LostPoets | The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

In the last ~20 hours, thousands of cryptonatives participated in a historic moment to turn their Pages into Poets. To say the least, it was a hauntingly beautiful event. One that forces an examination and introspection of the human condition: What is beauty?

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”

Francis Bacon

(skip to Reflections below if you are familiar with the project)

A brief introduction on LostPoets…

The lead up to this “poet-claim-event” (Act II of the whole ‘show’) was a public sale of 65536 digital tokens called Pages at 0.32eth each (Act I) in early Sep 2021. 7586 were distributed to ‘existing collectors’ who were holding another token called $ASH, which was a derivative from the creator’s first project called The Fungible Collection (read Sotheby’s summary of the project here).

This distribution signaled an emerging ecosystem, one where a creator-centric token becomes a “unit” for existing and future utility, value, and liquidity. So in this case, $ASH owners get pages.

So what exactly are pages? Technically, they are a kind of crypto token (ERC-1155), just like NFTs rely on a particular token standard (ERC-721). Less-technically, pages are “just” grey images, and each was priced at 1.2-1.3eth prior to the “poet-claim-event”. Why would anyone pay USD3.5k+ (based on prevailing ETH/USD) for this?

Image of a page

It’s the promise of utility that lend these grey images value for now. First, it was announced that each page token may be converted to a poet NFT in Act II. The top 100 page collectors also get special origin poets that have unique properties and influence in the overall LostPoets NFT collection. For example, an origin poet holder can name it once, and the (max. of 64) poet NFTs that are associated with the particular origin poet inherit that name. Pages can also be “fed” to poet NFTs to give them words for writing poems. Utility can also come in the form of community…

About the the creator of this beautiful mess, I can’t claim to know Pak well, but you can read a great introduction here by NFT Siblings. NFT Siblings seems to be a Pak’s partner / promoter / investor, and some go as far as speculating if NFT Siblings = Pak, but I’ve seen straightforward refutations on this claim more than once.

Pak’s origin poet #00001

Reflections of a poet

Back to what transpired… Some of us converted pages into poet NFTs. What we saw was a tremendous range of aesthetics – from the good, the bad, the ugly, to the odd, the angry, the wicked, the insane, the transcendent. Most had ‘distorted’ features – think crooked noses, asymmetric eyes, awry lips, wide foreheads, missing cheeks.

#01114
#09713
#02645
#07400
#12782

In the first couple of hours, people started selling poets, some even below the price of pages. They could be realizing gains that they felt was the maximum potential, and they might have gotten the page they used to convert at a price cheaper than the current market (around 1.45eth). Alternatively, they could be “recycling” by selling unwanted poets at around page price allows them to buy another page and try their luck at getting a more “beautiful” and/or “rare” poet.

In the Opensea Marketplace, ranking poets on sale from lowest price to highest price and ignoring the bids, there’s a perceptible stratification of market value, despite Pak’s indication that certain traits and rarities emerge over time. Some of these properties are beyond aesthetics, but human nature makes it hard to see beyond the surface sometimes and be patient.

Those that were selling below page price were typically ordinary, “ugly”, or both. At the same time, some really “ugly” ones were listed for crazy amounts and drew attention because they looked so crazy!

#14332

Why do we perceive some as ugly? Why is rare sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly? What is crazy?

We all wished for our poets to be the most eye-pleasing or super-cool. At least I did.

The stark reality is that our perception of beauty has always been anchored on the perfect (think golden ratios, symmetry – a bias stemming from evolutionary fitness). Social media only serves to exacerbate that bias. The real world is a lot more imperfect, more asymmetric, more distorted.

While I believe this anchor still holds true (it’s hard to transcend nature), we’ve come to embrace some form of madness, but not all kinds of madness.

Perhaps LostPoets is helping us to define the boundary of madness, if it was ever a possibility of a definition: the strangeness that is beauty and the madness that is not.

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