Onchain Generative Art Is A Public-Facing Cocktail Machine

Putting generative art onchain means putting the JPEG-producing source code onchain (or, at least, on IPFS then embedded onchain). Users and minters then interact with the source code itself—they don’t buy a token that points to a JPEG, they buy a token that interact with the source code that produces a JPEG.

Subtle difference, I’ll explain with an analogy.

What stands before you is a vending machine. But this ain’t a regular vending machine because it doesn’t sell cans of drinks, it mixes flavors and serves cocktails instead. There are ten flavors available: cola, agave, milk, coffee, tea, wine, beer, lime juice, sparkling water, and pineapple juice. You insert a coin, and you get a paper receipt with a random gibberish code in it. It says 5d41402. You type the code on the vending machine’s keyboard, and it whirrs and clanks for twenty seconds… Voila, a lime-cola-milk drink comes out.

You can have as much lime-cola-milk as you want, so long as you type in 5d41402 on the vending machine. If the code changes slightly, it will produce a completely different drink. Suppose you buy another receipt, and by some cosmic chance, the receipt says 2d41402, which is the exact same code from the first receipt except the first character turned from 5 to 2. The new receipt, when typed into the vending machine, produces sparkling-agave-pineapple. One character difference, a completely different drink.

Your friend Danny, after trying out the lime-cola-milk you shared with him, likes what he tastes. He wants that exact flavor, but doesn’t know the code. He decides to buy the receipt from you. Whenever he wants a lime-cola-milk, he can type the code and the vending machine will make that specific cocktail.

The receipt is the NFT, the vending machine is the onchain generative art, the drink is the JPEG.

Expanding this analogy to “regular” NFTs: NFT artists create perfectly-crafted can of drinks and put them on a vending machine, onchain generative artists craft flavors and let the vending machine produce cocktails.

“But why NFT?” Non-NFT generative art typically means the artist creates a vending machine, make tons of cocktails, and curate the best ones before showing them to the world (by tweeting it out, posting it on Instagram, selling prints, hanging it on the wall).

With onchain generative art, the vending machine is placed “out there.” The objective becomes building the best vending machine that can create many interesting cocktails while preventing “bad cocktails”—no curation is possible because others interact directly with the JPEG-producing source code. Looks the same, different art forms. “I make art” is different from “I make systems that make art.”