NFT Art as Utility, and The Future of BLANK_ Humanity

About The Project

BLANK_ Humanity is a groundbreaking set of social experiments powered by collectible NFTs living on the Ethereum blockchain. The project employs exciting new methods to add utility to trustless collectibles while taking advantage of accepted best practices from some of the most successful NFT sets. The first social experiment, currently dubbed Greetings Humanity, will be the primary focus of this article.

About This Article

This is the third and largest article in a series centered around BLANK_ Humanity, an upcoming NFT project looking to push boundaries in blockchain through enhanced UX ideologies enabled by design choices in the art itself. The contents are adapted from our soon-to-be released whitepaper which outlines what we believe to be one of the most technically ambitious projects in the space to date.

This article unveils, for the first time ever, the aesthetics of our upcoming NFT collection, as well as a brand new complementary utility type we’re able to implement because of how the NFTs are crafted. This seemingly simple innovation allows the NFTs to not only be verified on-chain, but enables an individual piece of art (along with any copies) to be tied directly back to its on-chain representation using nothing but the art itself, in a fraction of a second. The implications for this are very large, and this marks the first step BLANK_ Humanity is taking on our journey to tie the lessons we’ve learned about user-experience design in Web2 to the promise of Web3. In essence, we’re bringing NFTs beyond the world of the JPEG, and we don’t want to limit this to just our collection. If our vision can be realized, we’ll be able to build something that betters the entire Web3 community. Right-click and save away, baby.

This seemingly simple innovation allows the NFTs to not only be verified on-chain, but enables an individual piece of art (along with any copies) to be tied directly back to its on-chain representation using nothing but the art itself, in a fraction of a second.

We’ll also be touching on a few extra upcoming utilities the NFTs will have, though many of them will be covered in our next article so we won’t dive too deep this time around.

So… Utility, you ask? What does that even mean?

What Does Utility Mean?

“Utility” for NFTs is a hot topic in the Web3 space these days, and an incredibly broad subject. For a while, it seemed like we were all going crazy collecting a bunch of images of monkeys and rocks that could just as easily have been sent in an email or over Discord. Early adopters may have seen a vision of the future when those JPEGs were flying back and forth, but now everyone is beginning to see that vision come to life as we enter the utility phase of NFTs.

Utility describes something you can do with your NFT. Pretty simple, huh? It seems that people usually like when the things they own are useful for something. While there are a good number of rock collectors in the world, there are even more iPhone owners. The first era of NFTs covered ownership, this era covers purpose.

In the past year there’s been a myriad of projects springing up to embrace this new narrative of NFT 2.0. Even in these nascent stages, there’s a laundry list of common utilities we’re seeing proliferating in the space: accessing private communities, airdrops, utility tokens, DAOs, staking, burning, breeding, the almighty gamification, the almightier metaverse, and so much more. We’ll no doubt see an enormous number of new innovations spring up in the next year, and in ten years who knows what amazing creations we’ll be able to interact with.

With BLANK_ Humanity, we’d be crazy not to implement some of these ideas ourselves! Some in their standard and accepted forms, and others… with a bit of flavor added. We’ll be covering all of our wonderful use-cases in a bit, but first I want to showcase, for the first time ever, the happy little friends that all of these utilities will revolve around.

The Art — Introducing Bitizens

Now for the art; meet the Bitizens! Bitizens exist as multipurpose collectible pieces of art living on the Ethereum network. Each piece is a portrait of a 1-bit inspired pixel art character taking influence from retro video games, intentionally utilizing abstract shapes and implied form to evoke the imagination of the viewer.

The faces are comprised of a 15×15 pixel grid (which is very important for us, as will be explained in later sections), with the possibility for rare “trait mutations” resulting in colored pixels appearing in some of the pieces. We like to think of each one as a cute retro-game character meets QR code meets Web3.

The first phase of BLANK_ Humanity contains 10,000 fully unique Bitizen NFTs. The art for each NFT is composed of six different traits, each with differing levels of rarity, and some with the possibility to have ultra-rare color mutations. On top of that, Fragmented Bitizens (covered later) have starkly contrasting aesthetics from others in the collection. All of these factors compound to create a cascading tier of rarities for Bitizens. Painstaking efforts have been taken to make sure that no two Bitizens will ever have the same form. Owners will retain full commercial rights to their NFTs, and we believe quite a few of the little guys are contending for the #1 most iconic slot.

Yeah yeah, that’s all well and good, but this is about utility, right? What can you DO with a Bitizen?

A Sneak Peek at Our Other NFT Utilities

While the main focus of this article will be covered in the next section, I want to take a brief moment to mention some differentiating factors that set Bitizens apart, which we’ll then flesh out in future content. I’m condensing a lot into this one tiny section, so if it gets overwhelming skip it! I’ll be diving deep in the next article.

  • The Experiment: Every Bitizen gives the owner one vote in The Experiment, which guarantees a large payment (a hefty percentage of the BLANK_ Humanity treasury) to a single wallet address decided by a majority vote during each minting phase. This is a unique take on a DAO, where only one proposal (which might consist of many micro proposals or just one gigantic payout) will be accepted in every phase. The value of each NFT is based not only on scarcity and speculation centered around the asset itself, but also on intrinsic value due to voting power and the ability to “burn” the asset to recoup a portion of the treasury. This burning feature also introduces a deflationary mechanic, which helps the NFTs retain their value.

  • Fragmentation: Read more in our previous article here! Upon the creation of every 50th Bitizen, one randomly selected Bitizen NFT becomes eligible for “fragmentation”. This effectively gives the owner of said NFT one extra, very rare Bitizen in their wallet and acts as an incentive structure to create Bitizens early in the minting cycle.

  • Ability to Live On-Chain: The ability to store the visual imagery of a Bitizen in a 256 bit unsigned integer means that Bitizens, by their very nature, are perfectly suited to efficiently live entirely on-chain. In order to preserve the integrity of their designs during the minting stage, the artwork for Bitzens will not initially live on-chain. However, once all of the art has been revealed there are no further barriers to storing the collection using blockchain.

  • Staking for Governance (Under Consideration): While Bitizens themselves will allow holders to participate in The Experiment and decide on a grand proposal every phase, we are also considering allowing a separate governance model to exist alongside the NFTs. We want to make sure we get this one right, so no concrete plans have been cemented yet. What this could look like is the ability for Bitizens to be staked in exchange for governance tokens, which in turn give access to participate in a BLANK_ Humanity DAO along with an additional potential source of liquidity. While we’re speaking in hypotheticals, I may as well mention that we’re leaning toward releasing a very limited early collection of “Initializers”. Initializers are an upcoming NFT collection based on Bitizens (but, you know, Initializer-themed), utilizing a simple ERC721 contract which will allow us to accrue early funding in order to thoroughly audit our core contracts, as well as cover any additional expenses that may pop up as we roll out. Initializers will play a crucial role in the ecosystem moving forward. They could (potentially) gain governance tokens 2x faster when staked, as well as allowing the formation of “Civilizations” down the road. If you’re interested in being one of our Initializers, join our Discord and ask us about it!

  • Experience Interoperability: Bitizens can be quickly mapped backward to connect to their on-chain representation using only the artwork itself. This means that just by using the image, you, or anyone else with access to the image, can interact with your NFT in a variety of ways. We believe that this will make Bitizens one of the most interactive, shareable, and usable NFTs to date.

  • A Bit-Based Metaverse Bridging Platforms Together, and Our Launchpad: Today when we think of the “metaverse”, many of us think of Virtual Reality, or at least an MMO-like experience. While this isn’t out of the question for BLANK_ Humanity, we have a slightly different vision of what the metaverse could be in the near term. Imagine a world where all of your current Web2 platforms (along with the Web3 ones being built) could easily read and interact with your Web3 assets, bridging your NFTs across experiences. Some of these may be 3D virtual worlds you become fully immersed in, and others might be the kind of thing that fits into your pocket and keeps you company on the toilet. BLANK_ Humanity will be dedicating a portion of our treasury (initially funded by Bitizen purchases in our first minting phase) to launching partnered projects (along with retroactively bringing blue-chip projects into a subset of the system) which:
    • Utilize the open-source tech we’re developing to enhance user experiences and bridge assets across platforms
    • Tie into the BLANK_ Humanity treasury and ecosystem
    • Implement Bitizens in compelling ways
    • Are well aligned with our mission

In order to facilitate and grow our partnered project network as quickly as possible, we’ll be diverting some of our early resources into building contracts and tools for our developer network to participate in our Launchpad. Once the tech is proven, we hope it will become adopted by all platforms and projects in the space, empowering web3 developers to build these aspects of decentralized experiences quickly, easily, and beautifully.

It’s the last two bullet points, “Experience Interoperability” and our “Platform Bridge meets Launchpad”, that I’ll be heavily focusing on in the upcoming section. The other utilities mentioned have either already been covered, or will be covered in-depth in our next article!

A Look At Experience Interoperability (Scanning The Artwork)

When someone imagines one of their NFTs, they don’t think of a piece of memory stored on a blockchain ledger that points to some digital asset. Their NFTs are their punk wearing a hoodie and pink-tinted sunglasses, or their ape with green hair and a sparkling smile. It’s a pixelated toad with a mischievous grin and a mushroom growing from its head. It’s the potion that they can feed to their beloved little digital pets, or maybe a sword one of their characters fought long and hard to obtain. It’s their all-access ticket to meet one of their favorite personalities that they’ll cherish forever, or maybe sell as a collector’s item years down the line. It’s these abstract ideas that embody what an NFT is in our minds, and in some cases symbolize the owners themselves as an online identity. These ideas and symbols are important.

With Bitizens, we want to align the expectations NFT owners have with the reality of the experiences their NFTs exist in. By its very design, a Bitizen’s visual identity, any image of it, is tied directly back to its on-chain identity, and likewise to you as its owner. The form literally could not exist without this function, and vice versa.

A simple example of how Bitizen backwards mapping is accomplished

Imagine this. You’re using Discord or Twitter and you see a Bitizen with a rare trait someone has shared or is using as their profile picture. You fall in love, so you click and drag the little guy directly from Discord over to a window with pulled up. Once you drop it onto the window, you’re instantly presented with the option to have one of your Bitizens breed with it, battle it, invite it to your civilization, see who owns it, make an offer to purchase it, do… whatever. After your Bitizens hang out, both you and the owner are rewarded, which incentivizes them to share it across even more platforms. Someone steals the image and sets it as their Twitter profile? Good! More chances people will interact with it!

The wonderful thing here is that on our end as developers, we can bring our users together via pre-existing networks, with no extra development needed. With this level of interoperability, we benefit from every social platform that already exists in which images are able to be shared or displayed in some way (hint: it’s a lot of them). This instantly creates a huge level of value for our community, and allows us to focus on the core of the product.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Bitizens are just the beginning. We want to set the stage for the entire Web3 community.

…we want to align the expectations NFT owners have with the reality of the experiences their NFTs exist in

“Experience Interoperability” Use-Cases Outside of BLANK_ Humanity

The following scenarios outline potential use-cases enabled by digital assets being able to be mapped back to their chains. They are structured to be further and further in the timeline as they progress. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Imagine. One of your favorite musicians just set a CryptoPunk as their profile picture. You’ve installed an extension that overlays important information over any unique blue-chip (in short: incredibly popular and valuable) NFT image on any site you visit. It connects directly to the API to tell you how rare each one is, what the most recent purchase price was, displays a link allowing you to browse the rest of the artist’s collection, and… anything else you’d want to know.

Next. A variety of exclusive virtual experiences begin to pop up, requiring participants to either hold a Bored Ape NFT to access the full VIP experience, or for a limited “general admission” audience to attend by opting for a Bored Ape to “sponsor” their attendance in exchange for the holder receiving a percentage of the admission fees. You’ve been following an Ape account on Twitter for a while and have enjoyed their musings. To show support, you drag their profile picture onto the admission portal to access the event.

How’s your imagination doing, ready for another one? You’re scrolling through Twitter. You notice an awesome verified NFT profile picture from a collection you’ve never seen before and want to know more. You open up OpenBase (everyone’s favorite NFT marketplace), drag the image directly from Twitter onto the OpenBase site and… The collection instantly shows up, allowing you to purchase one right there. Want to make an offer on the exact NFT you dragged? Not a problem, it shows up right in front of you with the option to make an offer.

Now imagine this. You’re on your phone scrolling through Instagram and can see exactly which images posted have some provenance on a blockchain. Not only that, you can interact with those assets directly from the app, or drag the images between apps on your phone and unlock a dizzying array of functions for each asset, limited only to developer imagination. See something that moves you? Press and hold to tip the creator right from the app, or offer to buy it from the owner.

Another one. You’re a user on a social media platform, and a fan of a particular creator. The creator releases a new sponsored video on the platform. Not only are both you and the creator rewarded by the platform and sponsor for you interacting with the content, but you also begin to accrue loyalty tokens from the creator. (Yes, I believe all creators and brands will eventually have their own form of a token) You share the video on another platform, which ties you into the creator’s, sponsor’s, and platform’s ecosystems even further with each view your share generates. A year later, the creator gives out free VIP tickets to their most engaged supporters, determined by token ownership, and now you get to meet your favorite creator!

Next up. You’re part of a 3D metaverse and want to decorate your house. After browsing through five different platforms that list 3D home decor from various creators (cyber-etsy, omegapinterest, cryptotumblr, etc) you’ve made your decisions. You easily drag all of your selections in from the different platforms, which imports the desired asset from its chain, rewards the creator, automatically enters you into future airdrops the creator may hold, and… so much more. Sponsored content you’re putting onto your land? You’re automatically rewarded with tokens tied to the sponsor’s ecosystem every time someone visits you and interacts with it.

While these use-cases are interesting, the real value comes from developers being able to rely on a standardized set of expectations when dealing with blockchain assets. Just like with the internet, if developers are able to leverage existing open technologies to build experiences using a shared set of tools, everyone benefits. We want to make sure this happens as soon as possible, and explore this uncharted territory as early as possible.

Ok, so I may have gone a bit too far into the future here, and some of these interactions are enabled by Web3 as a whole, but I truly believe that I haven’t even begun to wrap my own head around the possibilities that this two-way relationship will open.

I know that this section might seem like a lot of pie in the sky, so let’s bring this all a little closer to home… All of those experiences mentioned above can, in time, be enabled by a project we’re working on named Blanket.

How We’re Tackling This Today — Introducing Blanket

As a project and as a community, BLANK_ Humanity is setting off to explore, experiment, and discover what these new types of interactions might enable us to build. Owning a Bitizen is your ticket and vote of confidence in our development community, which grants you access not only to our grand fiscal experiment briefly mentioned above, but also gives you the opportunity to support and participate in helping to shape what we believe will play an important role in decentralized experiences as a whole.

While this may seem complicated, getting us started on this path is going to be relatively simple. With the release of Bitizens, BLANK_ Humanity will be publishing an open-source repository containing a tool currently codenamed “Blanket”. The first iteration of Blanket will allow BLANK_ Humanity, along with third-party developers, to access functions able to scan any Bitizen image dropped onto/uploaded to a web page or app, connect it to its unique ID, and perform some select operations on-chain using the resulting NFT. This is an incredibly simple setup, and all we’ll really have to do on our end is include a hashmap of bitizen face values to their IDs. Nothing complicated at all, and a perfect MVP.

Then comes Phase Two. During this phase, we’ll be tackling three areas:

  • Adding further utility to Bitizens
  • Ensuring the success of our first Launchpad projects, which will utilize Blanket and tie into the BLANK_ Humanity ecosystem/treasury
  • Bring blue-chip projects into Blanket. First up: CryptoPunks. Our hope is that by empowering creativity and utility for these projects, our communities will begin to overlap and the BLANK_ Humanity community just might find a seat at the table with some of the greats.

What comes after Phase Two can’t be perfectly nailed down, but through each phase we’ll be working to make Blanket more and more functional and accessible for all Web3 developers and creators. I believe the benefits of this approach are twofold:

  • Blanket acting as a layer of abstraction for application developers, so as the Web3 landscape changes (such as standards coming about for NFT assets) developers can rely on the library to adapt with it
  • Experiment and adopt early! We’re starting off as small and simple as can be and scaling up in iterations.

Now, there are quite a few hurdles that will have to be addressed before our grand vision can come to pass. I’d like to take some time to touch on some of them.

Issues That Will Need To Be Addressed For Blanket

The first and biggest question we have to ask ourselves: Is this a solution in search of a problem, or a problem we’re uniquely positioned to solve? I believe it to be the latter, but the early days of BLANK_ Humanity are being crafted to really prove that hypothesis.

But that’s not all. This technology is moving so quickly, and no one knows what direction it might sprint off in next. Still, it’s hard to deny that the topics of crypto and NFTs are creeping into more and more everyday conversations. I believe we all need to be prepared to embrace the day when our parents and grandparents are interacting with decentralized assets in some capacity.

So then, an even bigger question. What does that day look like, both for users of these new products, but also for developers creating these new experiences? How do we handle NFTs that are part of a series and not unique, ones with no visual representation, or that represent real-world objects? Will there be a new NFT filetype, able to be stored like any other file on an operating system and served over the web using all of our currently established technologies? Will we see more advanced decentralized filesystems like IPFS spring up which address these concerns? Will we get fancy and create distributed machine learning networks running “proof-of-useful-work” networks able to identify and trace assets back to their chain counterparts? Eventually, I know we’ll see a set of standards adopted, maybe something like InterNFT, which will embrace metadata and wrap our existing filetypes. But how long will it take for us to see mass adoption? And what does this look like for older collections that weren’t able to follow those standards?

No matter what direction we move in, BLANK_ Humanity will be there to make the jump of full interoperability between platforms easier, wrapping it all in a cozy Blanket while working alongside fellow pioneers to create open standards and tools that will benefit our community and the entire Web3 space.

The Future of BLANK_ Humanity

So what does the future of BLANK_ Humanity look like? Well, a big chunk of that answer depends on you, our early adopters and community. On our end, we’re doing everything in our power to set this project up to succeed and become something big and beautiful.

If the vision can be met, then I imagine we’ll see a few interesting things happen. On the developer end, Blanket may see widespread adoption and use as Bitizens prove these new types of interactions to be beneficial to end-users and communities, along with a healthy collection of projects all linked through our Launchpad network popping up in interesting ways. For users and collectors, I believe we’ll see new types of utilities being uncovered as we explore this new technical possibility, along with Bitizen owners being able to participate in a thriving decentralized ecosystem. I’m tempted to talk about related projects we’d love to embark on in the future, but I’ll have to leave it at this, our mission statement:

BLANK_ Humanity’s mission is to push the boundaries of blockchain, specifically in areas where everyday people, modern-day users and consumers, directly interact with these technologies and with each other. We believe that decentralized paradigms present an opportunity for a more diverse range of people than ever before to participate in and shape a global narrative, gaining freedoms to access finances and value stores that are fundamentally protected. We believe in empowering people through technology. We believe in amplifying voices and connecting people. We believe in building for humans.

If you’re interested in what we’re doing please check out our site and join our community! We’re still a bit off from a full launch, but we will be beginning whitelisting and opening up slots for Initializers soon. If you’re interested in becoming one of our Initializers, or if you’d like to bypass the “Whitelist Games” we’ll be holding in the Discord server, we have a simple form you can fill out. The only thing it asks about is your passion for decentralized technology, which can be conveyed in a variety of different ways. I would be thrilled to go through 20,000 applications by hand if it means that we’re building a community full of passionate people who care about furthering this space together!

Wrapping Up

This is the third article in the BLANK_ Humanity series, which slowly reveals the project in parts. This article took a look at our art and a complementary utility enabled by it, and our next article will heavily explore other utilities and features of the NFTs briefly mentioned here, along with further exploration into our economics. While not finalized, I want to give a quick sneak peek at what these upcoming articles will be focusing on, as well as a tentative timeline for some important milestones.

  • Article 1) Fragmentation
  • Article 2) On-Chain Randomness
  • Article 3) The NFTs — Art and Utility ← [ you are here ]
  • Article 4) The Experiment — Phases, [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and Tokenomics
  • Article 5) Cluster Contracts and the [REDACTED] Network
  • ✨ Whitelisting Begins
  • Article 6) Dynamic Pricing
  • Article 7) Our Lore, and How it Ties Into The System
  • ✨ Whitepaper Published

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this please consider joining our Discord server (we’re rewarding early community members!), or following me and the project on Twitter. This has been my passion project for five months now, and I’m beyond excited to finally be able to begin sharing what’s being created with the world. If you’d like to join the team, please get in touch with me through Discord or Twitter. We’re excited to work alongside passionate and talented individuals to build something truly meaningful together.

About The Author

I’m obsessed with making things. At a young age, I fell in love with the creative power programming holds and haven’t stopped since. That was 15 years ago, and I now not only work as a professional technologist but also as a mentor and guide for people traveling similar paths. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege to stumble into things that are now exploding due to the popularity of blockchain. Things like the play-to-earn space and games built around digital collectible economies in precursors to the metaverse, which I’ve been entrenched in for the past 9 years.

Due to my passion for creating digital experiences, and a desire to empower others to build the future, I co-founded the nonprofit Dev Launchers. Dev Launchers has grown into an international organization that trains people for development and other digital product positions by building real products. I currently serve as the President of the organization, and while I love the experience and results that leadership provides, I know that I’ll never be able to keep my hands away from coding and experimenting with new technologies. BLANK_ Humanity is the result of a whole lot of passion, along with what I believe to be insights into some things that the NFT space is missing. If the project goes well there are plans to leverage its success to pursue other ventures benefiting humanity, because that happens to be another obsession of mine. Wish me luck! — Kris

© BLANK Humanity 2022