFTs. I was sad to accept that I had failed again and bought more Ether.
That’s when I discovered gas charges, a service fee charged to miners to verify transactions. Because I was cheap, I lowballed. My transaction never went through. Olive Gardens’ prices were still rising. I tried again, but this time I paid the market rate. Success! Katie was going to feel so happy.
Except… Have you ever tried to give someone an NFT. To make the transfer, I had to pay more for gas. All in, the jokey purchase I had initially thought would cost me $20, and later reassessed to maybe $75, ultimately set me back nearly 300 bucks.
But, hey, my friend Katie was the owner of a JPEG (a photo of an Olive Garden at a Louisville, Kentucky mall) on the Ethereum blockchain. This is a wonderful gift!
This means that was an amazing gift until just over one week later, the real Olive Garden’s attorneys sent OpenSea the takedown notice ,, and all those non-fungible Olive Gardens disappeared into the, uh…ether. Poof.
Money is strange now, as I said. This issue explores the impact technology has on our financial future.
Whether it’s a biometric-based universal cryptocurrency meant to underpin Web3, cities built by Bitcoin, digital currencies that are replacing cash, or the way iBuying is transforming the housing market, technology is fundamentally changing the ways we buy, spend, and save money. Even the way we gamble .
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited a copyright notice, it was actually a trademark infringement notice.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.