Just when you think the world could not get more dystopian, it does. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman recently launched his latest venture: Worldcoin, an ambitious cryptocurrency project he has been working on for the last three years.
The cryptocurrency project’s aim is to establish “a new identity and financial network owned by everyone.” In the blog post announcing the launch, Altman notes that if the project is successful, Worldcoin could drastically increase economic opportunity and present a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online. How would it do this? By scanning your eyeballs.
Basically, to access the new currency, people will first have to consent to an iris scan, to verify their identity. You have to travel to a location where you can have your eyes scanned by an imaging device called the Orb. This scan will create a unique digital identity for you in a secure database, which should ideally help distinguish you from AI impersonators or bots in the event of a potential risk. You will then have access to an app (World App), enabling you to make payments, purchase items, and transfer money conveniently.
Apart from the shady eye-scanning part, it all seems okay in theory– until you realize that Worldcoin has no substance in reality. Cryptocurrency, or ‘crypto’, is a digital currency that exists only in the virtual world. Instead of paper bills or metal coins, it’s made up of special computer codes and uses a technology called “blockchain.” Think of a blockchain as a digital ledger or record book that keeps track of all the transactions made with crypto. But it’s not like any regular book; it’s more like a chain of blocks, and each block contains information about the crypto transactions.
While crypto can be exciting, many think of it as practically a scam, as it can be extremely volatile, with its values fluctuating dramatically in a short period. Worldcoin, being a new cryptocurrency, derives its value from the level of interest people show in using it as a means of payment. Its trajectory could follow the path of Bitcoin, gaining widespread popularity and becoming a dominant presence in global crypto markets. Or it could end up like Dogecoin, fading into relative obscurity over time. Regardless of the risks, Worldcoin already has over two million signups and over 346 of these Orbs actively scanning people’s irises across the world.
In an FAQ, Worldcoin itself acknowledges that users themselves will define the coin’s potential uses, but suggests that it could be applicable for fairly traditional uses, like paying for goods and services, sending gifts, and tipping your favourite artists. So what you’ll get in return for scanning your eyeballs, it all still is extremely vague.