Worldcoin, by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, combines blockchain and UBI, sparking debates about privacy and security. Will this iris-scanning global financial network shape socio-economic reform?
The internet has always been a breeding ground for the bizarre and the extraordinary. As AI technologies such as Large Language Models (LLM) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT continue to revolutionize digital landscapes, the line between human and machine is becoming ever thinner.
But in this chimerical world, one name stands out: Sam Altman, the co-founder of OpenAI. Altman’s crypto project, Worldcoin, has been making waves with its vision of distributed UBI via the blockchain.
Yes, you read that right – a crypto token for everyone. But there is a catch: Worldcoin’s unique distribution mechanism is to scan your iris.
What is Worldcoin
Worldcoin, launched in 2019, represents a new approach to cryptocurrency underpinned by the ideal of a fairer global distribution of wealth.
Worldcoin seeks to give everyone on earth an equal share of this digital currency, a concept inspired by the UBI model.
UBI is a form of social security system where the state provides all citizens with a regular sum of money regardless of income or employment status. The main aspects that define the UBI are its universality, its unconditionality and its regularity.
However, access to Worldcoin’s innovative monetary system comes with a controversial requirement: users must scan their iris.
This requirement implies that Worldcoin could potentially amass billions of individual biometric data profiles worldwide, a prospect that has raised significant debate over data privacy and security.
Worldcoin responded to these concerns by stating that hashed data cannot be reverse-engineered and is secure. However, the proof of this pudding, as they say, lies in eating it.
How Worldcoin Works
At the heart of the Worldcoin ecosystem is the World App, a platform made serve several purposes.
It functions as a digital wallet, private digital identity verifier, and conduit of the new financial system. The basis of the World App is the World ID, a separate digital identity system that functions as a passport allowing individuals to access online services.
Users can verify their identity privately using a unique device called Orb. Once verified, this ID can be used to log in to various platforms, from websites and mobile apps to decentralized applications (dApps).
This streamlined process ensures the uniqueness and authenticity of each user without disclosing personal data, such as names or email addresses.
Beyond identity verification, the World App also offers economic opportunities. Eligible users can claim monthly Worldcoin grants, recurring stipends available to anyone verified with a World ID in eligible countries.
In its beta phase, these grants are distributed weekly, with plans to transition to a monthly schedule after Worldcoin launches.
Despite its beta status, the World App has already attracted a large user base. According to a statement from Tools for Humanity (TFH), the organization behind Worldcoin, the app is currently one of the most popular ways to access crypto, with 2 million people joining the beta and over 500 000 active users per month.
The global app also caters to users’ financial needs as a digital wallet. It saves digital dollars. Users can deposit and withdraw funds using a variety of methods, including bank accounts, local payment options, or nearby agents.
Also, it allows users to send money to friends or family across the world using their phone contacts or crypto addresses.
As of June 16, the global app supports a range of tokens, including ethereum (ETH), bitcoin (BTC), DAI, USDC, and Beta WLD. It allows users to monitor their balances, receive alerts about important changes, and trade with decentralized exchanges.
Funding and development goals
Worldcoin, with its vision, has attracted significant financial attention. The project reportedly closed a $100 million funding round, signaling strong investor confidence despite the project’s relative infancy and greater crypto volatility.
Among Worldcoin’s backers are renowned venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Khosla Ventures. These companies played a crucial role in an earlier funding round that valued the project at around $3 billion. Other prominent investors include Digital Currency Group, Coinbase Ventures, and Multicoin.
The initial goal of Worldcoin is to distribute 10 billion tokens in total, 80% of which are planned to go to users.
The founders of Worldcoin believe that the more people who hold the currency, the easier it will become to send and receive payments. They hope this widespread adoption will facilitate the growth of a global financial network.
To achieve these goals, the Worldcoin team is improving the accessibility of its unique iris scanning device, the Orb. This includes incentivizing enrollment with coupon offers or access to specific loans.
They also plan to launch an SDK, allowing developers to integrate Worldcoin technology into their apps and platforms.
Worldcoin and the future of UBI
The concept of UBI is not new. However, Worldcoin’s attempt to implement a blockchain-based version of it is a novel approach.
If successful, it could serve as a model for future attempts to establish UBI systems, potentially changing the way governments approach social protection systems.
By providing a decentralized, transparent and globally accessible economic platform, Worldcoin could potentially empower disadvantaged and marginalized communities.
This would be a significant step towards achieving a fairer global economy, which conventional financial systems have struggled to achieve.
The success of Worldcoin could also have knock-on effects in the cryptocurrency market. This could prove that cryptocurrencies can be more than just speculative assets or mediums of exchange; they can also be tools for socio-economic reform.
The potential for a more inclusive financial ecosystem could inspire other blockchain projects to adopt similar measures. This could lead to new developments in the crypto space, driven by renewed interest in social impact and equity.
The future of Worldcoin
As Worldcoin continues its journey, it serves as a reminder of what is possible when technology is used to promote global fairness.
Still, the success of the project will ultimately depend on its ability to overcome regulatory hurdles, address privacy issues, and demonstrate the real utility of its token. The world is watching with anticipation.