Last month, cryptocurrency enthusiasts gathered at an art gallery in downtown Manhattan for the launch party of Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project created by Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO, and his co-founded crypto company, Tools for Humanity. The event featured a futuristic display of metal spheres the size of bowling balls, arranged like a modern-day Stonehenge. Inside each orb was a camera designed to scan a person’s irises and convert the scans into digital IDs. Tools for Humanity plans to generate revenue by offering its iris-based system as an alternative to security technologies such as CAPTCHA. However, the ultimate goal is to use the iris IDs as a foundation for a universal basic income system to protect against job losses caused by artificial intelligence.
While some skeptics have raised concerns about the privacy implications and dystopian possibilities of a privately owned crypto company handling biometric data from billions of people, Tools for Humanity has managed to raise $115 million in funding this year. The company is part of a growing trend of crypto firms using the hype around AI to bring digital currencies back to relevance. Its project highlights how influential figures like Sam Altman are seeking to profit from the technology while also developing it.
However, Tools for Humanity’s marketing tactics and iris-scanning techniques have raised alarms, leading to investigations by the authorities in France and Germany, as well as an order from the government of Kenya to stop conducting scans. The company has defended its practices by stating that it designed Worldcoin to protect individual privacy and will work with governments to meet regulatory requirements. Despite these concerns, many crypto fans have shown enthusiasm for Worldcoin, with over two million sign-ups noted so far.
Tools for Humanity aims to distribute 50,000 orbs worldwide and gather billions of sign-ups to form the basis of a universal basic income system. The company believes that Worldcoin can give everyone around the world an identity and economic reachability, not just people in developed countries. However, there have been criticisms of the company’s marketing techniques, with reports of contractors collecting iris data in developing countries using deceptive tactics to solicit sign-ups.
At the launch party, attendees seemed unconcerned about privacy risks and were relatively accepting of the potential for an orb-fueled surveillance state. The event showcased Tools for Humanity representatives in white shirts emblazoned with the words “unique human.” Despite some reservations, many guests were still considering offering their biometric data to the start-up. However, others expressed skepticism and viewed it as potentially scammy.
In conclusion, Tools for Humanity’s Worldcoin project has generated both enthusiasm and skepticism within the cryptocurrency and AI communities. While the company aims to use iris scanning for universal basic income and protection against job losses caused by AI, concerns about privacy and marketing tactics have been raised. The success of the project remains uncertain, but it highlights the ongoing efforts to bridge the worlds of cryptocurrency and AI technologies.