OpenAI CEO Sam Altman launched Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project that gifts people crypto tokens (WLD) simply for being unique individuals. Through issuing crypto tokens in exchange for biometric data, Worldcoin aims to function as a global universal basic income and also provide an authentication system to distinguish humans from robots.
Since its beta phase, the project has already attracted 2 million users and now plans to expand its “orbing” activities to 35 cities in 20 countries with its official launch. As an incentive, individuals who register in certain countries will receive the WLD crypto token from Worldcoin. “Worldcoin is an attempt at global alignment. The journey will be challenging and the outcome is uncertain,” said Sam Altman and co-founder Alex Blania in an announcement. However, the project has also drawn criticism from technology experts due to perceived privacy risks.
Worldcoin is a digital currency that differentiates itself from market leaders like Bitcoin or Ethereum by offering people tokens of the future currency without requiring them to invest money. Altman and Blania aim for the currency to act as a sort of universal basic income, enabling fairer access to the global economy.
People who sign up with Worldcoin must have their iris scanned through a spherical device to receive a token. This ensures that each registered person is a human and only registers once. “Worldcoin is primarily trying to innovate on the authentication side,” explained Jeremy Clark from the Canadian Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.
Upon receiving their unique IrisHash and their crypto wallet, individuals receive a “World ID” or digital passport. Around the world, more and more biometric data and digital IDs are being used to allow people to vote and access basic services like healthcare and food banks.
The project has drawn the attention of some of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Blockchain Capital. Despite initial criticism, Spencer Bogart from Blockchain Capital described Worldcoin as “the most compelling solution” for Sybil attacks, where a hacker creates multiple identities to take over an online network.
Criticism of Worldcoin primarily concerns the handling of biometric data. An investigation by MIT Technology Review raised concerns regarding Worldcoin’s method of collecting biometric data from developing countries during the project. However, Worldcoin assures that it will anonymize and destroy users’ biometric data once its systems are optimized.
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