Well, you have to admit. It is a pretty odd image.

It all started in 2005. That’s when Dave Roth decided to snap a photo of his daughter Zoë. She was 4 years old, and her lips were curled up in a knowing smirk.

In the background, a house was burning down. The contrast between her devil-may-care expression and the soaring flames made for an unusual picture.

Was this little girl finding joy in this tragic event? Gaining satisfaction from misfortune?

Was this — gasp — what the Germans like to call schadenfreude?


Source: New York Times



The true story behind the photo


Of course, there’s much more to this than meets the eye.

The truth is, this wasn’t a real disaster. It was actually a controlled burn, carried out safely in the neighbourhood by the local fire department.

No one suffered.

No one lost anything.

No drama.

Dave, Zoë, and the rest of the family were simply residents who had come out to watch.

And why was Zoë smiling?

Well, hey, it was Dave who had encouraged her to pose.

So, ahem. The real story behind this quirky picture is…maybe a little boring.


Zoë’s big break


But you know what they say. Hindsight is always 20/20.

As it turns out, Dave’s decision to photograph his daughter became the best move the family ever made.

In April 2020, at the age of 21, Zoë Roth was suddenly catapulted into the mainstream. She briefly became the most famous young woman in the world. All she had done was pose for the camera as a kid — and now she was being rewarded with a cool payday of almost US$500,000.

That infamous picture — dubbed ‘Disaster Girl’ — was purchased by a benefactor for 180 Ether crypto coins. And to sweeten the deal? The Roth family will continue to retain copyright of the image. They will also receive 10% of royalties every time the photo is used.

Mm-hm. That’s right. In one bold stroke, the Roths became part of a digital movement that’s gaining speed worldwide. It’s based on fancy technology called NFT — non-fungible token.


How does an NFT work?


Source: Finance Magnates


In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know:

  • Just imagine if you have an accountant working for your company.
  • Every time your company sells something or buys something, your accountant records that transaction in a ledger.
  • By doing this, your accountant will always know what’s happening with your company’s cash flow, as well as profit and loss.
  • Now, just imagine if your accountant isn’t actually a human being. Imagine if your accountant is a supercomputer. Recording transactions at the speed of light. All across the world. Creating blocks of data chained together in chronological sequence.
  • This digital ledger is what is known as ‘blockchain’.
  • Now, imagine if certain individual transactions are unique. They will have a digital fingerprint attached. As exclusive as DNA. It can’t be copied. It can’t be duplicated. It acts as a unique stamp of authenticity.
  • This is what is known as a ‘non-fungible token.’



The future of the NFT


It’s still early days, and the tech is evolving. But the concept is intriguing.

The Disaster Girl image by the Roths is an example of how a piece of art can be secured with a non-fungible token on a blockchain. It’s about protecting copyright, as well as giving collectors the valuable opportunity to buy into something unique.

It’s about owning a ‘meme’, which the Oxford Dictionary describes like this:

An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.

A meme is a representation of pop culture, which might seem trivial and unimportant for most of us. But consider the longer-term implications. It’s certainly possible that NFTs could be expanded for use on commodities like exotic animals, vintage cars, fine wine, or luxury real estate.

It could act like an unseen barcode. Or serial number. Far more efficient than any physical ledger could be.

Is this speculative sci-fi hype? Or the rumblings of something more substantial to come?

Only time will tell.



John Ling

Analyst, Wealth Morning

(This article is general in nature and should not be construed as any financial or investment advice. To obtain guidance for your specific situation, please seek independent financial advice.)