NFTs Explained, Plus, Has Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lost Its Way? : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Sam talks to Kim Tran, an anti-racist author and consultant, about her article in Harper's Bazaar on how the diversity, equity and inclusion industry has strayed from its movement roots. Plus, what's an NFT? And why are people buying them? And what are they again? Sam breaks it all down with tech reporters Bobby Allyn and Erin Griffith to explain the phenomenon of the non-fungible token — and whether it can last.

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.
NPR logo

Is 'Diversity And Inclusion' Far From Its Roots? And What's An NFT?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/983363628/983960902" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Is 'Diversity And Inclusion' Far From Its Roots? And What's An NFT?

Is 'Diversity And Inclusion' Far From Its Roots? And What's An NFT?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/983363628/983960902" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUNT BETTY, BYLINE: Hey, y'all. This is Sam's Aunt Betty. This week, are those diversity trainings actually working? And what the heck is an NFT? All right, let's start the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAM SANDERS, HOST:

You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. So the last year or so has been full of headlines about racial reckonings, corporations and entire industries having to deal very publicly with racism and sexual harassment. It's led to a lot of staff shakeups, a lot of stories of pretty bad behavior and a lot of growth in one particular industry. My next guest has worked for a few years in a field with which many of you likely have had firsthand experience.

KIM TRAN: I call it affectionately - or inaffectionately (ph), I guess - the DEI industry. And I capitalize all those letters.

SANDERS: DEI - it stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. Part of that work is those diversity trainings you sometimes have to go to at your job. That industry, DEI - it makes billions of dollars.

TRAN: It's a collection of folks who are in various different industries. They work in HR. They work in the legal profession. Some of them are like myself. They're academics. And they're all kind of under this umbrella of working toward organizational equity. It is an incredibly nebulous definition.

SANDERS: That is the voice of Kim Tran. She is an author and consultant, and she recently wrote an article for Harper's Bazaar all about the DEI industry. In that piece, she noted that since the death of George Floyd last summer and the protest and racial reckonings it started, interest in DEI jobs has surged 30%. I mean, I'd agree. You know, after that bombshell interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and Oprah, even the royal family said it's going to hire its own DEI consultant.

But here's the thing. Kim Tran's article about DEI - it is called "The Diversity And Inclusion Industry Has Lost Its Way." In the article, Kim writes about how anyone - literally anyone - can call themselves a DEI consultant. Many universities offer expensive certificate programs, but there is no central governing body for DEI and no common understanding of what the field is or what they're actually supposed to do. And the way you measure success with DEI - there are many differing definitions of that success. In the last year, Kim Tran says those problems - they have become too big to ignore.

So then in this industry, which is humongous and growing but also without anyone really in charge, you say that this diversity and inclusion industry has lost its way. Why do you think it's lost its way? Tell me.

TRAN: Because it started in a really amazing place. And then it became this multibillion-dollar juggernaut. When diversity, equity and inclusion began, it was in response to the, quote-unquote, "affirmative action call" by JFK.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN F KENNEDY: We hope in the next few days to have an executive order forthcoming which will strengthen the employment opportunities both in and out of the government for all Americans. And it will be followed, as time goes on, with other actions by the federal government to expand employment possibilities.

TRAN: And that was in response to the Black American civil rights movement. You had a lot of change happening around the same time. You had the Civil Rights Act. You had the Voting Rights Act. You had, you know, these calls for affirmative action. And what happened was companies got really scared of litigation.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: So they create a whole bunch of trainings and a whole bunch of people to do these trainings. And most of the time, those folks are housed in human resources, but they're not the people who actually created this idea of racial justice or equity or equality or...

SANDERS: And they aren't the ones doing the hiring in many of these instances.

TRAN: Oh, my gosh, no. Yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TRAN: So I'm rooted in movement work. My mom says I was 3 years old at my first protest. My mom is a big union person. So I grew up going to these union protests and knowing that if you want real change in the workplace for women of color, for people of color, for queer folks, you're going to have to have a collective voice. But diversity, equity, inclusion functions outside of that context almost always. What we're actually seeing is people who are, like, organizational psychologists, people - scientists who come in. They crunch the numbers, and then they talk to people at the executive level about what equity will take. There is no conversation happening with the rank-and-file people who are experiencing the brute force of inequity in the workplace.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. If you had to name the three biggest problems with the diversity, equity, inclusion industry as we know it today, what are they?

TRAN: Unaccountable, using the wrong metrics and hyperfocused on interpersonal solutions.

SANDERS: Like, just be nice to your cubicle mate, and that'll fix this thing...

TRAN: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Instead of, like, this whole structure might need to be reworked.

TRAN: Yeah. That's not going to work. If all of the people in an organization that is structurally inequitable just take a note on how to be more inclusive in meetings, that's actually not going to change very much. We have to create much broader change at a policy level.

SANDERS: Yeah. You mentioned in your laundry list of three biggest problems this, like - what is a measure of success? How do you measure it - you know, the metrics. Does the DEI industry have any objective measures of success right now?

TRAN: Some of them do. Some of the folks who do this have decent ways of figuring out who's, you know, actually accomplishing this project of equity. And one of the ways that folks count that's really successful - and I do this. I'll say I do this, too. I over-index or focus a lot of my attention on marginalized people. That's the thing that's going to lead the data for me, right? Like, if I went into your organization, you had 500 employees, 400 of them are white and 100 are marginalized people of color, what you'd get at the end is probably that the organization's doing well - right? - because all the white folks are happy. You have no idea how the people of color are doing in terms of that pocket of small folks.

And this is the same thing over and over again with trans employees. If you don't have a finger on the pulse of what it's like to be trans in your organization, that experience is going to get lost in the wider sea of data because it's not - it doesn't rise to the level of statistical significance.

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, and it's like, isn't the whole point of DEI meant more to help those who were most marginalized, not to be there to - I don't know - allow the majority to kind of pat theirselves (ph) on the back for going to that training and answering the quiz right?

TRAN: Yeah. So this - a lot of DEI feels like performative allyship (ph). I went to the training, and then I put the hashtag up, and then we did a Pride Month, and everybody feels great about the work. There's actually this really funny saying about diversity, equity and inclusion. And that - it goes something like, it's about food, fun and flags. It's like Black History Month...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TRAN: ...Asian History Month, potlucks and film screenings. But what it winds up...

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: ...Losing in that trajectory - right? - is it's actually about inequity. It's actually about injustice, and it's about how we really get deep in those problems and fix them. That's where it started.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. It's so funny hearing you say that because now I'm thinking, like, oh, my God, every Pride Month, I am bombarded with vodka...

TRAN: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Because that's how these companies say they love the gays (laughter).

TRAN: Yeah.

SANDERS: Like, I'll take the free Absolut.

TRAN: Right.

SANDERS: But what are we really talking about here (laughter)?

TRAN: I was just about to say Absolut is one of the biggest progenitors and culprits of this. They've got the rainbow bottle every year.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TRAN: And don't get me wrong. When I see a queer and trans flag somewhere, I do feel safer, right? That's important.

SANDERS: And when I see free vodka anywhere, I do feel a little bit happier (laughter).

TRAN: Absolutely. You want to give me a free bottle of wine with a rainbow sticker on it? I will take it. Absolutely.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TRAN: Me...

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: ...And my partner...

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: ...And our dog.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TRAN: But is that the end? - because I am a queer person of color in the workplace. I experience as an Asian American LGBTQ person - around 70% of us are reporting workplace discrimination. If you're Black and LGBTQ, you're experiencing 50% workplace discrimination. I need something more than a rainbow flag.

SANDERS: Come on. Yeah. So what diversity, equity and inclusion tactics actually work best?

TRAN: One of the things that I want us to do and it's imperative upon us to do is to change the kind of ladder of who we're accountable to, right? If the problem is that we're accountable to people who sit in the top echelons of power, we need to reroute that accountability to folks who are most marginalized. So, like, does your janitorial staff sit in your ERGs? Do the cleaners, do the cafeteria workers - are they involved? - because they should be involved in dictating what it is that they need and want from y'all, right?

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

TRAN: And so often, this work is siloed. It's, like, external. It's third-party. But then it is accountable to people who are the CEO or the, you know, top HR people. And I...

SANDERS: Yeah, well, because it's, like, secretly focused on avoiding litigation.

TRAN: Yeah.

SANDERS: Right?

TRAN: Yeah.

SANDERS: That's why it's focused on the top - because those are the folks that deal with litigation for the company.

TRAN: And HR is doing its job. And I want to be very clear about that because HR is meant to make us more productive and protect the company from litigation. So HR is there for a very specific function. It was never really meant to do this.

SANDERS: You know, there are going to be a lot of folks who hear this chat who might be involved in diversity and inclusion work in their workplaces, who take it seriously, who believe in it, who have their hearts in the right places and want it to work. And they're hearing the two of us talk, and they're saying to themselves, oh, my God. Am I getting this all wrong?

TRAN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Am I actually part of the problem? Should I just stop because I really screwed it up? And my thing about inclusion work is I want as many people who want to be involved in it to be involved in it. How do you tell folks what they're doing is wrong - fix it - without scaring them off?

TRAN: Yeah. I know a lot of folks are going to be hearing that song on TikTok - that oh, no song in their heads right now.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.

TRAN: And I don't think that we necessarily need to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. And I say that because I'm an optimistic person, because I believe that there can be a bridge from one to the other. There can be a bridge from movements to diversity, equity, inclusion. It's just not what exists right now.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: Right?

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: So what I want you to do is for those feelings to create some sort of change in the way that you do diversity, equity, inclusion. I'm asking for folks to actually push beyond what exists.

SANDERS: Come on. I'm loving this. One small thing all of us in our offices or workspace can do tomorrow to advance this work - a little thing, a daily thing.

TRAN: Ask who's not at the table.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: And I'll say this about myself.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: I'm a marginalized person in the workplace. I'm a queer Vietnamese woman. I have the same pay gap as Black women. I can say all that, and at the same time, I can say, I have an advanced degree. There are people...

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: ...Who listen to what I say. And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

TRAN: The person who's not in this room with me having this conversation about equity is the person who empties the trash cans, is the person who fixes my computer when it falls apart. Who is not there? And it's not just the people who work in the office; it's the entire network of folks. We have to also be accountable to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Thanks again to Kim Tran. She's an anti-racist author and consultant, and she is at work on a book called "The End Of Allyship."

Coming up, what is an NFT? I call up two tech reporters and have them explain.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. And right now, I want to talk about a thing that has been on my mind for the last few weeks - a different kind of acronym. I'm talking about NFTs, nonfungible tokens. If you watched "SNL" last weekend, you might have seen their NFT sketch.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

PETE DAVIDSON: (As character, singing) Now what the hell's an NFT? Apparently, cryptocurrency. Everyone's making so much money. Can you please explain what's an NFT? I said, what the hell's an NFT?

SANDERS: Now, if you're like me, you perhaps have heard a lot about NFTs, but you may not really understand them 'cause, honestly, I'm still confused.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Son, I didn't understand a word you just said.

SANDERS: Which is why this week, I called up some friends to help explain the world of NFTs.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: OK. So an NFT, first of all, stands for...

SANDERS: Bobby's like, I got it.

ERIN GRIFFITH: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: That's Bobby Allyn and Erin Griffith. Bobby's a tech reporter for NPR, and Erin's a tech reporter for The New York Times.

ALLYN: So, like, fungible - like, a $10 bill can be exchanged for, like, two $5 bills. That's perfectly fungible. A nonfungible...

SANDERS: Yes.

ALLYN: ...Thing is very unique. You can't exchange it one-for-one for anything else. And a token just refers to - basically, there's this thing called the blockchain, which is like this ledger that is sort of overseen by a network of computers. It's like a unique token, an identifier on this blockchain. So that description probably does nothing to help you understand what an NFT is.

GRIFFITH: (Laughter) Yeah.

SANDERS: I'm going to let our other panelist jump in...

ALLYN: OK. Go ahead, Erin.

SANDERS: ...In a second to add to that. But I'm going to add first to jump on that a little bit. There is a line from a New York Times piece that I found a little helpful. The Times said of NFTs, quote, "NFTs are essentially a way to transform a digital good that can be endlessly copied into something one of a kind. When someone buys an NFT, what they're effectively getting is the knowledge of owning an official version of a cat with a Pop-Tart body, a song, a video clip of a basketball dunk or another virtual thing." Erin, does that...

GRIFFITH: Yes (laughter).

SANDERS: Add to this. Help us out.

GRIFFITH: That is - well, yes. That is what my publication said. And that is accurate. I mean, I think the easiest way to explain - so everything Bobby said is correct. But you don't necessarily need to know what fungible or nonfungible means. You don't really need to have a great understanding of, like, what the blockchain is really doing here. All you need to know is that before, digital media was generally not worth very much because you can steal it and share it...

SANDERS: You can copy it, yeah.

GRIFFITH: ...And copy it very easily. And now with the power of the blockchain (laughter), we are able to make these pieces of digital media - be it a song, an image, a gif, a video - unique and individual and scarce. And that's what gives it its value. And so we have turned digital media into something that's collectible.

SANDERS: Collectible, though, but it's - OK. So I'm seeing a bunch of folks buying artwork as NFTs. Ja Rule sold his Fyre Festival...

GRIFFITH: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Oil painting as an NFT for $122,000. Is it ever worth that much? It's a thing that lives, like, on your device. You can't hang it on your wall.

ALLYN: Yeah.

GRIFFITH: Just to be clear, the Ja Rule thing is a little bit of a mindbender because he's selling a physical good. And the whole point is that this is supposed to be about digital things. So there are a lot of people that have jumped into this, and they're not really using the thing that this is supposed to...

SANDERS: Wait; it was a physical thing and not a digital thing?

GRIFFITH: It was, yeah.

SANDERS: We got to scratch Ja from this conversation? Oh, my goodness. OK.

GRIFFITH: There's a token associated with it, but it doesn't need the token. They're just kind of using that to, like, drive the price up in a way. I mean, yeah. So anyway, that's a whole separate thing.

ALLYN: Yeah. But I think what all this is driving toward is this question of, what do you get when you buy an NFT? And there's actually, like, a fair amount of debate on this question. I mean, I think technically when you purchase an NFT, you're getting, like, a string of code on the blockchain. Like, you're not - you're usually not getting the IP. You're not getting trademark. You're not getting the copyright. So if you buy - like a popular collection of NFTs are these - the Top Shop NFTs that are, like, these highlights of NBA moments, like LeBron dunking or something. I mean, you could still...

SANDERS: Like a video.

ALLYN: Yeah, you can go on to YouTube and watch that as many times as you want. You could download it from endless corners of the Internet. But if you purchase the NFT, you basically have, you know, bragging rights. You have a way of saying, like, I have a very singular version of this that nobody else has. And therefore, I'm cooler than you are. I mean, that's kind of what an NFT is. Yeah.

SANDERS: Now, when you buy the NFT, you get this unique, personalized - OK, you get a one-of-a-kind digital version of a thing, whether it be a song, a GIF, a video clip, whatever. What do people usually do with it once they have it? Do they display it on, like, a special projector? Do they just look at it on their phones? Does it just, you know, stay on the hard drive forever? What does one do with an NFT?

ALLYN: I think that's another sort of interesting question. I mean, I think anyone who used to collect anything or currently collects things can sort of intuitively understand this. I mean, I collected Pogs back in the day. I don't know if any of our listeners remember Pogs.

SANDERS: Ditto.

ALLYN: I used to collect Pokemon cards and Magic: The Gathering cards. And I would put all these cards in, like, a binder and, like, show them off to my friends. And they'd be like, oh, my God, you have a Black Lotus. I can't believe you got that card. Where did you find it? But with an NFT, I mean, they basically, like, sit in these wallets, right? And so it's not like you buy an NFT and...

SANDERS: A digital wallet.

ALLYN: Yeah. I mean, it sits basically on the Internet. Right, Erin? I mean, where else does it go when you buy one?

GRIFFITH: Yeah. I've talked to some people who consider themselves collectors of NFT art who have screens in their house, and they display the art that way. And so they can change it out and look at whichever one they want. Is that practical to the everyday person? No.

SANDERS: OK, OK. But can I just pause you really quick? Can I pause you for a second and just ask, isn't it possible to get a PowerPoint projector and display art on your wall without having to buy the NFT?

GRIFFITH: Yes, anyone can do it.

SANDERS: This is where I get stuck. Help me understand.

GRIFFITH: So the question is - there's also an element not just of bragging rights that, like, yes, I own this thing, and I bought it, but it's also of supporting the creator or the artist behind it. And so, you know, wanting to be a patron of the arts and like - so I think there's a little bit of that. And it's similar to, like, the people who are buying into different music or things from, like, YouTube creators or whatever. It's like they want to support this person because they really like the art that they create, and they want to have, like, more of a direct relationship with them.

SANDERS: Yeah. So why were NFTs created? Like, what problem did they solve? It seems as if everything was going just fine in the world - well, not fine. But, like, was there a need for NFTs?

ALLYN: I think what Erin was talking about earlier is it introduced scarcity in a world of digital assets, things on the Internet where scarcity never existed. Like, things can be reproduced. They could be pirated. They could - you know, there's endless copies of every single thing on the Internet. And NFTs was saying, hey, let's introduce some scarcity there. Where there's scarcity, there will be demand. And where there's demand, people will make money.

SANDERS: Is it - yeah.

ALLYN: And another thing that I think this is solving, Sam, is, you know, especially in the art world context, instead of having, like, a bunch of, like, you know, old guys with, like, bushy eyebrows with monocles, like, examining a Monet to figure out whether or not it's a real Monet, right?

GRIFFITH: (Laughter).

ALLYN: The NFT, like, through its - I mean, through, like, the blockchain, you could perfectly authenticate it. You could figure out its provenance. Like, those questions that have so sort of vexed the art world about, like, where did this come from? What is its chain of custody? Those things are actually solved through the blockchain.

SANDERS: OK. I mean, I hear you. But let's say you get your NFT Monet, and it's the authentic one. If you ever want to display it on your wall, you have to print a copy of it, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: True.

SANDERS: It's just like - I don't understand. I mean, what is preserving the authenticity of these NFTs? What even is it if you know that half the folks, at least, that get NFTs are going to reproduce them to display them digitally for their friends?

ALLYN: Right. Yeah.

GRIFFITH: It's the knowledge in your heart.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFITH: The blockchain lives in your heart.

SANDERS: The blockchain lives in your heart. I love that.

ALLYN: As long as AWS doesn't switch it off, right?

SANDERS: Yeah, yes.

GRIFFITH: Yes (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah. I think, you know, this raises a larger question for me. Whenever I see headlines about NFTs and blockchains and these new currencies and marketplaces existing just on the Internet - right? - like, how - is this a little novelty in the way that some folks are passing their time during the pandemic? Or is this, like, the way that things are just moving in all of our lives, period?

You know, I've been thinking a lot, especially in the midst of the pandemic, about how a lot of things that used to be IRL, in real life, they are moving more and more into digital and online spaces - for instance, the workplace for a lot of us, right? And so now when I see the rise of blockchain and the rise of these NFTs, my secret, elder millennial fear is that, like, all of it's a sign that our entire economy is, inch by inch, moving into the matrix, and we're going to be, like, living our entire existences, like, on some blockchain at some point before we know it. I don't know. Should I be that worried? Is this a sign of a larger trend about the digitization of, like, every aspect of our lives?

GRIFFITH: Yeah, I think it's both. I think...

SANDERS: Oh, good answer (laughter).

GRIFFITH: Sorry.

SANDERS: It's OK.

GRIFFITH: I think when the pandemic is over, a lot of this stuff will maybe not be as prominent. People will be busy with other stuff.

SANDERS: Yeah.

GRIFFITH: So they won't be spending the same amount of time working on their collection of LeBron dunk clips.

ALLYN: Right.

GRIFFITH: But at the same time, I think as we've kind of talked about a little bit, that it is a sign of, you know, sort of a new way of people making money and connecting with their fans and things on the Internet.

ALLYN: Yeah. I mean, but, you know, a perfect storm of variables made this NFT moment what it is. But, like, crypto art's been around for many years. You know, I mean, people have been, you know, talking about basically what's an NFT, just calling it something different. Like, if you're a gamer and you like Fortnite and you buy, say, like, a banana outfit for real money, and then you could walk around that Fortnite game with your banana outfit, that's essentially an NFT, right? It's, like, a nonfungible thing that's, like, on your video game character.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

ALLYN: So, like, in the video game world and in other spaces, I mean, this concept has, you know, basically been around for a while. It's not like the pandemic just, like, you know, made this thing sort of appear out of nowhere. It's been around for a while. But, yeah, hands down, 2021 is definitely the year when, like, NFT became A Thing - capital A, capital T. That's for sure.

SANDERS: Yeah. I just - you know, I felt old before...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. All right, all right, all right. One of the things I have been seeing in this discussion of NFTs is that they're, like, bad for the environment. How? It's all online. Please explain this to me.

GRIFFITH: Well, the blockchain or all blockchain - Bitcoin, Ethereum - all of these cryptocurrencies are created by doing really complex, basically, like, math problems with just, like, heavy, heavy computing power. And every time you print something new onto a blockchain, every time you make a new NFT or do a transaction using cryptocurrency, it requires a lot of this computing power. And so that - the electricity that's using up is, like - I think a lot of people are newly being introduced to that issue...

ALLYN: Yeah.

GRIFFITH: ...If you weren't following crypto before.

ALLYN: And if you try to - I mean, I'm pretty new to the crypto world, but, you know, I have exchanged real money for crypto and have used some of that crypto to buy NFTs just to see what this is all like, what the experience was like.

SANDERS: You bought an NFT, Bobby?

ALLYN: I bought - well, I bid on a few. I think - I'm not sure if I won. And I'd have to go to my wallet to...

SANDERS: You're not sure if you won.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I'm sorry. What?

ALLYN: I'm clearly not that invested. I plunked down a few bucks or two, and I was like, oh, I'll check this later and never got around to it.

SANDERS: What's a few bucks? I want some details here, OK? Tell me.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: I'll have to open up my wallet. I can't exactly remember. But anyway, the point...

SANDERS: What did you bid on?

ALLYN: Oh.

SANDERS: I'm so nosy.

GRIFFITH: We want to judge your taste in NFTs.

SANDERS: Yes. Yes.

GRIFFITH: (Laughter).

ALLYN: OK, well, I really wanted a CryptoPunk, to be honest. I thought CryptoPunks are really...

SANDERS: Crypto what?

ALLYN: They're like these little pixilated sort of heads, and they all have unique characteristics. I think they're all generated by AI. There's only, like, a certain number of them.

SANDERS: What do they do?

ALLYN: They're just cool-looking.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: But I couldn't get one for less than thousands of dollars. So I went onto these marketplaces, and I bought basically knockoff CryptoPunks. So they're not part of the actual collection, but they kind of look like one. And they were, like, far cheaper.

SANDERS: And what are you going to do with them?

ALLYN: I'm going to go on a podcast and say, I bought a NFT. I'm going to seem really cool.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: OK, Bobby Allyn sent me an image of the NFT that he bought. It's called - it's on OpenSea. It's called - this Punk - it's called a Punk, and it was wrapped using Wrapped Punks contract. It's just a pixilated image of a dude with a beanie on and a goatee.

ALLYN: Yeah, pretty cool, right? It's like Fred Durst.

SANDERS: How much did you pay for this?

ALLYN: I used to be a big Limp Bizkit fan, so, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Bobby, you're losing. You keep talking, it gets worse.

ALLYN: You have to edit that out in post.

SANDERS: How much did you pay for this?

ALLYN: I'm mortified that I mentioned Limp Bizkit. Fair enough.

GRIFFITH: I mean, it's OK to have been a fan of Limp Bizkit. Just never admit it.

ALLYN: Never admit it - exactly. That is a thing you never admit.

SANDERS: I just want to know how much you paid for this pixelated image of Fred Durst.

ALLYN: OK, I - well, I only transferred $50, and there's various gas fees, they call it. And I didn't pay more than $50. I'll say less than $50, but I'd have to look up the exact transaction.

SANDERS: Let me tell you something, Bobby.

ALLYN: Yeah.

SANDERS: Let me tell you something, Bobby. You spent 49 too much dollars.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: OK. Fair enough.

GRIFFITH: You can expense it. It was work research.

SANDERS: Are you proud of this purchase?

ALLYN: Yeah. I'm expensing this to NPR, so I hope the network knows that.

SANDERS: OK, OK, OK. To close this NFT segment, can I read you both some wonderful tweets we got from IT'S BEEN A MINUTE listeners? This week, we tweeted at our audience. We said, what's an NFT, wrong answers only?

ALLYN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: We got some really good ones. Can I read a few?

GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah, please.

SANDERS: Natural, free-range taco.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Non-fancy tux.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: New financial trap. Nonfunctional tchotchkes. NPR's finest talk show. New Falcon team. Nacho-free taco place. Nutmeg flatwater taffy. Nonfactual truth. And my favorite, just a nice, funky time.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: That's great. I like that.

SANDERS: I love this game.

GRIFFITH: Oh, great.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: On that note, we are going to take a break and then play a game with Erin and Bobby that does not require any NFT knowledge at all. You're listening to IBAM on NPR, where we have just discussed in NFTs. Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, joined this weekend by a lovely panel of two all-star tech reporters - Erin Griffith, tech reporter at The New York Times; Bobby Allyn, tech reporter at NPR. Thank you both for being here.

GRIFFITH: Thanks for having me.

ALLYN: Thanks for having me.

SANDERS: All right. This game is called Who Said That?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA")

KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: Bobby, you've played this before?

ALLYN: Yeah, I'm on quite an impressive losing streak. I'm definitely the underdog here.

SANDERS: It's OK. Explain the game for Erin.

ALLYN: OK. So a quote will be read to you, a quote that is timely and came from the news recently. And you have to say exactly who said the quote.

SANDERS: There you go. It is so simple, so low-fi. There are no buzzers. There are no timers. I'm bad at keeping score, but it doesn't matter 'cause whoever wins gets nothing but bragging rights, and even those are questionable. Shall we?

ALLYN: Let's do it.

GRIFFITH: I might be in the wrong-answers-only department, but...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: All right, this first quote for Who Said That, tell me who said this. "I just got this feeling, man, that this summer, it's about to be a white boy summer." Who said that?

ALLYN: What's his name?

SANDERS: Yup, go with it.

ALLYN: Chet Hanks?

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Yes, sir. So Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks, the adult rapper who is still waiting for a hit - he has been on social media this week saying that it's going to be a white boy summer. He followed up by saying, quote, "I'm not talking about Trump, you know, NASCAR-type white."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHET HANKS: I'm talking about, you know, me, Jon B., Jack Harlow-type white boy summer. You know what I mean? Let me know if you guys can vibe with that.

GRIFFITH: Oh, boy (laughter).

ALLYN: Oh, my God. Yeah.

SANDERS: He also laid out some rules for white boys and men hoping to take part in the white boy summer. He said, quote, "no plaid shirts because the bros can't be looking like a picnic table out here, no Sperry Top-Siders, no calling girls smoke shows and no anything salmon-colored. Burn that S," he said. Bobby, you are our resident white boy for this episode. Can I get some comment from you?

ALLYN: Well, I - that made me immediately jump on Urban Dictionary and say, smoke show?

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: I was just like, what is that? I'm afraid to know what that even means. I mean...

SANDERS: How do y'all feel about this?

GRIFFITH: I'm on board with the no Top-Siders rule (laughter).

ALLYN: I knew Erin would be the Chet Hanks apologist. I just had a feeling.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

GRIFFITH: The rest of it is so cringe. You can't see me, but I'm, like, kind of doubled over cringing, like (cringing).

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Who got that point?

GRIFFITH: Bobby.

ALLYN: I'll take it. I'll take it.

SANDERS: Bobby got the point. Next quote. You can just tell me what we're talking about with this one. The quote is, "the play will for the first time take audiences deeper behind the scenes of a landmark event that previously was shrouded in mystery." This is in reference to a stage play version of a very popular book/TV series that wrapped a little while ago.

GRIFFITH: Oh, I saw these headlines.

ALLYN: Book, TV series.

SANDERS: One of the biggest shows of our modern era - at least the last decade or so.

GRIFFITH: Wait, no.

ALLYN: I need another clue. One of the biggest shows.

SANDERS: Red Wedding, Red Wedding.

GRIFFITH: Oh, "Game Of Thrones"?

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Yeah. So that quote comes from the official description of the forthcoming dramatic stage show spectacular based on the world of "Game Of Thrones." Also, we should point out that George R.R. Martin, the author who made the "Game Of Thrones" series, he has yet to finish his long-awaited, like, "Game Of Thrones" follow-up book.

GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah.

SANDERS: That's not done yet.

GRIFFITH: I saw people complaining about that 'cause he signed some new TV deal with one of the streaming services or something. And people were like, do the book.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Speaking of a high-stakes game of thrones, this game of Who Said That is tied up 1-1.

ALLYN: Oh, boy.

SANDERS: This last quote is for all the marbles. Are y'all ready?

ALLYN: Yes.

SANDERS: It is a fill-in-the-blank. Here we go. "As an innovative brand that strives to push the envelope and do the right thing, blank knows it may not please everyone all of the time, but decisions about what products to put the swoosh on belong to blank."

GRIFFITH: Nike.

ALLYN: Nike.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Nike, yes. Who said it first or loudest, either/or?

GRIFFITH: I don't know. Might've been - it might've been simultaneously.

ALLYN: Check the tapes. We have to check the tapes.

SANDERS: OK, OK, yeah. I'm going to give it to Erin.

ALLYN: All right. Fine.

SANDERS: Wow, Bobby. Cheer up, Charlie.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So this quote comes from Nike, responding to a really, really weird drama over the so-called Satan Shoes.

GRIFFITH: (Laughter) Yes.

SANDERS: I'm going to try to back up and explain this as thoroughly as I can...

ALLYN: Yes.

SANDERS: ...In 45 seconds.

GRIFFITH: Good luck. Good luck (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah. So queer rapper Lil Nas X released a music video this past week for his new song called "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)." The most iconic scene from this music video has Lil Nas X sliding down what seems to be a 20-mile-long stripper pole...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: ...From heaven down to hell, body winding the whole way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MONTERO (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)")

LIL NAS X: (Singing) Call me by your name.

SANDERS: When Lil Nas X in the music video gets to hell, he proceeds to twerk on the devil and then snap his neck.

GRIFFITH: (Laughter).

SANDERS: As you can guess, a lot of people had a lot of thoughts about this song and this music video and Lil Nas X, but the thing that came out of all of this that might cause a court case is that this company, MSCHF, this week, in collaboration with Lil Nas X, they released a modified pair of Nike Air Max 97s that they say have drops of blood in them. They're called Satan Shoes.

ALLYN: There you go.

GRIFFITH: It's just, like, such beautiful trolling. Like, so Lil Nas X and then this company MSCHF, their whole thing is just, like, stunts and trolling and kind of like just, you know, getting attention and, like, having attention in various ways. And, like, to combine those two forces has basically had their intended effect of making people lose their minds. And so I think it's been amusing to watch.

SANDERS: Yeah. So these Satan Shoes, they're black and red, of course, and they have drops of human blood in the soles and a bronze pentagram adorning the laces. Let me tell you what. I know who's not buying these shoes - Sam Sanders.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I am too superstitious.

GRIFFITH: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I'm not going to - would y'all ever wear these shoes?

ALLYN: I'm going to buy these shoes, watch some "Game Of Thrones" and then purchase a few NFTs and just call it a night. How's that?

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: This game is over. Bobby, the negative energy that you brought to this game led to the result of you losing.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Next time, try a better attitude. Erin, congratulations. You won.

GRIFFITH: Thank you. I feel proud. I'd like to thank all the little people who helped me along the way.

SANDERS: I'm so glad that you both hung out this week. I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed talking with y'all. And I feel like I understand a little bit of the Internet more after chatting with you both. Erin Griffith, tech reporter at The New York Times, and Bobby Allyn, tech reporter for NPR, thank you so much for your time.

ALLYN: Thanks, Sam.

GRIFFITH: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUNT BETTY: Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of those submissions.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MAGGIE: Hey, Sam. It's Maggie (ph) from Columbus, Ohio. And the best part of my week this week is actually about to happen. I have been a track athlete pretty much my entire life, but today I get to coach my first meet.

CHRISTY: Hi, Sam. This is Christy (ph) from Charleston, S.C. And the best thing that has happened to me this week is that I have four years of sobriety. One day at a time.

JAN: Hey, Sam. This is Jan (ph) from Battle Ground, Wash. I'm retiring this week after 40 years as an RN. I have a lot of traveling to do.

LEE: Hi, Sam. This is Lee (ph) from Encinitas, Calif. And the best thing that's happened to me this week is I've been staying with my mom and dad because I celebrated my grandma's 100th birthday. I hadn't seen my parents and my grandma in a year, since December 2019, and my dad's margaritas are as good as I remember, and my grandma looks amazing.

NATHAN: I am sitting in my car just after I got my second COVID shot. And later today, I will be driving with my family to have a Passover Seder at my parents' house in person. What a difference a year makes.

SHELLY: Hi, Sam. This is Shelly (ph) in Seattle. And the best part of my week was because my wife and I have both been vaccinated for COVID, we were able to have our son over to our house for a Passover Seder on Saturday. We still had to join with the rest of our group over Zoom, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel that before too long, we'll all be able to be at the same table again. It made it a pretty good week. Thanks, Sam.

MAGGIE: Thanks, Sam.

JAN: Love your show.

LEE: Have a good week.

SANDERS: Seders and margaritas and 100th birthday parties - good stuff all around. Thanks to all those listeners you just heard - Maggie, Christy, Jan, Lee, Nathan (ph) and Shelly. Listeners, you can also be a part of this segment. Send us your best thing at any time throughout any week. Just record your voice on your phone and then send that voice memo to me via email - samsanders@npr.org. That email is samsanders@npr.org.

All right, this week, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by Jinae West, Andrea Gutierrez and Sylvie Douglis. Our intern is Liam McBain. Our fearless editor is Jordana Hochman, but she took this week off. She deserved it. Filling in for her is Uri Berliner. Uri, thanks for filling in this week. We appreciate you. Our director of programming is Steve Nelson. Our big boss is NPR senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

Listeners, till next time, be good to yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.