Worldcoin, by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, combines blockchain and UBI, igniting privacy and security debates. 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 like large language models (LLMs) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT continue to revolutionize digital landscapes, the line between human and machine is growing ever thinner.
But in this chimeric 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 UBI distributed through blockchain.
Yes, you read it right — a crypto token for everyone. But there’s a twist: Worldcoin’s unique distribution mechanism involves scanning your iris.
What is Worldcoin
Worldcoin, launched in 2019, represents a new approach to cryptocurrency underpinned by the ideal of more equitable global wealth distribution.
Worldcoin seeks to give everyone on earth an equal share of this digital currency, a concept that draws inspiration from 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 their income or employment status. The key defining aspects of UBI are its universality, unconditionality, and regularity.
However, gaining access to Worldcoin’s innovative monetary system involves a contentious 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 about privacy and data security.
Worldcoin has countered these concerns by stating that the hashed data cannot be reverse-engineered and is secure. However, the proof of this pudding, as they say, lies in the eating.
How does Worldcoin work
At the heart of Worldcoin’s ecosystem lies the World App, a platform crafted to serve multiple purposes.
It functions as a digital wallet, a private digital identity verifier, and a conduit of the new financial system. The foundation of the World App is the World ID, a distinct digital identity system that functions as a passport for individuals to access online services.
Users can verify their identities privately using a unique device called an Orb. Once verified, this ID can be used to sign into various platforms, from websites and mobile apps to decentralized applications (dApps).
This streamlined process ensures each user’s uniqueness and authenticity without disclosing personal data, such as names or email addresses.
Beyond identity verification, the World App also provides economic opportunities. Eligible users can claim monthly Worldcoin Grants, recurring stipends available to any verified person with a World ID in eligible countries.
In its beta phase, these grants are distributed weekly, with plans to transition to a monthly schedule post the Worldcoin launch.
Despite its beta status, the World App has already attracted a significant user base. According to a statement by 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 monthly.
The World App also caters to users’ financial needs as a digital wallet. It allows savings in digital dollars. Users can deposit and withdraw funds using various methods, including bank accounts, local payment options, or nearby agents.
In addition, it empowers users to send money to friends or family across the globe using their phone contacts or crypto addresses.
As of June 16, the World 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 regarding significant changes, and trade with decentralized exchanges.
Funding and development goals
Worldcoin, with its vision, has attracted significant financial attention. The project has reportedly closed a $100 million funding round, signaling strong investor confidence despite the project’s relative infancy and the wider crypto volatility.
Among the backers of Worldcoin are renowned venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Khosla Ventures. These firms 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.
Worldcoin’s founders believe the more people that 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 their unique iris-scanning device, the Orb. This includes incentivizing sign-ups with offers of coupons or access to specific loans.
They also plan to launch an SDK, allowing developers to incorporate Worldcoin technology into their applications 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 new approach.
If successful, it could serve as a blueprint for future attempts at establishing UBI systems, potentially altering how governments approach social welfare systems.
By providing a decentralized, transparent, and globally accessible economic platform, Worldcoin could potentially empower underprivileged and marginalized communities.
This would be a significant stride towards achieving a more equitable global economy, something that conventional financial systems have struggled to accomplish.
Worldcoin’s success could also have ripple effects across the cryptocurrency market. It 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 might inspire other blockchain projects to adopt similar measures. This could lead to new developments in the crypto space, driven by a renewed focus on social impact and equity.
As Worldcoin continues its journey, it serves as a reminder of what is possible when technology is used to promote global equity.
Yet, the project’s success will ultimately depend on its ability to navigate regulatory hurdles, address privacy concerns, and demonstrate the real-world utility of its token. The world watches with bated breath.