WorldCoin, a cryptocurrency project founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, launched on Monday.
The main promise of the project is the World ID, which only real humans can get. To receive a World ID, a customer signs up to have a person’s iris scanned using a WorldCoin ‘orb’, a silver ball roughly the size of a bowling ball. Once the iris scan of the orb confirms that the person is real human, it creates a world ID.
The company behind WorldCoin is San Francisco and Berlin-based Tools for Humanity.
The project has 2 million users since its beta period, and with Monday’s launch, Worldcoin is expanding its “orbing” operations to 35 cities in 20 countries. As a temptation, signups in some countries will receive Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency token WLD.
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The cryptocurrency aspect of World IDs is important because cryptocurrency blockchains can store World IDs in a privacy-preserving way and no organization can control or shut them down, co-founder Alex Blania told Reuters.
The project says world IDs will be needed in an era of generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT that produce human-like language. World IDs can be used to tell the difference between real people and AI bots online.
Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange, said it would list Worldcoin with a tentative opening of trading expected at 0900 GMT on Monday.
Altman told Reuters WorldCoin will also help address how generative AI can reshape the economy.
“People will be supercharged by AI, and that will have huge economic implications,” he said.
An example Altman likes is Universal Basic Income, or UBI, a social benefit program run by governments that typically entitles every individual to payments. “AI will do more and more of the jobs that people do now,” Altman believes, and UBI will help combat income inequality. Since only real people can have World IDs, this can be used to reduce fraud when deploying UBI.
Altman said that he thought a world with UBI was “far in the future” and that he had no clear idea of which entity would be able to use the money, but that WorldCoin laid the groundwork for that to become a reality.
“We think we need to start experimenting with things so we can figure out what to do,” he said.