OpenAI's Sam Altman launches Worldcoin digital platform

Over two million users have already signed up for Worldcoin, the crypto platform launched by OpenAI’s Sam Altman. The new digital identity and financial network was designed so that technical prosperity can be shared among all humans worldwide.

The open-source global economic project has been three years in the making for OpenAIs CEO Sam Altman and his Worldcoin co-founder Alex Bania.

Labeled by the mainstream media as simply a cryptocurrency project, the new Worldcoin is a bit more complex (and controversial) than just another crypto coin and digital wallet for the masses.

“If successful, we believe Worldcoin could drastically increase economic opportunity, scale a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and eventually show a potential path to AI-funded UBI,” Altman and Bania's introductory launch post said.

For those not familiar with the term, UBI stands for universal basic income, where governments provide all citizens with monetary payments similar to a social benefits program.

Altman told Reuters news agency that Worldcoin can help address how the economy will be reshaped by generative AI.

"People will be supercharged by AI, which will have massive economic implications,” Altman said.

As AI begins to replace and “do more and more of the work that people now do," Altman believes that UBI can be used to help combat income inequality.

Altman believes Worldcoin can help lay the groundwork for a universal income, even if it is still "very far in the future" from becoming a reality.

"We think that we need to start experimenting with things so we can figure out what to do," he said.

Meet the Orb

Worldcoin's most innovative feature is the WorldID, a “privacy-preserving” digital identity passport that will use biometric iris recognition scanning to digitally authenticate a human being from artificial intelligence.

The open image scanning device is called the “Orb” and was developed by the San Francisco and Berlin-based firm Tools for Humanity (TFH) – formed specifically by Altman and Bania to build the technology for the Worldcoin project.

The WorldID, using blockchain technology, is engineered to protect privacy and will not be tied to any currently used personal identifiers, such as biometrics, phone number, crypto wallets, and even a person’s name, the site claims.

For a person to obtain a World ID, they must undergo an in-person iris scan using the “Orb” biometric verification device, which is described as a silver ball, approximately the size of a bowling ball.

Worldcoin WorldID Orb biometric scanner
The Orb biometric scanning device. Image by Worldcoin

According to the Worldcoin website, Orb centers will be popping up in 35 cities and 20 countries around the world. Eyeball scans are now taking place in Britain, Japan and India.

“As the global distribution of Orbs is ramping up, you can find the closest one and book a time to be verified with World App,” the website states.

Pros and Cons

World IDs can be used to tell the difference between real people and AI generative chatbots like ChatGPT, which can easily mimic humanlike language, the site says.

Worldcoin states that the global proof of personhood is expected to unlock a new generation of products and services, including:

  • Social networks. Bot protection, community moderation, content attribution.
  • Voting. DAO governance, government elections, online polls, census.
  • Financial services. Undercollateralized lending, card fraud, compliance.
  • Customer incentives. Loyalty programs, coupons, referrals, free trials.
  • Marketplaces. Reputation, fake reviews, fake transactions, scalper prevention.
  • Money distribution. Government welfare, non-profit aid, scholarships, crypto airdrops, UBI.

Still, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the Orb device – designed to operate in untrusted environments – such as how the millions of biometric data files will be stored, how protected the data will be against cybercriminals, and how the data could possibly be used in the future.

Following Monday's launch Bania tweeted, “This is the beginning of a long journey. Especially early on, things will not be perfect.”

As of this report, there are over two million people that have signed up for the WorldID service (the Worldcoin platform itself already had two million users from its beta period).

As an incentive to register for the WorldID service, those who sign up in certain countries will receive Worldcoin's cryptocurrency token “WLD.”

The two tech heavyweights say the idea is for Worldcoin to serve as a public utility, giving ownership to everyone.

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