OpenAI CEO and former Y Combinator President Sam Altman has formally announced Worldcoin, a project designed to equitably distribute free cryptocurrency to as many people as possible. Redeeming that crypto, however, involves a discomfiting concession.
Sam Altman, the former president of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI, has formally introduced Worldcoin as of today, approximately four months after news of its existence first leaked in June . The project, whose funders include a16z, Coinbase Ventures, and Sam Bankman-Fried, describes itself as “a new, collectively owned global currency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible.”
To expedite adoption and to promote equitable distribution, the team is offering free “shares” of the coin to everyone on Earth, but there’s a catch: to redeem one’s free Worldcoin, one must first be subjected to a biometric analysis of one’s eyeball. This is done, according to Worldcoin’s website , to prove the user’s “unique-humanness”—i.e., to prove that the user is not a bot, and that they have not received their free Worldcoin already.
This is done with complex technology packed into a device Worldcoin calls the Orb. The Orb converts an image of a person’s eye into a numeric code, which is then validated to prevent that person from receiving more than one share. While some may sense dystopian underpinnings to this aspect of the Worldcoin project, the team maintains that privacy is inherent in the design of their Orb, and that they have used cutting-edge technology and cryptographic techniques to address these concerns. The Worldcoin team claims that they need not store the original image nor capture any other personal information. Furthermore, one need not scan their eyes to join the Worldcoin network, as biometrics are only necessary to claim a free share.
The free Worldcoin will be distributed via Orb Operators , and entrepreneurs who want to build a business around this novel technology can apply to become one. There are already 25 Operators in twelve countries across four continents that each have had an average weekly sign-up rate of 1,069. Extrapolating, the team projects one billion users in less than two years. As Altman tweeted : “A network that big should be quite powerful.”
While only 3% of people globally participate in crypto networks today, the mass adoption of crypto, the authors wrote, could “make applications possible that are now unimaginable.”