Alt-Text: Tezos co-founder, Kathleen Breitman, in Miami Beach, 2021.

Art Basel Miami: A fireside chat with Tezos co-founder Kathleen Breitman

January 4, 2022
During an exclusive panel discussion at this year's Art Basel Miami Beach, Tezos co-founder Kathleen Breitman provided insights into the NFT space, why Proof of Stake is a more energy-efficient consensus mechanism for blockchain, and how the internet is a place for people to find their tribe.

If you look at an NFT's face value, it's not anything meaningful, said Tezos co-founder Kathleen Breitman in a fireside chat at Art Basel Miami Beach. What gives an NFT value, Breitman argues, is social consensus.

"And that is what blockchain is," she said. "Blockchain is a tool for building social consensus. And in some ways, I think it reflects the art industry at large because obviously value is subjective."

Breitman said Tezos had differentiated itself from rival protocols through its energy-efficient technology and low transaction fees for posting art on the blockchain. But what's being undersold is the fact there's a genuinely decentralized community around Tezos. She points to the NFT site Hic et Nunc as an example of how these decentralized communities come together. The site, which was recently shut down (and replaced by several other community sites) was created in a hackathon, and it attracted a large number of people who were interested in AI and generative art. 

"My favorite part of the internet is when people are digital homesteading: they're finding their tribe, and they're putting in the effort to get a sense of ownership," she said. "And in many ways, that's very much what the Tezos project is predicated on, having people who have a stake in the network ratify amendments to it and basically move the protocol forward that way."

Emergence and the Tezos blockchain

Together with a few Magic: The Gathering world champions and a person who had sold comic book companies to Marvel, Breitman founded a company that created a tradable card game and comic book series called Emergents Trading Card Game

With Emergents TCG, people get to own comic books as NFTs, and owning a comic in the series means dictating some of the character arcs. These, in turn, influence the characters in the trading card game. 

But as Breitman said, there's also a bigger picture which is forging community through being representative of what the community wants to see and showcasing the power of the crowd. 

"Many comic book companies have tried to do this, but they have done it in a cheeky way with bad technology," she said. "Hopefully, cryptocurrencies allow better coordination, and in a more elegant way, because you can audit everything."

The commercialization of NFTs

Breitman said she wants more tinkerers added to the overall Tezos project. She said the commercialization of NFTs and the venture culture built up around them is very ham-fisted. "There aren't a lot of failures, and there isn't a lot of tinkering."

This is why she loved Hic et Nunc so much because it was bare-bones, and the platform was very much about the people who built it who also used it. 

"I think the internet is at its best when weirdos find the one place on earth where somebody else thinks the same thing and they're like 'oh you do too?'" Breitman said. "And I think that's something unique, something that can't be manufactured."

Breitman wants to see more tinkering and a greater number of humble projects because there's a lot of VC money flowing into the space, making things look very polished, but they don't have the same soul. 

She also attributes the growth in developer tools as an indication that using the Tezos blockchain has become easier. "That's been a big focus, giving people the tools," she said. "And I think that's the beauty of having a non-profit loosely associated with it because you can shepherd the ecosystem."

Energy efficiency

In the early days, Proof of Work was the only option but with the development of computer science it became possible to move to Proof of Stake to secure a cryptocurrency, said Breitman. 

Proof of Stake asks that you run a specialized piece of software instead of a specialized piece of hardware, and the cost of running the software in terms of energy consumption is orders of magnitude lower, she said. 

"When the Tezos position paper was published many years ago… and I thought it was a nice feature that it was eco-friendly, but people didn't really care."

"It only became a focus of consciousness recently because effectively Ethereum took off with a lot of artists in the NFT community there. And after promising to transition to proof of stake for many years, people finally realized that, in fact, they were proof of work and that the excess energy consumption of the network was a little bit offensive to the taste of the more conscious artists who came to the platform. Ergo Tezos became a preferred platform of many artists who were environmentally conscious," she concluded.

Fill this form to download pdf
Thanks for your submission
download pdf
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.